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MSO offers Valentine weekend mood music

February 14, 2003|by KEVIN CLAPP

kevinc@herald-mail.com

In honor of Valentine's Day, the Maryland Symphony Orchestra has prepared a little mood music for listeners' pleasure.

Featuring highlights from three ballets, Music Director Elizabeth Schulze said via e-mail that the program was selected by the storylines of the ballets in question.

"Not in an effort to evoke any certain feeling from the audience," she said between recent trips to Minneapolis and Boston. "Which is not to say that, if they did happen to feel romantic after the show, it would be a bad thing."

And let's face it: Consisting of music from Copland's "Appalachian Spring," Stravinsky's "The Fairy's Kiss" and Tchaikovsky's "Swan Lake," the look of love is likely to be in more than one eye during MasterWorks series performances Saturday, Feb. 15, and Sunday, Feb 16.

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The fourth of five concerts in MSO's classical series, this romantic interlude is an opportunity for the entire orchestra to step front and center. No outside soloist is featured.

Instead, the suite from "Appalachian Spring" will be performed in its original instrumentation. Boiled down to 13 instruments, including strings, woodwinds and piano, the piece will force those involved to be on top of their games.

It is a challenge performers embrace.

"I do enjoy the challenge," said principal flute Frances Lapp Averitt. "It works me up to quite a pitch of practicing and preparing."

Jonathan Velsey, associate principal cellist, remembers performing the same Copland suite with .the full orchestra a few years ago under the direction of former music director Barry Tuckwell.

This version, not as lush as last time, creates a chamber music feel.

"There will be a certain thinning out of textures," he said. "But at the same time it'll have a fresh, perhaps a leaner, more angular sound to it."

"It's quite soloistic," Averitt added. "And so we'll be very much on our best chamber music behavior."

She enjoys the piece's beauty, established by the mood it creates with various swift tempo changes that keeps musicians on their toes.

"It's very clear and transparent to listen to," she says. "I think it's interesting for listeners to have that transparent clarity of instrumentation."

Though the program has a romantic theme, Schulze won't speculate how the music will affect listeners.

"I think that the composer's imagination in conveying the storyline - or sound/storyline - may very well seek to express the overall emotional states of the characters," she said. "But, again, I would rather steer clear of assuming that my experience or interpretation of those emotional states is the 'only' possibility. I leave it to the listener to take away their own impressions."

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