Orchestra to open season

Columbia ensemble to mark 30 years with music it played at inaugural concert

October 19, 2007|By Phil Greenfield | Phil Greenfield,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

The Columbia Orchestra begins its 30th anniversary season tomorrow evening at 7:30 in the Jim Rouse Theater at Wilde Lake High School. Jason Love, beginning his ninth year as conductor, will lead works by Bach, Tchaikovsky and Richard Strauss.

In this first subscription concert of the anniversary season, as in the three that will follow, the orchestra will celebrate its past as well as its highly successful present. The 3rd Brandenburg Concerto of Johann Sebastian Bach, for example, is the first work the orchestra played at its inaugural concert three decades ago.

"It was a small chamber orchestra back then," Love said, "but not any more. This time around, we're going to perform it with our entire string section. That may not be the most stylistically correct way to play Bach, but for us it's a sign of just how far this orchestra has come."

The first symphonic blockbuster of the season will be the 4th Symphony of Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky, one of the great musical commentaries on the theme of fate and human struggle. Tchaikovsky's music, the British music critic Neville Cardus once said, is "a thrilling case of nerves," and few interludes thrill listeners as much as the fateful brass fanfares that open the work so momentously, then come full circle to bring the symphony to its ringing conclusion.

Rounding out tomorrow's program will be the delightful Horn Concerto of Richard Strauss. Strauss, whose father was one of the great 19th century horn virtuosos, loved the instrument and crafted a pair of handsome concertos that join Mozart's four sparkling concertos for the instrument at the core of the French horn repertoire.

The bright Concerto No. 1 will be played by French hornist Larry Williams, former principal horn with Florida's New World Symphony who is currently on the faculties of the Peabody Institute and Morgan State University. Selected as one of Ebony magazine's "50 Leaders of Tomorrow," Williams is an unusually versatile performer on his fiendishly difficult instrument, having performed in the orchestral, chamber, jazz, gospel and pop realms.

Two important musical personalities with connections to Columbia are scheduled to join the orchestra later this season. The first is Brian Ganz, the Columbia-born pianist who will collaborate with the orchestra in Johannes Brahms' Piano Concerto No. 1 in December.

Next May, the orchestra will perform Rapture by Christopher Rouse, a nephew of Columbia's founding father, who has become one of the most important and most accessible composers of contemporary music.

Winner of a Pulitzer Prize and a Grammy Award, Christopher Rouse composed his blissful orchestral interlude Rapture for Mariss Jansons and the Pittsburgh Symphony, which premiered the work in 2000.

The season finale will spotlight another musical memory when Love conducts Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition in its blazingly colorful orchestral arrangement by Ravel.

"That was the first piece I performed with the orchestra when I took over eight years ago," Love recalled. "I'm thrilled to be doing it again." On that same program, the orchestra will accompany the winners of its annual Young Artists Competition. Even as it celebrates its past, the orchestra tips its cap to the musical future.

And all music - past, present and future - comes together next April when the orchestra performs the most towering and timeless masterwork of all, Beethoven's 9th Symphony with its choral "Ode to Joy" proclaiming the unity of all music and of all people.

Concert Schedule

The Columbia Orchestra's 2007-2008 Subscription Concert Season will include these performances:

Saturday: Soloist: Larry Williams, French horn. Program: Bach: Brandenburg Concerto No. 3; R. Strauss: Horn Concerto No. 1; Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 4.

Saturday, Dec. 1: Soloist: Brian Ganz, piano. Program: Brahms: Piano Concerto No. 1; Ives: Symphony No. 2.

Saturday, April 5: Program: Beethoven: Symphony No. 9.

Saturday, May 31: Soloists: Winners of the Young Artists Competition. Program: Rouse: Rapture; concerto excerpts to be announced; Mussorgsky/Ravel: Pictures at an Exhibition.

All concerts begin at 7:30 p.m. For tickets, call the orchestra at 410-465-8777 or contact the orchestra's Web site, columbiaorchestra.org.

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