Awash in riches of 3 orchestras

Concerts: Arundel performances by the Baltimore and Londontowne symphonies and the season opener this weekend of the Annapolis Symphony enliven the scene.

Arundel Live

September 16, 2004|By Phil Greenfield | Phil Greenfield,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Anne Arundel County's fine arts performance season has begun, not with a trickle but with a deluge.

The Londontowne Symphony began its second season at Southern High School on Friday with a program of works by Faure, Haydn, Vaughan Williams and Mozart. Richard Scerbo, a Southern alumnus and recent graduate of the University of Maryland's conducting program, provided workmanlike leadership from the podium with marvelous music that placed Londontowne's strengths squarely in the spotlight.

Ralph Vaughan Williams' Variations on Greensleeves was introduced beautifully by flutist Chester Burke and harpist Susan Saurwein. There was stylish playing from principal French horn Ann Stewart in Mozart's Symphony No. 29, the snappy teenage work in A major that also drew an excellent performance from a refurbished viola section led by Daphne Benichou. And oboist Leslie Starr is one of the region's best.

Frank McKinster, cellist with the U.S. Air Force String Quartet, was on hand to solo in the glorious C major Cello Concerto of Franz Joseph Haydn, which he did with varying degrees of success. A sturdy opening movement and a restrained but elegant Adagio brought pleasure, but the Finale saw more than its share of missed notes and disagreements over tempo.

Londontowne's first-violin section, which contains some of the orchestra's most accomplished players, sounded shrill, sloppy and (worse, still) utterly disinterested in both Mozart and Haydn. A pep talk is definitely in order.

On Tuesday night, the area was paid a visit by music director Yuri Temirkanov and his Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, who appeared at the Naval Academy's Alumni Hall in the academy's Distinguished Artists Series.

Temirkanov, who recently announced his intention to leave the BSO at the conclusion of the 2005-2006 concert season, presided over Robert Schumann's Piano Concerto and the larger-than-life Symphony No. 1 of Johannes Brahms. Soloist in the Schumann was Orion Weiss, 22, a Juilliard superstar with an impressive list of engagements and competition victories to his credit.

A Temirkanov concert is seldom a routine event, and this one certainly wasn't as the audience was treated to intimate, genial and rather unpretentious Schumann in the first half, and a magic carpet ride through Brahms' great C minor Symphony in the second.

Even though the music director's tempos, sonorities and overall pacing in the symphony were anything but eccentric, one had a sense of hearing this score for the first time. What a thrill it was to share it with this conductor - one of the few genuine romantics of the podium these days - and with the orchestra he has virtually remade in his four years at Meyerhoff Hall.

A gypsy spirit will fill Maryland Hall at 8 p.m. tomorrow and Saturday when Spanish conductor Jose-Luis Novo, music director of New York's Binghamton Philharmonic, conducts the Annapolis Symphony's season-opening concerts.

Johann Strauss' fizzy Gypsy Baron Overture is on the bill, as are Manuel de Falla's flamenco-inspired ballet El Amor Brujo ("Love, the Magician"), Maurice Ravel's racy Tzigane for violin and orchestra, Silvestre Revueltas' Homage to Garcia Lorca and Zoltan Kodaly's Peacock Variations.

Joining Novo for Falla's sultry score will be mezzo-soprano Kathleen Clawson. Violinist Elissa Lee Koljonen plays the Tzigane, Ravel's high-powered evocation of Gypsy violins.

Anchoring the program will be Kodaly's colorful set of variations on the old Hungarian folk song, "The Peacock Flew." Like just about everything else this remarkable 20th-century composer and music educator touched, it wears its Hungarian nationalism on its sleeve for all to see and hear.

Tickets: 410-263-0907.

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