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MSO lauded in finale

March 19, 2001

MSO lauded in finale



By MEG H. PARTINGTON

megp@herald-mail.com

Robert McDuffiePhoto: JOE CROCETTA / staff photographer

The Maryland Symphony Orchestra brought the audience at The Maryland Theatre to its feet twice Sunday during the last concert of its Masterworks Series.

The program, which featured works spanning more than a century, opened with Joan Tower's "Tambor," which the Pittsburgh Symphony debuted in May 1998.

"It's very energetic, it's very powerful. It's a nice bookend to this concert," Music Director Elizabeth Schulze said during "Prelude," the preconcert discussion.

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Concertgoer Gerald Guyton of Hagerstown agreed.

"I thought it was well-programmed. It set the tone for the rest of the concert," Guyton said.

"Tambor," which means "drum" in Spanish, shines a spotlight on the percussion section. Among the instruments featured are timpani, bongo, chimes, tam-tam and tambourine.

"She calls for the orchestra to move in unison," Schulze said. "It's all about layering on of sounds. You can hear not only rhythm but timbre, or pitch and color."

"That was an awesome number," Guyton said of "Tambor." "I thought it was well done."

"I liked that. I was wishing my younger son was here," Sherry Hesse of Hagerstown said of her son Benjamin, 8, who plays drums and piano.

Accompanying Hesse to the concert was Nathan Hesse, 11, who plays saxophone, piano and guitar. He said what he liked most about Tower's piece was "the rhythm."

The other bookend to the concert was Gustav Mahler's Symphony No. 1 in D major, "The Titan." It takes the audience on a tumultuous journey through the stillness of nature, the lightheartedness of being in love, the depths of despair and the hope of salvation.

The piece was considered over the edge, even grotesque, in the 1800s, Schulze said.

It was not until the 1940s that it was put in the second half of orchestra programs. Prior to that, it was placed in the first half so audiences had time to get over it, she said.

The audience at The Maryland Theatre showed its appreciation for Mahler's wild musical ride with an ovation.

Tucked in the middle of the program was Felix Mendelssohn's Concerto for Violin and Orchestra in E minor, featuring soloist Robert McDuffie.

Before the concert, Schulze described how the piece makes use of all facets of the violin: its passionate, angst-filled voice, along with its muscular energy and virtuosity.

McDuffie kept his eyes closed through most of the performance, shifting his weight back and forth, seeming to move with the music.

"I loved his expression and his movement," said Bob Mills of Hagerstown. "It was like he was making it sing."

"It was uplifting. It was not routine," Guyton said. "The orchestra accompaniment was excellent. He's outstanding."

"I enjoyed it. He really put a lot of emotion in it," Sherry Hesse said.

When McDuffie put his bow down at the end of the third movement, several audience members jumped to their feet.

When he came out to bow, he held his 1735 Guarneri del Ges violin forward, as if to ensure it got recognition, too.

Hearing a mix of contemporary and traditional pieces was pleasing to Ruthanne Mills' ears.

"I do like variety. I think she does a nice job with it," she said of Schulze's selections.

Contemporary works are worth being exposed to, said Ruthanne Mills, of Hagerstown.

"I think, like anything, you have to get introduced to it and get used to it," she said.

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