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MSO proves to be fluent in French

February 20, 2000

See also: Review: Orchestra performs brilliantly

MSO performanceBy MEG H. PARTINGTON / Staff Writer

photo: JOE CROCETTA / staff photographer




The Maryland Symphony Orchestra went on a wild musical ride Sunday, navigating through the elegance of a Camille Saint-Sans piano concerto and into the eerie depths of Hector Berlioz's soul.

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The journey into 19th century French music delighted willing "passenger" Reine Sadler of Chambersburg, Pa.

"I love the conductor, love the pianist. Of course I love the program today," said the French-born Sadler.

"The ambition of my life is to be a conductor," she said, adding that she felt badly for those sitting behind her during the concert because she was noticeably striving toward that goal from her seat.

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During the pre-concert lecture, MSO Music Director Elizabeth Schulze described the artistic world that evolved in 1830s Europe.

"The artist takes on an idea of art and music and poetry as a vocation ... a means to express the divine," Schulze said.

During that time, Ferdinand Hrold created the opera "Zampa," the overture to which was played by MSO Saturday and Sunday. The dramatic opera told the story of a nobleman turned pirate and gave audiences the equivalent of a story line from "All My Children" in three hours, not countless weeks, Schulze said.

That same time period saw the birth of Berlioz's "Symphonie Fantastique," which Schulze described as "a revolutionary piece of music."

The composition was adventurous, calling for unusual orchestration, including two tubas, two harps, four bassoons and four timpani. It also includes creative sounds, like bows being played upside down on strings, which some say is meant to imitate the sound of witches' nails scratching.

"One does become possessed at the end of this piece," Schulze said, especially when the orchestra reaches "a terrific and almost horrific ending."

Between the tumultuous works by Hrold and Berlioz nestled Saint-Sans' Piano Concerto No. 4 in C Minor, featuring pianist Seung-Un Ha.

Schulze described the two-movement work as "a piece of elegance, of balanced proportion of deep feeling." The soloist swayed on her bench while waiting for her various entrances, her arms folded with hands clasping the opposite elbows.

Ha's musical prowess impressed audience members of all ages.

"It was really good, better than we can do," said Matt Barnhart, 9, of Greencastle, Pa.

He and brother Zach Barnhart, also 9, have been playing piano since September.

"It was good. It was all good," agreed Zach.

The boys' father, Steve Barnhart, was a fan of Hrold's Zampa Overture.

"I liked the beginning piece. I like the more upbeat ones," Barnhart said.

"I liked it all," said Jimmy Mapstone of Hagerstown between slurps on a bright red lollipop.

He saw a few familiar faces from the Symphony Saturday program for youth in which he participates: "The one who has the blond hair (in the violin section)" and "the man who is the percussionist."

"I'm enjoying all of it," said Jimmy's father, Phil Mapstone, who was attending his first MSO concert. "I'm very, very impressed. I'm enjoying everything."

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