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In touch with nature

February 19, 2004|by KATE COLEMAN

katec@herald-mail.com

The Maryland Symphony Orchestra will take a walk in the country this weekend, performing three orchestral works inspired by nature.

And nobody will have to venture outside the warmth of The Maryland Theatre to enjoy the bucolic musical stroll.

"Pastoral Scenes," the fourth of the season's MasterWorks concerts, will be presented at 8 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 21, and 3 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 22.

Ticket holders can learn about the music and its composers during Prelude, the 30-minute informational program that begins an hour before each concert.

The program will open with a work MSO Music Director Elizabeth Schulze calls a musical landmark. Claude Debussy's Prelude to "The Afternoon of a Faun," inspired by symbolist Stephane Mallarm's poem, premiered in 1894.

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The flute is the lead instrument in the work, says Jessica Hull, who will be the featured soloist.

Hull, 26, is the orchestra's acting principal flute, a position that became available while Frances Lapp Averitt, the MSO's principal flute since 1983, is on sabbatical in Paris.

Hull, who lives in Germantown, Md., auditioned last summer and first performed with the orchestra in November at the season's second MasterWorks concert, "Women's Voices."

Playing with the MSO has been wonderful, Hull says. She says the musicians are welcoming, and the woodwind section a joy. She says she enjoys working with Schulze and would welcome any further opportunities to perform with the MSO.

Hull grew up in Long Island, N.Y., and began piano lessons at 5. When she was 8, her father, a junior high school band director and trumpeter, brought home a flute.

That was it, Hull said. She chose her path.

She continued lessons on both instruments until she was 18, and then turned her focus to the flute. She received her undergraduate degree from Crane School of Music at SUNY Potsdam in New York in 1999, and went on to earn her master's degree in flute performance from Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh in 2001.

Hull teaches flute to about 35 students, ages 8 to 35. She says the area has been wonderful for her musically. She is a member of the Coriolanis Quintet, a group of young professional musicians in the Northern Virginia-Silver Spring, Md. area.

She is looking forward the weekend's concerts and to the Debussy. It's a piece a flutist hears and longs to play, she says.

The flute is the lead instrument, representing the faun - a minor Roman deity, with the trunk of a man and a goat's horns and legs.

The work is difficult because of the nuances and colors in the piece - not so much technically in terms of her fingers. The work has long phrases, and breath control is important, Hull says.

The weekend program also includes Sir Thomas Beecham's arrangement of selections from George Frideric Handel's opera "Il Pastor Fido" - "The Faithful Shepherd" - into a concert suite for symphony orchestra.

The weekend concerts will close with Ludwig van Beethoven's Symphony No. 6 in F Major, Op. 68, the Pastoral Symphony, which he subtitled "Sinfonia Pastorella."

The work differs from Beethoven's other symphonies, Schulze says. The five movements portray the awakening of happy feelings on arrival in the countryside, a scene by a brook, a merry gathering of country people, a thunderstorm, and a shepherd's song - joyful grateful feelings after the storm.

It's very definitely all about tranquility and memories of a place where he must have felt very good, Schulze says.

The audience is invited to join Beethoven and the Maryland Symphony Orchestra in that good feeling.

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