Guest conductor in town

Symphony: Interpretations of Mozart, Haydn, Kodaly and Corigliano are in store for the weekend.

November 15, 2001|By Phil Greenfield | Phil Greenfield,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Annapolis and San Diego share the distinction of being the sailing capitals of their respective coasts. This weekend, they'll be sharing a conductor as well.

Donald Barra, the founding music director of the San Diego Chamber Orchestra, will be in town Friday and Saturday evenings to guest-conduct the Annapolis Symphony Orchestra in a program of Mozart, Haydn, Kodaly and Corigliano.

A product of Eastern institutions like Columbia University and the Eastman and Juilliard Schools of Music, Maestro Barra has become quite a musical presence in San Diego. In addition to conducting his chamber ensemble, he is professor and director of orchestras at San Diego State University and co-host of a weekly classical music program on a San Diego radio station.

Barra is the author of a book titled The Dynamic Performance: A Performer's Guide to Musical Expression and Interpretation. He will have ample opportunity to put his theories of dynamism to work this weekend in his interpretations of Franz Joseph Haydn's London Symphony, Zoltan Kodaly's Dances of Galanta, John Corigliano's Voyage for String Orchestra, and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's lyrical, bittersweet Clarinet Concerto.

His soloist in the concerto will be Jon Manasse, a brilliant clarinet virtuoso who is a mainstay on the New York music scene.

Mozart composed his one concerto for the clarinet in October 1791, less than two months before his untimely death. He wrote it for his friend and fellow Mason, Anton Stadler, one of Europe's superstars on the instrument in the late 18th century.

And a beautiful work it is - elegant, poised and rather restrained compared to his other wind concertos for bassoon, flute and French horn. While the full resources of the clarinet are exploited, it's anything but a flashy piece. The most sublime moments of all come in the slow movement, with its simple, heartbreakingly beautiful theme that could only be the work of one man.

The London Symphony, the last of Haydn's enormous canon of 104 catalogued symphonies, also is one of the crowning glories of music's classical period. From its dark, emphatic opening figure in the key of D minor to its spirited finale, the London is a great valedictory work showing one of music's greatest symphonists at the apex of his art.

Zoltan Kodaly, who wore his Hungarian nationalism on his sleeve, composed his Dances of Galanta in 1933 in honor of the 80th anniversary of the Budapest Philharmonic. Galanta is a Hungarian town between Vienna and Budapest, and from the sound of this suite of six colorful dances, there must have been gypsies there who knew how to have a good time!

John Corigliano is one contemporary composer who isn't afraid to incorporate melody and sentiment into his music. His Voyage, a neo-Romantic impression of Charles Beaudelaire's poem "Invitation to the Voyage," rounds out the weekend's attractive, highly diverse musical program.

Barra's appearances with the Annapolis Symphony will be at 8 p.m. at Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts, 801 Chase St. in Annapolis. Ticket prices range from $23 to $32, with student tickets available for $7. Information or tickets: 410-263-0907.

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