Season of note for orchestra in Columbia

Silver: The repertoire for the 25th anniversary concerts includes samplings from the symphonic mainstream and 20th-century music.

August 15, 2002|By Phil Greenfield | Phil Greenfield,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

A silver anniversary is as momentous a milestone for an orchestra as it is for a marriage.

That explains why every aspect of the Columbia Orchestra's 25th anniversary season - repertoire, soloists, and special-events programming - is so ambitious.

Conductor Jason Love's choice of repertoire will feature generous samplings from the symphonic mainstream, as well as demanding 20th-century fare that will test the orchestra in a wholly different manner.

His eclectic programming coalesces around masterworks such as Antonin Dvorak's radiant 8th Symphony (Oct. 12); the Eroica symphony, the galvanic work Beethoven crafted to pull the classically scaled symphonic form of Haydn and Mozart into the Romantic age (Feb. 15); and the extraordinary D minor Symphony in which Russia's Dmitri Shostakovich told off his Stalinist taskmasters with such bristling intensity (May 10).

Maestro Love also is one of Maryland's most convincing exponents of contemporary fare, and this anniversary season affords the opportunity to sample a pair of unfamiliar but fascinating modern works.

At the opening concert in October, Love will conduct the music of Silvestre Revueltas (1899-1940), the immensely colorful composer whose supercharged Latin flair identifies him as "the great free spirit of Mexican music."

"He was a late-starter with the public, but he's really begun to catch on," says Love, who has programmed Revueltas' Sensemaya, a sensuous, highly pictorial interpretation of Nicolas Guillen's poem about the killing of a snake. The piece is as energetic a seven-minute interlude as the composer gave us.

In December, the Columbians will introduce The Encantadas, a poetic "Concerto for Actor and Orchestra" by Tobias Picker (b. 1954) whose works are among the most frequently performed of all contemporary composers.

Columbia's commitment to the contemporary idiom will reach a crescendo in May when the ensemble will perform the winning entry in the orchestra's 25th Anniversary American Composer Competition.

Through Nov. 1, the orchestra will accept unpublished manuscripts of some 14 minutes in duration from American composers of any age. An independent panel of composers and conductors will evaluate them, and the winning composition will be announced Dec. 14. The winner will receive a $1,000 prize, as well as the honor of a public performance of the work in May.

Manuscripts are arriving, which pleases Love. "We wanted to do something special for our anniversary," he said, "and what better way to celebrate the past than to create a new future?"

Leading off a slate of eminent soloists in the anniversary season will be Columbia's Herbert Greenberg, whose distinguished tenure as concertmaster of the Baltimore Symphony ended with his resignation from the orchestra last year. Greenberg will play the much-loved G minor Violin Concerto of Max Bruch at the opening concert in October.

Mezzo-soprano Kyle Engler will perform Edward Elgar's song-cycle Sea Pictures in December, and lovers of piano will be thrilled to see Rachmaninoff's romantic 2nd Piano Concerto on May 10. Hou-Fei Yang, winner of the 2002 Yale Gordon Trust Award, will be soloist.

In perhaps the most special event of the season, Philadelphia Orchestra violist Anne Marie Ahn Petersen, a Howard County native who played in the Columbia Orchestra and won its Young Artists Competition as a teen-ager, will return in February to solo in works by Weber and Bruch.

On the podium accompanying his daughter that evening will be Yong Ku Ahn, the Columbia Orchestra's founding music director, who presided over the ensemble's fortunes through its first decade. As maestros Ahn and Love share the podium, Columbia's past and present will come together for music that will, no doubt, augur well for the orchestra's future.

25th season

Oct. 12: Herbert Greenberg, violin - Revueltas: Sensemaya; Bruch: Violin Concerto in G minor; Dvorak: Symphony No. 8

Dec. 14: Kyle Engler, mezzo-soprano - Elgar: Sea Pictures; Picker: The Encantadas; Winners of the 2002 Young Artists Competition

Feb. 15: Anne Marie Ahn Petersen, viola; Yong Ku Ahn, guest conductor; Brahms: "Academic Festival Overture"; Bruch: Romance in F; Weber: Andante & Rondo Ongarese; Beethoven: Symphony No. 3, Eroica

May 10: Hou-Fei Yang, piano; first-prize winner of the Columbia Orchestra's 25th Anniversary American Composer Competition; Rachmaninoff: Piano Concerto No. 2; Shostakovich: Symphony No. 5

May 31: Chamber Concert at Christ Episcopal Church in Columbia

All concerts begin at 8 p.m. With the exception of the concert May 31, all Columbia Orchestra performances are in Jim Rouse Theatre at Wilde Lake High School in Columbia. Tickets: 410-381- 2004.

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