Candlelight's 34th at hand

Conductor-violinist duo, French chamber orchestra to open series


October 13, 2006|By Judah E. Adashi | Judah E. Adashi,Special to the sun

For Brian Suits and Kyung Sun Lee, collaboration is a full-time enterprise. Suits, a distinguished pianist, composer and conductor who taught at Yale University for 12 years, is married to Lee, an award-winning violinist and faculty member at the Oberlin Conservatory in Ohio.

The couple perform and record together as a violin-and-piano duo, presenting a wide-ranging repertoire that includes works by Suits. Further broadening their personal and professional partnership, the two have also collaborated with other artists, notably the rising American soprano Jennifer Aylmer.

Tomorrow at 8 p.m., Suits and Lee will appear with L'Orchestre de Chambre Francais as conductor and violin soloist, respectively, to inaugurate the 34th season of the Candlelight Concert Series at Howard Community College's Smith Theatre.

The Orchestre de Chambre Francais, a 12-member string ensemble that was founded in 1989 and is based in Senlis, France, has been widely acclaimed for bringing a chamber-music sensibility to bear on orchestral repertory drawn primarily from the Baroque, Classical, and Romantic periods.

In high demand throughout Europe (and, increasingly, in the United States), the group serves as orchestra-in-residence at the historic Theatre Imperial in the French town of Compiegne.

Suits, whose Web site lists an extensive and stylistically diverse catalog of original compositions, has done numerous arrangements for string orchestra, two of which will be performed at tomorrow evening's concert: Claude Debussy's Petite Suite and Camille Saint-Saens' Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso, Opus 28.

The early work by Debussy, originally composed for four-hand piano and later arranged for full orchestra by Henri-Paul Busser, is in four short movements, each bearing a simple but evocative title: "En bateau" ("In a boat"), "Cortege," "Menuet," and "Ballet."

Saint-Saens' ardent Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso, which will feature Lee as soloist, is one of several pieces that the composer wrote for Spanish violin virtuoso and composer Pablo de Sarasate, honoring him with music of a distinctly Spanish flavor.

Tomorrow's performance also will include arrangements by the group's founder and director, violist Christian Raverdel, of Saint-Saens' Romance, Opus 48, featuring Lee, and Maurice Ravel's stately, wistful Pavane pour une infante defunte.

(As Suits observes in recent program notes, the composer is said to have chastised a pianist for playing the latter courtly dance too slowly, remarking that he had written a pavane for a dead princess, not a dead pavane for a princess).

The other works on the program are Antonio Vivaldi's Concerto for Strings in A Major, the charming "Canzonetta" from Benjamin Godard's Concerto Romantique, again with Lee as soloist, Mozart's Divertimento in F Major, written when the composer was 16 years old, and Edvard Grieg's bracing Holberg Suite, Opus 40.

This attractive mix of tuneful works from the 18th and 19th centuries promises to showcase to the fullest the fruits of the rich partnership among Suits, Lee and the chamber orchestra.

All three have earned considerable accolades for their refined artistry; if, as the adage goes, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, listeners may expect something special tomorrow night.

Tickets are $29 for adults, $26 for those 60 and older, and $12 for full-time students younger than 24. Students 17 and under will be admitted free when accompanied by a paying adult, subject to availability. At 6:45 p.m., Suits and Raverdel will participate in a pre-concert "Meet the Artists and the Music" event, free and open to the public. For information, call 410-480-9950, or e-mail

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