Comedy classic(al)

November 09, 2006|by KATE COLEMAN

Stuffed shirts should stay home.

The second MasterWorks program of the Maryland Symphony Orchestra's 25th season - "Smiles for an Autumn Evening" - is a celebration of humor in music. The orchestra is slated to perform a concert Friday in Frederick, Md., and two in Hagerstown this weekend.

The fun will begin with "Commedia for 'Almost' 18th Century Orchestra" by contemporary composer William Bolcom. The "almost" refers to the presence of clarinets, which would have been rare, and piano instead of harpsichord in the 18th century orchestra, MSO Music Director Elizabeth Schulze explained in a recent telephone interview.

She called the piece a hysterically funny romp through musical history.

The wit will continue when piano soloist Shai Wosner joins the orchestra to perform Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 9 in E flat, written when the composer was just 21 years old.


"It's a great masterpiece," Wosner said of the concerto, one of six or seven by Mozart in his repertoire.

"Even though it's early, it's really as mature as all of the others - certainly in terms of composition and form," he explained. This weekend will mark his first performance of the work.

Wosner's interest in music started early. There was a piano in his family's home in Israel, and he started "fooling around with it" when he was 5 or 6, trying to pick out songs and harmonize them, he said in a recent phone interview from New York.

Lessons began when he was 7 or 8, although he first thought they would spoil his experience. But the lessons had a point. He was convinced that he'd be able to play more songs and more interesting songs if he learned to read music, he said with a laugh.

Wosner, 30, studied for 12 years in Tel Aviv and then with Emanuel Ax at the Juilliard School in New York.

"It's hard to imagine not being involved in music," Wosner said.

And involved he is. Wosner has received awards in several international piano competitions and performed with many major orchestras in the United States and Europe. He said it was a little cold in Salzburg, Austria, last January when he made his Vienna Philharmonic debut as part of Mozart's 250th birthday celebration.

Wosner said he's not attracted to pop music, but performing contemporary music is an important part of his activities. He sometimes conducts master classes, which he finds interesting.

"You tend to learn more than you teach," he said.

Wosner is looking forward to his performances with the MSO, citing a lot of interesting interplay between the piano and the orchestra.

"Any Mozart concerto that you learn is a thrill," he said.

And Schulze is looking forward to performing with Wosner.

He is "one of the most substantial artists our audience will ever hear," she said. "We are very, very lucky to have him stop by in Hagerstown for the weekend."

The concert will conclude with Ludwig van Beethoven's Symphony No. 2 in D major, which Schulze said was written at the height of the composer's misery over the loss of his hearing and what that meant to his future. And yet, "not one crumb of that" enters into the music.

With that knowledge, the smiles at the end of the symphony might be bittersweet.

If you go ...

WHAT: Maryland Symphony Orchestra presents MasterWorks II, "Smiles for an Autumn Evening."

WHEN AND WHERE: 8 p.m. Friday, Nov. 10, at Weinberg Center for the Arts, 20 W. Patrick St., Frederick, Md.; and 8 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 11, and 3 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 12, at The Maryland Theatre, 21 S. Potomac St., Hagerstown.

COST: Tickets for the Weinberg Center performance cost $25 for adults and $10 for ages 60 and older and children and full-time students. They are available by calling 301-228-2828 or going online to

Tickets for The Maryland Theatre performances cost $21 to $79 for adults, $11 to $40 for children 12 and younger and full-time students. Tickets are available by calling 301-797-4000 and at the MSO box office, 13 S. Potomac St. in Hagerstown. Hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays and noon to 4 p.m. Saturday. Group discounts and brief subscriptions are available.

MORE: For information and to listen to selections from the weekend program, go to the MSO Web site at

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