Two concerts, one night

Openings: Presenting a variety of great works by great composers, Candlelight Concerts and the Columbia Orchestra begin their 2001-2002 seasons Saturday.

October 11, 2001|By Phil Greenfield | Phil Greenfield,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

The cause of great music in Howard County crescendos with a flourish this weekend as both Candlelight Concerts and the Columbia Orchestra begin their 2001-2002 concert seasons.

The local orchestra takes the stage at Jim Rouse Theatre at 8 p.m. Saturday under the direction of its conductor, Jason Love.

Two works will dominate the proceedings: the ravishingly lyrical 4th Piano Concerto of Ludwig van Beethoven, and The Planets, the astrologically charged orchestral blockbuster composed by English composer Gustav Holst as the Great War enveloped Europe in the second decade of the last century.

Camille Saint-Saens' spirited Marche Militaire Francaise will round out the program.

The same night, up the street at Smith Theatre on the campus of Howard Community College, Candlelight Concerts kicks off its 29th season of top-of-the-line solo recitals and chamber music with the artistry of Israeli pianist Joseph Kalichstein.

Known as one of the world's finest chamber pianists for his membership in the vaunted trio that includes violinist Jaime Laredo and cellist Sharon Robinson, Kalichstein is also a noted exponent of the 19th-century solo repertoire, so it is no coincidence that works by Robert Schumann and Johannes Brahms will dominate his recital, which is also scheduled at 8 p.m. Saturday.

It is unfortunate that two such worthy events should conflict on the calendar, but let's look at the bright side. Whichever direction concertgoers take, they will be thrilled with the music and, most likely, with the performers as well.

Pianist Brian Ganz has performed throughout the United States, Europe and the Far East as a recitalist, and he has collaborated on the concerto repertoire with highly pedigreed orchestras in Baltimore, St. Louis, Washington, London, Monte Carlo and Brussels.

A graduate of Baltimore's Peabody Institute, Ganz recently joined the teaching faculty at his alma mater.

Beethoven's G major Concerto is one of Ganz's signature works, as his recent performance of the piece with the Chesapeake Youth Symphony made clear.

At Annapolis' Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts last spring, Ganz imbued the concerto with plenty of poetry, from the deep, unhurried sense of yearning he unearthed in the opening solo, to the airy bounce he found in the arpeggios that animate the concluding Vivace. In his hands, lyricism, introspection and a rippling sense of joy pervade the work, one of the great interpretive tests of the concerto repertoire.

For sheer sonic splendor, it is hard to top the The Planets composed from 1914 to 1916 by Holst.

The work is less an interplanetary voyage of the seven planets (Earth is left out; Pluto wasn't discovered until 1930), than a musical exploration of each planet's astrological theme. Thus Mars, with its incessant 5/4 rhythms and nasty snaps of brass, truly becomes The Bringer of War, while Jupiter brings not only "jollity" but also the stately Jovian theme so easily transposed into anthems and hymns.

Holst scored his most famous composition for a full orchestra augmented by an organ, all manner of exotic percussion, and a women's chorus oohing and aahing wordlessly but evocatively at the conclusion of Neptune, the Mystic. Truly, The Planets fully merits its status as one of the most compelling orchestral showpieces.

Kalichstein was awarded the 1969 Leventritt Prize by George Szell, Rudolf Serkin and William Steinberg - three of the greatest musicians of the 20th century - after a unanimous vote.

He subsequently made himself a regular on the concert stages of the world alongside conductors such as Zubin Mehta, Leonard Slatkin, Daniel Barenboim, Andre Previn, David Zinman and Pierre Boulez, while becoming known in solo recitals for his erudite way with the music of Beethoven, Brahms, Schumann, Mendelssohn, Bartok and Prokofieff.

Kalichstein will play Schumann's best-known piano work, Kreisleriana, along with several pieces composed by Schumann's close friend, Brahms. Three Brahms Intermezzi are planned, as well as a pair of Hungarian dances, a concert variation on one of Schumann's themes and Brahms' muscular arrangement of J.S. Bach's otherworldly Chaconne.

General admission to Candlelight Concerts is $24, $18 for senior citizens, and $9 for students. Subscriptions and individual tickets: 410-715-0034 or 301-596-6203. Tickets to the Columbia Orchestra's opening program are $12 for adults, $10 for seniors older than age 60 and $5 for full-time students. Information: 410-381-2004.

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