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Selections from Mozart, Rossini and Beethoven

March 31, 2005|by Elizabeth Schulze

This weekend the Maryland Symphony Orchestra presents the concert "Springtime in Europe," featuring the music of Gioacchino Rossini and Ludwig van Beethoven, and introducing a rising young star making her debut with the orchestra as the soloist in Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's Concerto No. 5 in A Major for Violin.

Eighteen-year-old Sandra Wolf-Meei Cameron is a Maryland resident who already has displayed her prodigious talents on many of the world's most important concert stages. It is fitting that she will perform a concerto written by one of history's most celebrated prodigies, who composed his five violin concertos as showcases for his own considerable virtuosity on that instrument.

Written early in his career as a court musician for the Archbishop of Salzburg, Mozart's violin concertos are elegant reflections of the musical tastes of that time. Unlike his 27 piano concertos, several of which have been described as deeply personal expressions, Mozart's violin concertos have more of a genteel restraint. That said, there is nothing lacking in the imaginative harmonies and extraordinary moments of beauty in these works. The fifth concerto has been nicknamed "Turkish" due to a musical interruption in the last movement. The music of a courtly minuet is whirled aside by a vigorous country dance, actually more Hungarian in nature, but certainly suggesting something exotic to Mozart's initial listeners.

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Rossini's Overture to La Cenerentola (Cinderella) opens our program in a nod to our young guest artist and as a showcase for the virtuosic abilities of the orchestra. While few of Rossini's operas are performed today, his overtures are concert mainstays. Brimming with wit and enormous energy, these overtures are perfect stage-setters. This particular overture contains numerous challenging solos for the wind players and calls for special effects from the strings in both of the work's long crescendo sections.

Among the composers Beethoven most admired were Mozart and Rossini. Their influence can be felt in his Symphony No. 7 in A Major, which closes our program. Like Rossini, Beethoven writes brilliantly for the orchestra and exults in the special effect of sudden changes in dynamics and mood. Mozart's final symphonies display a profound monumentality in both form and the dramatic working out of the musical themes. Beethoven is the clear successor to Mozart the symphonist. His seventh symphony is a series of four dances worked out on an epic scale. Richard Wagner called it "the apotheosis of the dance." There is no doubt that this is indeed a sublime effort and certainly Beethoven's most joyful musical statement until the great finale of Symphony No. 9.

Elizabeth Schulze is music director of the Maryland Symphony Orchestra.

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