ASO to burst into a new season

New maestro to conduct vibrant contemporary and classic works in concerts starting tonight


Arundel Live

September 23, 2005|By Phil Greenfield | Phil Greenfield,Special to the sun

What occasion could be more genteel, less prone to outbursts of any kind, than an evening of classical music? Aren't restraint and dispassion in the air whenever our musical aristocrats partake of their rarefied, supremely dignified art form?

Don't you believe it. There will outbursts aplenty when the Annapolis Symphony opens its 45th season this evening at Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts under the baton of its new conductor, Jose-Luis Novo, who begins his first season at the orchestra's helm.

And wouldn't you know, Novo's opening downbeat will bring the ASO straight into Michael Abels' Outburst for Orchestra.

Abels, a native of Arizona who grew up in South Dakota, is that rarest of breeds, a contemporary composer whose works have resonated deeply with listeners and performers alike during the composer's lifetime.

Global Warming, his most popular work, has received more than 100 performances, with the orchestras of Chicago, Cleveland, Atlanta, Houston, Detroit, Indianapolis and Dallas among the front-line ensembles that have played the luminous score.

Outburst, his new work, is a concert overture built on a short theme that becomes, in the composer's words, "musical confetti" as its prismatic colors shoot out of the orchestral texture. It has lyricism, a few touches of whimsy and, as the title suggests, engaging bursts of sound.

"We're so happy to be proclaiming our pride in the orchestra's 45th season with such a bright, vibrant, colorful work that's so indicative of this composer's accessible style," said ASO Executive Director Lee Streby. "What a wonderful way to begin our season."

The second outburst of the evening will come courtesy of Franz Joseph Haydn in his much-loved Symphony No. 94, subtitled The Surprise. The sobriquet comes from the startling and clever "forte" chord the composer placed into the stately opening theme of his second movement. "That will make the ladies scream," the composer is reputed to have chuckled over his mischievous outburst, placed in the music to discourage snoozers and daydreamers.

Apart from the joke, the symphony bursts at the seams with vitality and joy courtesy of the gentle genius whose aristocratic elegance is matched by a magician's flair for pulling the most inventive harmonic rabbits imaginable out of unpretentious melodic hats. Indeed, once Haydn's had his giggle in movement two, listen to the four extraordinary variations that turn his little melody every which way but loose.

This weekend's concerts will end with the ringing, expansive 2nd Symphony of Finland's Jean Sibelius, a master who blends affirmation with Nordic melancholy better than any composer who ever lived.

"Give me the loneliness of the Finnish forest or of a big city," Sibelius said.

But as this great symphony ends, with trumpet fanfares surging out of the orchestra in one of the most soaring, affirming musical outbursts of them all, loneliness seems very far off indeed.

For tickets for the orchestra's Friday and Saturday concerts, which begin at 8 p.m., call 410-263-0907 or 410-269-1132, or go to the orchestra Web site at

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