ASO's season was a success, despite hurdles

Winner: The orchestra's concert season -- which ends this weekend -- overcame early weather problems and no permanent conductor.

Arundel Live

May 06, 2004|By Phil Greenfield | Phil Greenfield,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

The 5th Symphony of Ludwig van Beethoven ends as triumphantly as any work in the classical canon, with horns and trumpets blazing and every other instrument racing to the finish line, fueled by the glory and passion of the master's artistic vision.

In truth, that might be a pretty appropriate ending for the Annapolis Symphony Orchestra's 43rd season. Who would have thought that the season of guest conductors -- hammered out at warp speed by former symphony executive director Tonya Robles and others in the aftermath of the decision to not renew Leslie Dunner's contract -- would have worked out so well?

When the season's first subscription weekend was washed away by September's tropical storm, it seemed like it was going to be a long year at Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts. In tribute to some remarkable planning, though, the orchestra quickly bounced back.

In November, Rossen Milanov, assistant conductor of the Philadelphia Orchestra -- where sumptuous sounds are the primary stocks in trade -- brought some of that tonal luster with him to Annapolis. The Rachmaninoff 2nd Piano Concerto with pianist Stewart Goodyear was one of the most rewarding collaborations of recent memory -- up there with Dunner's noble partnering of the extraordinary Jennifer Koh in Samuel Barber's Violin Concerto a couple of seasons back.

Lara Webber, associate conductor of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and the first bona fide candidate for the ASO conductorship to compete in the two-year search, threw her hat in the ring in January with a program of Sibelius and Bruch that caught everyone's attention despite a rehearsal schedule decimated by snow.

"She was well-liked and respected, and not just by the strings," says Paul Herman, longtime ASO violinist. "The wind players I talked to admired her, too. We were very impressed, especially since we had so little rehearsal time."

In March, pianist Jon Nakamatsu returned to Maryland Hall for the second year to give a classically poised but deeply felt Schumann Piano Concerto with a National Symphony assistant, Emil deCou, on the podium. The visitor's handling of the interior movements of Tchaikovsky's 5th Symphony also revealed musical sensibilities worth keeping an eye on.

This weekend, the orchestra closes the 2003-2004 season by welcoming a formidable husband-and-wife team for the aforementioned Beethoven 5th, plus the Violin Concerto of Karl Goldmark (1830-1915) and Global Warming, a contemporary work by American composer Michael Abels.

David Lockington, who served a stint as David Zinman's associate conductor with the Baltimore Symphony, is music director of Michigan's Grand Rapids Symphony, a precocious Midwestern ensemble.

A product of England's Cambridge University and Yale, Lockington served as assistant principal cellist of the Denver Symphony before taking up the baton. Ensconced as he is in Grand Rapids and on the guest-conducting circuit of major orchestras such as St. Louis, Houston, Detroit, Seattle and Rochester, N.Y., Lockington is here as a distinguished visitor.

Appearing with him will be his wife, violinist Dylana Jenson, a former Silver Medal winner at the Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow.

The essentially lyrical concerto they will share will give way to Beethoven for a thumping conclusion to a satisfying season that could easily have been lost, but wasn't.

The Annapolis Symphony performs music by Beethoven, Goldmark and Abels at 8 p.m. tomorrow and Saturday at the Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts in Annapolis. Tickets: 410-263-0907 or 410-269-1132.

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