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MSO concert presents soft pastoral works

February 22, 2004|by RICHARD F. BELISLE

waynesboro@herald-mail.com

The world was in its usual throes outside The Maryland Theatre Saturday night - war, terrorism, nuclear threat, disease.

Inside, there was calm, peace, solitude, a world in touch with nature.

The Maryland Symphony Orchestra, under the baton of Music Director Elizabeth Schulze, performed a program of three soft pastoral works by Claude Debussy, George Frideric Handel and Ludwig van Beethoven. It was, in Schulze's imagination delivered in a half-hour preconcert lecture, an impressionistic stroll through a quiet meadow ringed by a forest cooled by a softly running brook.

The Debussy piece was inspired by the French symbolist poet Stephane Mallarme. The music was led by acting principal flute Jessica Hull, the featured soloist for the piece. Her flute is supposed to represent the movements of a faun in Mallarme's poem, Prelude to "The Afternoon of a Faun."

The faun, half-man and half-goat, romps around with three beautiful nymphs.

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Handel's "Il Pastor Fido" opera was interpreted and arranged for the symphony by English conductor Sir Thomas Beecham, Schulze said.

The piece was lost for nearly two centuries. Schulze called it "wonderfully engaging."

The concert ended with Beethoven's Symphony No. 6 in F Major, Op. 68. It was a far cry from the highly recognizable and heavy handed "bump, bump, bump, baahhh" of the famous composer's Fifth Symphony.

Beethoven subtitled the work, "Sinfonia Pastorella." He wanted it to be reminiscent of life in the countryside, where Beethoven, who Schulze called a "tree hugger" in her lecture, loved to be around nature.

The concert will be performed again today at 3 p.m. at the theater at 21 S. Potomac St. It's part of the orchestra's MasterWorks Series, said Jean Hamilton, executive director of the orchestra. Tickets for today's concert are available at the box office.

The orchestra performs 18 concerts during its season - 17 at The Maryland Theatre and the annual Salute to Independence concert on the Fourth of July weekend at Antietam National Battlefield.

Hamilton estimated Saturday's audience at about 1,000 patrons.

Veronica Statler, a medical assistant to a local physician, and her mother, Ginger Statler, both of Greencastle, Pa., were sitting in the back of the theater. They were waiting to take their seats in the balcony. It was their first time at the symphony.

"The doctor I work for went out of town and he gave me two tickets," Veronica Statler said. "I think we're going to like this music. It should be very spectacular."

Bob Smith and Mary Stanley led a small contingent of Shepherdstown, W.Va., patrons to the concert.

"We have season tickets and we've never been disappointed," Stanley said.

"It's lazy, smooth music. It gives you the feeling of summer," said Lamont Simmons, 53, of Hagerstown. He said he was familiar with the pieces performed Saturday. "It has great diversity."

"I took general music in school," he said. "I like a lot of different kinds of music. I love jazz, contemporary music like Sinatra, Duke Ellington, Count Basie. I grew up with all of it."

Simmons said he never learned to play an instrument.

"I was always all thumbs," he said.

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