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MSO's 25th season off to a rousing start

October 16, 2006|by KATE COLEMAN

HAGERSTOWN - The Maryland Theatre audience broke with formal symphony convention Sunday afternoon and burst into applause before the end of Jean Sibelius' Violin Concerto in D minor.

The performance featured 28-year-old violinist Nicolas Kendall, who stood facing the orchestra as the other sections began to play. He turned to them often throughout his performance - to listen, to nod, to smile.

He expressed every note of the music - not just with his instrument, but with his whole body. He leaned, he crouched, he tossed his head. He seemed propelled as he played the concerto's final note.

Audience response was immediate and enthusiastic. As Kendall and Music Director Elizabeth Schulze shared a long embrace, people stood and the ovation continued.

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Kendall returned to the stage and played a crowd-pleasing encore that included blues and jazz riffs - even a wolf whistle. He took his violin out from under his chin and played it like a guitar - picking and strumming with a bit of country flavor.

"That was awesome," said Scott Nipps of Hagerstown. "That was the best I've heard."

"Not too shabby," said Hancock resident Leslie Mills with an ironic grin. "He can play at my party anytime."

Jack Kee of Middletown, Md., has been coming to MSO concerts for about six years and recalled Kendall's 2004 performance with the orchestra. "He's an entertainer."

The weekend performances, which included a sold-out concert at Frostburg State University Friday night, marked the first MasterWorks concert of the MSO's 25th season.

"Oh, excuse me," said a casually clad Kendall as he came out again after intermission at the beginning of the program's second half. He asked the audience to help him wish Schulze and the "great" Maryland Symphony Orchestra a happy birthday.

He accompanied the singing audience, and a huge cake was brought onstage.

The program concluded with Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 5 in E minor, which Schulze called "emotion exquisitely wrought."

"The Tchaikovsky was moving. I enjoyed the fullness of the orchestra," said Gerald Cohen of Hagerstown, who has held season tickets since the orchestra's beginning.

"They get better all the time."

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