Pro Cantare concert a classic and passionate gift


March 16, 2007|By Sarah Hoover | Sarah Hoover,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

There may be no better way to spend Sunday afternoon than in the presence of Columbia Pro Cantare and guest soloists for their celebration of Schubert and Grieg, taking place at 3 p.m. at First Evangelical Lutheran Church in Ellicott City. Director Frances Dawson has constructed a program of lovely music from start to finish.

Featured will be Franz Schubert's Mass in G, written when the composer was 18. A former choirboy at the Hofkapelle in Vienna, Schubert turned to composing after his voice broke. He wrote four complete Masses during these early years, perhaps to impress a young soprano named Therese Grob, with whom he had fallen in love.

The lyrical Mass in G is his most condensed and simple Mass setting, said to have been written in six days. The chorus will be joined by soprano Jillian Finnamore, tenor Matthew Dingles and baritone Lester Lynch.

The remainder of Sunday's program will be devoted to Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg, whose death in 1907 is commemorated this year. Grieg is best remembered for his musical miniatures, particularly for intimate piano solos and a rich collection of songs.

Grieg considered his only genius to stem from love. As he recounted to his biographer Henry Finck, "I loved a young girl who had a wonderful voice and an equally wonderful gift of interpretation. That girl became my wife and my lifelong companion to this very day."

The lyric gift Grieg bestowed upon his wife, Nina, will be brought to life by baritone Lester Lynch in songs from his Op. 70. Drawing from Norwegian folk poetry and folk tunes, Grieg paints haunting pictures of his Nordic land and people in these simple, elegiac songs.

Also on the program is his early Op. 12, the Lyric Pieces for piano, which will be performed by Howard County musician Alison Matuskey. These charming short works are well-suited to pianists both amateur and professional, and were responsible for making Grieg one of the most popular composers at home and in public concerts around 1900.

Grieg's last composition, the Four Psalms for chorus and baritone solo, reveals a more austere aspect of the evolving composer, grave and passionate. Hailed as proto-modern in its treatment of harmony, the texts by Norwegian writers are set to traditional melodies.

From Schubert's youthful sweetness to Grieg's more reflective lyricism, there is not an unattractive or unapproachable note on this program. Lovers of beauty, take note: This is a concert not to miss.

Advance ticket prices are $20 for adults and $18 for senior citizens and students, or $22 and $20 at the door. Information or tickets: Columbia Pro Cantare, 301-854- 0107 or 410-799-9321. Or www.

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