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Letter from the podium

Eastern European folk melodies and military fanfares make orchestra's concert bright

Eastern European folk melodies and military fanfares make orchestra's concert bright

January 20, 2003|by Elizabeth Schulze

This weekend's concerts promise fire and flair - perfect for a cold day in January. The Maryland Symphony Orchestra's concertmaster, Leonid Sushansky, will step into the spotlight to deliver his own version of pyrotechnics with a performance of Aram Khachaturian's Concerto for Violin and Orchestra.

Though influenced by the great concerto models established by Mendelssohn, Brahms and Tchaikovsky, the Armenian composer imbued his concerto with the special, slightly exotic harmonies and melodies particular to Armenian folk music. The result is a massive and energetic tour de force for soloist and orchestra alike.

Opening our program is the colorful, folk melody-filled Overture from "Russlan and Ludmilla" by Mikail Glinka. Glinka was a pioneer in establishing a Russian nationalistic style of music, and his opera, "Russlan and Ludmilla," stands as the first masterpiece in this tradition. The overture itself is, appropriately, action-packed, vivid and leaves its listeners breathless from its colorful display of orchestral virtuosity.

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On the second half of our program, the orchestra will perform Leos Jancek's brilliant Sinfonietta. Based on military fanfares written for a gymnastics festival, the Czech composer incorporated those pieces for brass instruments into a five-movement orchestral work. Originally called Military Sinfonietta in honor of the Armed Force Services of Czechoslovakia, he shortened the title, believing the music to be instead, an expression of "the mind of the ordinary man" and a tribute to the ideals of strength, determination, freedom and joy. As with the other composers on our program, Jancek used folk materials to inform his style of composition and even attempted to capture the rhythms of the Czech language in his music. This is successfully conveyed in his sinfonietta, an exuberant musical celebration of national pride and human triumph.

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