Mitchell Gallery, ASO concert is twice as fun

Partnering painted and musical selections makes for an enchanting double dose of art



THE ART OF MUSIC — History was made last Friday with a concert marking the first collaboration between the Annapolis Symphony Orchestra and the Mitchell Gallery at St. John's College.

The Art of Music -- In Performance was an extraordinary accomplishment for both arts organizations, revealing the synergistic aspects of combining art and music.

The concert was a revelation in displaying the major talent that exists locally. At St. John's Key Auditorium, an attentive audience of 260 discovered how exciting chamber music can be in the hands of five young musicians of superb artistry and technique. The five had not previously been heard in a small ensemble setting.

Perhaps this was foremost a triumph for the ASO's popular pre-concert lecturer, Rachel Franklin, who played a major role in putting this concert together. She selected the five musical pieces that went with the chosen paintings.

Not only did the audience hear Franklin's insightful commentary, which made each composer accessible, but this internationally known artist could finally be heard in her element as a concert pianist. The concert also showcased some of the orchestra's finest musicians.

In mixing art and music, Franklin made such fascinating choices as pairing portrait artist David Dalhoff Neal's Boy With a Violin with Beethoven's String Trio in G Major.

As a member of an affluent Baltimore family, 12-year-old Robert Garrett, the painting subject, was expected to be accomplished musically. Similarly in Europe, the wealthy people who commissioned Beethoven to compose music also wanted to show their playing skills.

At Key Auditorium, a charming artistic composition was formed by the musical trio gathered beneath the projected image of the Garrett boy. Violinist Mateusz Wolski, violist Arvin Gopal and cellist Alison Bazala proved to be a highly skilled string ensemble whose polished performance would have been appreciated in any major concert hall.

Describing another combination as "exotica and erotica" Franklin chose to pair Massenet's "Meditation from Thais" with Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec's Divan Japonais, depicting dancer Jane Avril with critic Dujardin listening to singer Yvette Guilbert at the famous Divan Japonais cafe.

The enjoyment of music in an exotic setting portrayed in Toulouse-Lautrec's poster relates to Jules Massenet's opera Thais, written during the same period. It tells of a beautiful Egyptian harlot of the 4th century who was pursued by a "besotted monk who wanted to save her from her sinful life."

This well-known piece was given unsuspected freshness and beauty in a sublime interpretation by solo violinist Wolski, who was thoughtfully accompanied by Franklin.

Another exquisite soloist (also joined by Franklin) was oboist Fatma Daglar, who brought remarkable technique and feeling to Camille Saint-Saens' "Sonata for Oboe and Piano." Possessing tender phrasing along with remarkable breath control, Daglar created gorgeous extended musical lines, her solo oboe's exotic quality shining without being obscured by the proximity of other orchestral instruments.

The evening's musical peak came in Mozart's Piano Quartet in G Minor, where soloist Franklin was joined by Wolski, Gopal and Bazala. The art selected added the appropriately elegant tone demanded by Mozart's music with artist Jean-Baptiste Greuze's lovely Marquise de Bezons looking down on the musicians. This Mozart selection is one that could be heard only in a chamber concert program.

Franklin demonstrated a flawless crystalline technique and warmth and electricity in her playing with the string ensemble.

My only regret about the evening is that we could not hear more of Franklin's artistry. Perhaps in future concerts this will happen. My hope is that this exciting concert filled with warmth and precision will mark the first in a series of such inspired events.

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