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MSO patrons enjoy orchestra's return

October 21, 2002|by KEVIN CLAPP

kevinc@herald-mail.com

After a six-month layoff, the masters returned to The Maryland Theatre this weekend.

And it was music to Maryland Symphony Orchestra patrons' ears.

"I'm able to completely relax and enjoy the music," said Greencastle, Pa., resident Phyllis Eshleman. "You're able to turn off the rest of the things going on in your life and you can just enjoy the music."

Embarking on its 21st MasterWorks concert series, the symphony used its first program of 2002-03 to celebrate Hagerstown's Sister City relationship with Wesel, Germany, by featuring the work of German composers Bach, Mendelssohn and Beethoven.

The concert began with MSO Music Director Elizabeth Schulze recognizing guests from Wesel before the orchestra performed the American and German national anthems.

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"I think since (the Germans are) here it was very complementary to them," said Suzy Wochos, a Hagerstown resident beginning her second season as a symphony patron. "It reflects what the whole community is doing right now in enjoying their Sister City collaboration."

Pianist Ursula Oppens joined the symphony as guest soloist for "Emperor," Beethoven's Concerto No. 5, while members of the Frederick (Md.) Chorale added a vocal dimension to Bach's Cantata No. 80.

During Prelude, Schulze's pre-concert discussion, Oppens joined the music director to discuss her approach to performing.

Asked by Schulze whether she is aware of the audience while playing, Oppens said yes, but not in the way some might think.

"Performance is at the same time exhilarating and terrifying. Terrifying because in the middle of something you can't say, 'Oh, let's do that again.' Exhilarating because you have to concentrate in a way I can't do in normal life," Oppens said.

"It's because of the audience that I'm trying to focus so entirely on the music itself," she said.

Ron Miller of Rockville, Md., is such a fan of the Beethoven concerto that he keeps a recording of it in his car almost all the time.

Calling Oppens' performance "excellent," he says it is indicative of the quality that has kept him coming to see the MSO since its first season.

"It kills me to miss this during the year," he said. "We enjoy coming up here because for us it's a great Sunday. It's an afternoon of great music."

The MSO MasterWorks program continues Saturday, Nov. 16, and Sunday, Nov. 17, with one of the symphony's own, trombonist Wayne Wells, as featured soloist.

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