Concerts at Towson University won't be your garden-variety fare

Music Column

May 08, 2007|By Tim Smith | Tim Smith,Sun Music Critic

Unusual choral and keyboard fare will be heard at Towson University, starting tonight with a performance by the TU Concert Choir and a visiting youth choir from Russia called Valans. Sacred music by Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninoff and others -- all of it rarely heard in this country -- will be on the program, along with excerpts from Prokofiev's Alexander Nevsky and a new piece by Baltimore composer Jonathan Leshnoff.

The concert, led by Karen Kennedy, will be at 8 tonight at the Center for the Arts, Osler and Cross Campus drives. Tickets are $5-$9. Call 410-704-2787.

Charles Alkan, a fascinating and eccentric 19th-century French composer whose unconventional style greatly expanded the possibilities of piano technique, doesn't get nearly the attention he deserves. This makes an all-Alkan recital by pianist and TU faculty member Reynaldo Reyes all the more noteworthy.

The performance is at 7:30 p.m. Sunday at the center. Tickets are $15. Call 410-704-2787.

Rostropovich concert

Mstislav Rostropovich, the incomparable Russian cellist and inspiring conductor who died April 27 in Moscow at age 80, will be commemorated this month by the ensemble he led for 17 years. The National Symphony Orchestra will pay tribute to its former music director and conductor laureate in a free concert May 19 at the Kennedy Center.

Current NSO music director Leonard Slatkin will conduct a program that touches on various aspects of Rostropovich's musical life. The important role played in that life by composer Dmitri Shostakovich, who wrote several works for the cellist, will be remembered with the Largo from Symphony No. 5, a work Rostropovich often conducted, and to shattering impact.

The wrenching finale from Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 6 will also be performed, along with Slava! (A Political Overture) written for Rostropovich by Leonard Bernstein.

NSO cellist David Teie's arrangement of the Sarabande from Bach's Cello Suite No. 6 will be played by members of the orchestra's cello section.

The free performance is at 6 p.m. May 19 in the Kennedy Center Concert Hall, Virginia and New Hampshire avenues Northwest. Call 800-444-1324.

A Handel `premiere'

Harmonious Blacksmith, the early-music ensemble directed by harpsichordist/conductor Joseph Gascho and recorder player Justin Godoy, will offer what is being billed as the "modern world premiere" of an opera aria by Handel.

L'armi implora dal tuo figlio, written as an additional showpiece for one of two ever-warring prima donnas who starred in his 1726 opera Alessandro, never made it into the published score and was apparently forgotten over the centuries. The unearthed piece will be sung by soprano Ah Young Hong.

The concert, which also includes music that Handel appropriated from other composers, will be at 3 p.m. Sunday at An die Musik, 409 N. Charles St. Tickets are $10 and $15. Call 410-385-2638 or go to University of Maryland faculty member Richard King will give a lecture on the program at 2:15 p.m.

Organ marathon

The ninth annual marathon of French organ music will be held from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday at Grace United Methodist Church, 5407 N. Charles St. This rich repertoire will be explored by 15 local organists, including Donald Sutherland, John Walker and Jonathan Moyer.

Admission is free. Information: 410-433-6650 or graceunited

Choral Arts' `Carmina'

Carl Orff described Carmina Burana, his earthy setting of medieval poems, as a "scenic cantata." The Baltimore Choral Arts Society took the composer at his word and presented the endlessly popular work in an ambitious theatrical realization Sunday night at Meyerhoff Symphony Hall.

I think Carmina Burana can move along quite interestingly under its own purely musical power, but there's something to be said for the addition of dance, especially when carried out in the agile, tightly disciplined fashion demonstrated here by members of the Kimberly Mackin Dance Company. And Mackin's choreography certainly underlined the work's sensuality effectively.

Choral Arts music director Tom Hall tended to drag the slower numbers in the piece, but was his usual propulsive self otherwise. He used Orff's two-pianos-and-percussion arrangement of the original orchestral version. Unfortunately, those pianos, played by Leo Wanenchak and Patricia McKewen Amato, were easily drowned out whenever the percussive battery let loose.

The chorus got swamped in a couple spots, too, but otherwise made a big-enough sound. Except for some droopy intonation at the very start and a couple of rough edges elsewhere, the singing was alert and colorful. Two local children's choruses handled their brief assignment sweetly.

Baritone Stephen Powell soared through his solos with considerable richness of tone and a keen awareness of text. Soprano Elizabeth Weigle did not sound entirely comfortable in the high-soaring passages, but her warmly expressive phrasing registered. Although tenor Robert Breault's braying wore a little thin in the thankless aria about a slow-roasted swan, his intensity had impact.

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