deCou to conduct ASO

Search: With the guest conductor's appearance, the Annapolis Symphony Orchestra renews its effort to find a successor to Maestro Leslie B. Dunner.

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March 18, 2004|By Phil Greenfield | Phil Greenfield,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

The intrigue will continue apace at Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts on March 26 and 27 when the Annapolis Symphony reconvenes its search for a conductor to replace Leslie B. Dunner.

This time around, the visiting maestro will be Emil de Cou, the associate conductor of Leonard Slatkin's National Symphony Orchestra, who will conduct a varied program of Samuel Barber's Second Essay for Orchestra, Robert Schumann Piano Concerto and Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky's 5th Symphony.

A Los Angeles native, de Cou began his professional career on the other side of the baton, as principal French horn of Germany's Baden State Theatre and of Austria's Mozart Opera of Salzburg. He went on to study with the noted pedagogue Daniel Lewis in the graduate conducting program of the University of Southern California.

de Cou's conducting credits include appearances with numerous American ensembles, including the symphony orchestras of Detroit, Milwaukee and Hartford. This season, the distinguished visitor has conducted the National Symphony's annual performances of Handel's Messiah and a guest engagement with the Abilene Philharmonic of Kansas.

As its literary name suggests, Barber's 2nd Essay is a tightly argued musical narrative: short, inventive and logically laid out. At mid-20th century, when the avant-gardists were in flower, Barber's brand of neo-romanticism was deemed too passe for words.

But the aesthetic tables have turned, and Barber has won his place as one of America's most original and enduring musical voices.

de Cou also will have a go at Tchaikovsky's sprawling, emotionally draining Symphony No. 5, one of the best-loved works of the classical canon.

With its fitful opening, sublime slow movement featuring one of the loveliest French horn solos ever composed, and majestic conclusion, the great E minor Symphony is one of those "thrilling cases of nerves" the English critic Neville Cardus was on about as he described Tchaikovsky's music.

The other work on the program is Robert Schumann's long-winded but thoroughly lovable Piano Concerto, one of the defining works of the Romantic era.

As soloist, the ASO will welcome back pianist Jon Nakamatsu, who joined the local orchestra for the Emperor Concerto of Beethoven last January.

Nakamatsu became known to the public after his gold medal performance at the 10th Van Cliburn Piano Competition in 1997. His recent engagements include return appearances with the Rochester Philharmonic and with the Baton Rouge and Pacific Symphony Orchestras.

For a sampling of his artistry before the microphones, music lovers are directed to his Chopin recital on Harmonia Mundi 907244.

Emil de Cou conducts the Annapolis Symphony Orchestra in the music of Barber, Schumann and Tchaikovsky on March 26 and 27 at Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts in Annapolis. The concert begins at 8 p.m. both evenings. Tickets are on sale for $25, $30 and $35. Reduced-priced tickets are available for $10 to full-time students ages 8 to 25. No one younger than 8 will be admitted.

A free pre-concert lecture will be given by Rachel Franklin both nights at 7 p.m. To order tickets, call the ASO box office at 410-263-0907.

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