Choral event offers milestone afternoon

Concert: Columbia Pro Cantare Chorus and a Baltimore church's choir and musicians will perform works by Dvorak and Janacek on Sunday.

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

The music world never met a milestone it didn't like, and this year, devotees of the music of Eastern Europe get to celebrate two of them.

This is the centennial year of the death of Antonin Dvorak (1841-1904), the Czech master whose melodic gifts rank among music history's most profound, and the 150th anniversary of the birth of Leos Janacek (1854- 1928) whose Slavic soul is bared in just about every bar of his remarkable oeuvre.

"Both composers were born in small towns, both were largely self-taught, and both were composers whose genius ranks them high in the annals of Western culture," says conductor Frances Motyca Dawson, whose Columbia Pro Cantare Chorus will visit Baltimore's Second Presbyterian Church on Sunday to perform. The program, which is to be performed jointly with the Second Presbyterian Choir under the direction of conductor-composer Elam Ray Sprenkle, will include works by Dvorak, Janacek and Sprenkle.

Sprenkle will conduct a revised version of his "The Star-Splitter," a musical treatment of a Robert Frost text about a farmer who burns down his house to collect the insurance money to buy a telescope.

Pro Cantare's Chamber Singers will perform selections from Dvorak's song-cycle, "In Nature's Realm."

Sunday afternoon's program also includes a performance of Dvorak's delightful Sonatina in G by violinist Ronald Mutchnik and pianist Alison Matuskey.

Mutchnik is one of the Baltimore area's busiest and best violinists, a musician known for his many solo and orchestral engagements, as well as his appearances on Face the Music with WBJC-FM's classical radio host, Jonathan Palevsky.

Composed for the Dvorak children, the Sonatina is a lovely, uncomplicated work with a graceful second movement said to have been inspired by a Minnesota waterfall Dvorak visited while living in a Czech community in Spillville, Iowa, during the summer of 1893.

It is one of those bright, engaging works Johannes Brahms could well have been envying when he said, "I should be glad if something occurred to me as a main idea that occurs to Dvorak only by the way."

Organist Margaret Budd will play the Organ Voluntary from Janacek's Glagolitic Mass, surely one of the most riveting treatments of Christian liturgy ever to emanate from Eastern Europe.

The Second Presbyterian organist will join tenor Farrar Strum, harpist Eric Sabatino and the choir for Janacek's "Our Father," another work from the sacred realm.

Columbia's Pro Cantare Choir and the choir of Baltimore's Second Presbyterian Church will perform at 3:30 p.m. Sunday. The church is at 4200 St. Paul St. in Baltimore. The concert is free, but an offering will be collected. Information: Columbia Pro Cantare, 410-465-5744; the church, 410-889-6819.

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