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Soloist exhibits precision in MSO concert

November 15, 1998|By TODD MEDCALF / Special to The Morning Herald

The Maryland Symphony Orchestra performed works by composers from the past three centuries Saturday night under the direction of Markand Thakar, the second of four conductors auditioning for the symphony's directorship.

A native New Yorker and Juilliard graduate, Thakar greeted the audience before the first selection to discuss the evening's music.

The first offering was Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's popular and ebullient "Impressario Overture," an excellent example of the Classical Era of the 18th century. Thakar conducted the piece in an understated and concise manner, with attention to the delicate articulation and phrasing in the short and sparkling work.

The orchestra joined with piano soloist Terrence Wilson in presenting the 20th-century Russian composer Sergei Prokofiev's "Piano Concerto No. 3 in C major." Wilson was 10 years old when he, like many others, first heard this concerto in the movie "The Competition," which stars Richard Dreyfuss and Amy Irving in a story of two young lovers who compete for the top prize. Wilson was so entranced with the work that he insisted his mother get a recording of it.

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Thirteen years later, Wilson, who had played this piece only once before in concert, performed it brilliantly on Saturday night.

The first movement is a scintillating tour de force, filled with dazzling displays of pianistic technique. Its jarring and abrupt dissonant harmonies are driven by a relentless rhythm that builds to a thundering climax. Wilson handled this movement with impeccable precision and energy.

The slow second movement is a sharp contrast to the first, with its ethereal sounds flowing from the solo piano. The final movement is as brilliant and energetic as the first, with rapid glissandi and hammering rhythms that are a delight to witness as well as hear. The audience was swept away with this young man's performance, bursting into enthusiastic applause at its conclusion.

The final selection of the evening was Peter Tchaikovsky's "Symphony No. 4 in F minor." Probably the best known of this great 19th-century Romantic composer's works, the symphony was completed during one of the most turbulent years of Tchaikovsky's life.

From the opening blast of the unison horns melody, the power and breadth of the symphony's first movement is unrelenting and filled with despair. Thakar brought this emotion forth with a steady and controlled tempo that accelerated gradually and built to several climactic moments.

The second movement began with a languid, plaintive solo beautifully played by the first oboe, then repeated in the cellos. Thakar encouraged the strings to shape the gorgeous phrases of this dark and contemplative movement, and they responded with a luxuriant sound.

The third movement is a playful and carefree romp, in sharp contrast to the preceding movements.

The final movement begins literally with a bang, and then sets off to the races. It brings back many of the melodic ideas heard in the earlier movements, but infused with new energy and eventually ending in a glorious major key.

Maestro Thakar brought the Maryland Symphony to a new level in performance on Saturday night.

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