The sounds of the Shore

Music: Next month's 15th annual Chamber Music Festival brings offbeat fare from Chestertown to Easton

Fine Arts

May 23, 2000|By Tim Smith | Tim Smith,SUN MUSIC CRITIC

Ocean City isn't the only destination worth crossing the Bay for this summer. There's also the 15th annual Eastern Shore Chamber Music Festival, which runs the weekends of June 2-4 and 9-11.

Artistic co-directors March Rosen, cellist Marcy Rosen of the Mendelssohn String Quartet and J. Lawrie Bloom, a clarinetist with the Chicago Symphony, have put together programs that offer opportunities to hear a good deal of offbeat fare. (If that isn't attraction enough, there's always the possibility of an Elian sighting.)

The opening concert, 8 p.m. June 2 at Emmanuel Church in Chestertown, includes a string trio by Beethoven with pieces for solo clarinet by Stravinsky and a solo cello work by John Corigliano. At the Aspen Institute in Queenstown, 4: 30 p.m. June 3, Brahms' C minor Piano Quartet will be complemented with music for clarinet, viola and piano by Schumann and an intriguing creation called "The Goldberg Variations Project II," which involves contributions from Corigliano, Christopher Rouse and other contemporary composers.

The scene will shift to the art deco Avalon Theatre in Easton at 3 p.m. June 4 for an all-Beethoven concert that includes the "Kreutzer" Sonata and two trios.

That theater will also be the spot for the next two programs. At 8 p.m. June 9, in addition to Dvorak's D major Piano Quartet and music by the hardly commonplace Carl Rienecke, there will be a performance of "Night Journey" for woodwind quintet by Bruce Adolphe, who will speak about his work at a reception before the concert.

At the center of the program at 8 p.m. June 10 will be the Maryland premiere of Yehudi Wyner's Quartet for Oboe and Strings, partly commissioned by the festival. On the same bill is the Grand Nonet by the once enormously popular 19th century German composer Louis Spohr.

The festival also has a children's concert set for 10 a.m. June 1 at the Avalon Theatre and will wrap up with an already sold-out gala at 4 p.m. June 11 at the Canterbury estate near Easton.

For more information, call 410-819-0380 or visit the festival's Web site: www.musiconthe shore.org.

Renaissance stereo

Centuries before digital surround-sound, Giovanni Gabrieli was cooking up spectacular quadraphonic experiences in St. Mark's Cathedral in Venice, deploying choirs of voices and/or instruments in different corners of the church.

There have been few things as viscerally exciting in music since then.

Thanks to the Handel Choir of Baltimore, audiences got a chance to experience something of Gabrieli's High Renaissance magic during back-to-back performances Sunday afternoon at St. Ignatius Church (I caught the second concert).

The elegant sanctuary has the sort of extended reverberation and acoustical warmth ideal for such music, and director T. Herbert Dimmock made the most of the possibilities for bathing his audience in sonic richness.

There was a generous sampling of Gabrieli's remarkably sophisticated harmonies and lively melodic lines, culminating in the dramatic "In ecclesiis," with its marvelous contrast of dynamics and mood.

Here, Dimmock tossed in all of his forces -- singers, brass ensembles, organ, timpani -- and created a compelling effect.

The program also made room for the lush a cappella "Our Father" from more recent times by Alexander Gretchaninoff and a sweetly old-fashioned "Ave Maria" by contemporary composer Javier Busto.

Throughout the afternoon, the choir responded to Dimmock's straightforward conducting with nimble articulation and thoughtful phrasing, though the women had trouble holding onto pitch as the concert progressed.

For the most part, the brass players offered firm, bright efforts in pieces by Gabrieli and others; they excelled particularly in Grieg's rarely heard "Funeral March" (nearly as imposing as Chopin's).

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