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Poking fun at formality

November 09, 2006|by ELIZABETH SCHULZE

This weekend's Maryland Symphony Orchestra MasterWorks concerts are all about music and laughter. Our program ranges from witty musical remarks to outright sonic pratfalls. Starting with William Bolcom's "Commedia for 'Almost' 18th Century Orchestra," listeners will purposely be served up just about every musical clich from the age of Mozart to our own time. The juxtaposition of a classical-style trio obliviously playing in the midst of the cacophony of an orchestral tarantella a la Charles Ives is hilarious fun!

Gifted young pianist Shai Wosner joins us for Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's Concerto No. 9 in E flat. Written when Mozart was 21, the concerto is one of his earliest masterpieces. The work is full of surprises, defying conventional form and poking fun at some of the same clichs William Bolcom pointed to in his work. In this concerto the humorous side of the young genius is revealed. Who else would have thought to stick a stately minuet in the middle of a rollicking Rondo finale?

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Our soloist, Wosner, already has established himself as an artist of the highest level. Equally at home with the masterworks of the past and the music of our time, Wosner recently made his debut with the Vienna Philharmonic in Salzburg, Austria, as part of that city's celebration of the 250th anniversary of Mozart's birth.

The second half of the program is devoted to Ludwig van Beethoven's Symphony No. 2 in D major. It is in this symphony that Beethoven first uses the Italian word scherzo, or joke, as a title; it's the name of his fast, dance-like third movement. Indeed, early listeners must have found the fast tempo of this movement a far cry from the expected gracious and formal minuets found in the symphonies of Mozart and Franz Joseph Haydn. The finale is theatrical and comic as it races to a joyous conclusion.

Elizabeth Schulze is music director and conductor of the MSO.

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