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MSO plays 'Romance in France'

February 13, 2005|by KATE COLEMAN

The Maryland Symphony Orchestra continued its 23rd season's musical journey with "The Romance of France" Saturday night at The Maryland Theatre - just in time for Valentine's Day.

Ooh la la!

The program featured two 19th-century French orchestral works - music by Hector Berlioz and Cesar Franck.

The orchestra's principal violist, Phyllis Freeman, was the featured soloist on Berlioz's "Harold in Italy," one of the few compositions written for the modern viola. The work tells the story of a knight in training with "lush harmonies and gorgeous, very passionate melodies," said Music Director and Conductor Elizabeth Schulze before the concert. Also during Prelude, she welcomed Freeman, a member of the orchestra since 1999, to play samples of the music she would perform.

Freeman joked that her "lecture" would be titled "Why the Viola Is Like Butter." The alto voice among the strings, the instrument she has played since fourth grade tends to blend into the middle.

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Nobody bites into a stick of butter, but in cooking, you want the butter to be there, she explained.

Freeman, 43, has said she likes being in the music physically.

She was Saturday night - calmly awaiting her parts, then bending and leaning into the Berlioz.

Schulze called Freeman a great teacher.

At intermission, 9-year-old New Market, Md., resident Russell Iseberg, Freeman's student since he was 4 1/2, said he liked the way his teacher and the other musicians expressed themselves - differently. One portion of Freeman's solo called for her to play on the bridge of the viola. Russell called it "very tough," something he hasn't tried.

"We really enjoy the symphony," said David Crawford of Frederick, Md., admitting to being a little bit biased. Petr Skopek, his son-in-law, plays in the orchestra's first violin section.

"This is an amazing orchestra directed by Elizabeth Schulze," he said. "This is her sound."

Janice Porter of Hagerstown, a longtime season ticketholder, had never heard the Berlioz. She called it very interesting.

"I thought she did a marvelous job," she said of Freeman's performance.

Franck's "Symphony in D Minor" was slated for the second half of the concert.

The orchestra will perform the MasterWorks III program again today at 3 p.m.

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