Pulling strings for an ensemble

Orchestra: Determined to fill "a void out there," Philip Spletzer raised the capital and collected the musicians for a new chamber orchestra.

March 01, 2001|By Phil Greenfield | Phil Greenfield,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

When Annapolis Symphony Orchestra concertmaster Philip Spletzer traded in his violin for a baton to conduct the ASO in a "Camerata" chamber concert last spring, he wound up having so much fun on the podium that he couldn't wait to do it again.

With that chamber series canceled for this season, the 34-year-old Long Island, N.Y., native has turned musical entrepreneur, forming a top-notch string orchestra that will make its debut under his direction this weekend.

The Atlantica Chamber Orchestra, an ensemble made up of 21 of the region's finest string players, will perform selections by Corelli, Bach and Dvorak at Anne Arundel Community College's Pascal Center Theater at 8 p.m. tomorrow.

The program will be repeated at 8 p.m. Saturday at the Avalon Theatre in Easton.

Atlantica has been a one-man show this far, and Spletzer is the man. For these opening concerts, he has raised some $12,000 in working capital and personally booked each of the musicians he's culled from the ranks of ensembles such as the Annapolis Symphony, Baltimore Chamber Orchestra, Concert Artists of Baltimore, Hagerstown's Maryland Symphony and the National Gallery Orchestra of Washington.

"It's been a lot of work," Spletzer says with a chuckle as he recounts the decisions he's had to make recently - not just on music, but about toothpicks, napkins and post-concert refreshments - "but it's been worth it."

After that concert last spring, Spletzer took a month off to chart his course.

Conducting wasn't a new thought. At the suggestion of Michael Tilson Thomas, conductor of the New World Symphony and also its concertmaster, Spletzer had prepared chamber concerts for the Florida orchestra some years ago and loved the experience. When the opportunity came again, he was ready.

"I just decided to go for it," he says. "Right in our own area here, we've got the players, and I'm convinced the community is ready to embrace this repertoire. The ASO isn't doing Camerata anymore, so there's a void out there I know we can fill."

For Atlantica's inaugural weekend, the conductor has chosen three works that testify to the diversity and beauty of the string chamber orchestra repertoire.

Arcangelo Corelli's "Concerto Grosso" in G minor is full of the dramatic hustle and bustle that has made the baroque idiom so popular in recent years.

Spletzer and Baltimore violinist Tamara Seymour will solo in the great "Double" Violin Concerto of J. S. Bach, and the program will close with the lush, lilting phrases of Antonin Dvorak's "Serenade for Strings."

"The string orchestral literature is my first love," Spletzer says. "I couldn't be happier about what we're playing."

Tickets for each performance are $25, and available through TicketMaster at 410-481-SEAT. Tickets also will be sold at the door, subject to availability. Information: 410-385-3365.

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