Concert to bring Mozart, music from Spain

Orchestral performance features clarinet concerto, castanets in a ballet piece

January 27, 2000|By Phil Greenfield | Phil Greenfield,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

It'll be "Mostly Mozart" at the Smith Theatre on Saturday evening when the Columbia Orchestra presents its third concert of the 1999-2000 season.

But the welcome mat also will be out for a dashing visitor from Spain.

The performance will begin at 8 p.m. with Mozart's graceful Symphony No. 32, the single-movement affair in G major that's more of a quick little overture than a full-length symphony.

The program continues with Mozart's mellifluously melodic Clarinet Concerto, a supremely lyrical work written two months before the composer's death in 1791. Mozart composed it for his friend, Anton Stadler, a virtuoso clarinetist who was the recipient of Mozart's Quintet for Clarinet and Strings, the sublime work that sent Dr. Charles Emerson Winchester off with such style in the final episode of "M*A*S*H."

Saturday's soloist will be Kyle Coughlin, a clarinetist on the faculty of Howard University. This lovely concerto is vintage Mozart; a pair of graceful coloratura "arias" surrounding a slow movement of heartbreaking beauty. Truly, Mozart sang like an angel to the end of his life.

Ironically, it took a long stay in Paris, from 1907 to 1914, for Manuel de Falla (1876-1946) to connect with the musical soul of his native Spain.

Spain had been lodged in Europe's romantic consciousness for years. Georges Bizet had immortalized hot-blooded Gypsies, virile bullfighters and Andalusian passion in his opera "Carmen." Rimsky-Korsakoff of Russia depicted fun in the Mediterranean sun in his "Capriccio Espaganol," while Debussy's "Iberia" and Ravel's "Rapsodie espagnole" are testimony to Spain's hold on the imagination of musical France at the turn of the century.

"The excellence of natural Andalusian melody is revealed by the fact that it is the only music continuously and abundantly used by foreign composers," de Falla wrote.

When he returned to Spain after the outbreak of World War I in 1914, the composer put his penchant for color and rhythm to work on the Spanish idiom and came up with the magnificent ballet score "The Three Cornered Hat," which premiered in London July 1919.

Those who fancy ethnic flair will love "El sombrero de tres Picos," which the Columbians will perform under the direction of their new conductor, Jason Love. Fandangos, seguilladas and jotas, Spanish dances all, fill the score, and the clicking of castanets should bring out the gypsy in all of us.

"It's beautifully written and fun to play," Love says. "Since it's a ballet, there's a new character to introduce or scene to set every three minutes or so. And you can't fake your way through the rhythms of this piece. They're hard."

Perhaps the most wonderful testimony to de Falla's unique talent came from George Gershwin, another composer whose music is steeped in the national soul of his homeland. Gershwin called him "the Spanish Gershwin." No faint praise there.

The Columbia Orchestra will perform its fourth "Mostly Mozart" at 8 p.m. Saturday in Smith Theatre, Howard Community College, 10901 Little Patuxent Parkway, Columbia. Tickets are $12; $9 for senior citizens and students. Reservations are recommended. Information: 410-381-2004.

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