MSO's grand celebration of a musical giant

February 13, 2006|by ELIZABETH SCHULZE

The Maryland Symphony Orchestra has been very busy this week. Not only have we been preparing for this weekend's celebration of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's 250th birthday at The Maryland Theatre, but we also have been adjusting, or tuning, the new acoustic shell that we have installed on the stage. This has been a massive undertaking over the past month as the motorized, wood paneled shell has been engineered to fit the dimensions of the theater exactly in order to insure the best acoustical result for our performances.

Now our audiences will be able to hear the orchestra at its best from all vantage points. It is an exciting development that will create a more intimate and a more vibrant experience for performers and audiences alike.

I can think of no better way to inaugurate our shell than to present a program of music by one of the greatest musicians of all time, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.


The three works on the program reveal Mozart at the beginning and at the end of his career. The Overture to Il Re Pastore was written in 1775, when the composer was only nineteen. It exhibits the youthful exuberance and precocious brilliance of a musician ready to take on the world. From the start, the music is full of excited anticipation. It is a perfect curtain raiser, setting the mood, but not giving away the story.

The Symphony's own Beverly Butts will be featured as the soloist in Mozart's Clarinet Concerto. Bev is one of the true jewels of our orchestra. Her ability to master the entire orchestral repertoire, from jazz and pops to Brahms and Stravinsky, enhance our performances immeasurably.

Written late in Mozart's life, the Clarinet Concerto (1791) is certainly one of the most beloved and admired of his works. The clarinet was only just emerging as an instrument with solo and orchestral possibilities during the late 18th century. Mozart wrote his concerto and a quintet for this new instrument and its greatest proponent, Anton Stadler.

In actuality, Stadler played a basset clarinet, a type of clarinet which had a range that extended four pitches lower than the modern clarinet we are accustomed to hearing today. Because the basset clarinet never caught on, Mozart's concerto was arranged for the standard clarinet in A as early as 1801. And while some passages have had to be adjusted to fit the modern clarinet's slightly smaller range, the beauty of the music is undiminished.

Arguably Mozart's crowning achievement in orchestral music, the Symphony in C, K 551, the so-called "Jupiter" Symphony, rounds out our program. Known especially for its splendid fugal finale, this symphony is written on a grand scale evoking all the pomp and circumstance of its time. Awe-inspiring in its construction and execution, the music appeals to both the connoisseur and the new listener in equal measure. For me, this work is a miracle - sublime and satisfying.

Elizabeth Schulze is music director and conductor of the Maryland Symphony Orchestra.

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