The `Magnificat' to highlight ASO's all-Bach program

Performances tomorrow, Saturday will include Brandenburg concerto


Arundel Live

January 25, 2001|By Phil Greenfield | Phil Greenfield,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

The "Magnificat," the Virgin Mary's hymn of praise offered when her cousin Elizabeth first hailed her as the mother of the Lord, has inspired song since Christian liturgy began to take shape nearly 2,000 years ago.

As the musical arts have developed, "Magnificat anima mea Dominum" ("My soul magnifies the Lord") has attracted composers of all eras. Monteverdi, Pachelbel, Vivaldi, Schubert, and Vaughan Williams are a few of the greats who have set Mary's poetic words to music.

But the most splendid "Magnificat" is the one composed by Johann Sebastian Bach for his first Christmas as Kapellmeister in Leipzig, Germany, in 1723.

Revised into its final form seven years later, the Bach "Magnificat" sits at the core of today's repertoire as one of the most joyful, best-loved pieces of the choral canon. It is with this work that Maestro Leslie Dunner and the Annapolis Symphony Orchestra will commemorate the 250th anniversary of Bach's death this weekend at Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts.

The all-Bach program to be performed tomorrow and Saturday at 8 p.m. begins with the brassy brilliance of the 3rd Orchestral Suite and continues with the 5th Brandenburg Concerto.

The concerto, one of the sparklers of the baroque idiom, will feature as soloists the orchestra's concertmaster, Philip Spletzer, on violin; and flutist Kimberly Valerio. Peabody Institute harpsichordist Adam Pearl will play the dazzling keyboard solo, in addition to providing continuo support in the suite and the choral "Magnificat," which will be sung by members of Ernest Green's Annapolis Chorale.

As vocal soloists for "Magnificat," Dunner has selected several prominent singers from our region: Hyunah Yu and Lilah Grossman, sopranos; Mona Potter, alto; Chad Freeburg, tenor; and Jason Hardy, bass. Each will be heard in a solo capacity, and they will join in various combinations during the performance.

These concerts also provide an opportunity for the public to applaud the board of trustees and management of the Annapolis Symphony for having extended Dunner's contract as maestro through the 2001-2002 season.

The charismatic conductor began his contract with the orchestra in September 1998, having beaten out four other contenders in the intensive two-year selection process that monopolized the 1996-1997 and 1997-1998 seasons.

"He is especially effective in supporting our extensive educational programs and has invested a great deal of time and effort in them. We consider ourselves fortunate to have a musician of his stature at the helm of our orchestra," ASO Chairman Fred Billups said in a statement.

Dunner's presence on the music scene continues to grow. Early in 1999, he concluded an 11-year association with the Detroit Symphony to pursue other opportunities. In November 1999, he made his subscription concert debut with the New York Philharmonic. Appearances with orchestras in Quebec, Mexico City, Madrid, Spain; Warsaw, Poland; and St. Petersburg, Russia, dot his international resume.

In addition to his elegant, balletic music-making and his ingratiating style on the podium, Dunner has demonstrated a flair for effective programming, and this weekend's all-Bach concert is a case in point.

What better fare for the inaugural concert of the third millennium than a trio of blockbuster works by the most influential composer of the second?

Ticket prices for the Annapolis Symphony's all-Bach concerts at Maryland Hall tomorrow and Saturday range from $23 to $32, with all seats reserved. Student tickets are $7.

Tickets may be ordered by telephone or purchased at the door beginning an hour before the performance. Call the ASO at 410-263-0907.

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