MSO, Martin bring playful music out of Haydn

November 13, 2008|By KATE COLEMAN

This weekend's Maryland Symphony Orchestra concerts will showcase the musical talents of MSO players.

It also will give them a chance to act out a bit as they perform what Music Director Elizabeth Schulze called "some of the most humorous music ever written for an orchestra."

She called 20th-century composer Alfred Schnittke's "Moz-Art á la Haydn" a "musical game." It also borrows theatrics from Franz Joseph Haydn's "Farewell Symphony," which follows "Moz-Art" on the bill.

The program will conclude with Sergei Prokofiev's Symphony No. 1 in D major, the 20th-century Russian composer's homage to Haydn, according to Schulze.


But before that grand finale, Guest Concertmaster Robert Martin will lead a small ensemble -- 10 strings and harpsichord -- in a performance of Johann Sebastian Bach's Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 in G Major.

Martin's MasterWorks II performances and those at the December "Home for the Holidays" concerts comprise the final stage of his audition for the position of MSO concertmaster.

The concertmaster is the leading member of the first violin section, the largest section in the orchestra, and the chief liaison between the conductor and the musicians, Martin explained.

"I'm thrilled to be involved in this," he said. "I'm very happy that this was the particular program that they asked me to play. It really showcases the virtuosity of the orchestra and gives me a chance to step out a little bit."

The 27-year-old Martin -- he'll turn 28 Sunday -- started playing violin at age 3. His parents are musicians and music educators, and he was curious and interested.

Martin, who grew up in the Philadelphia area and still lives there, said he was lucky to have a neighbor who was a very fine teacher. Later, he entered and won a competition which earned him his solo debut with the Philadelphia Orchestra at age 13.

But things changed. "I didn't study the violin very hard between the ages of 13 and 16," Martin admitted. "I wasn't practicing, I was playing basketball." Also, he picked up the trumpet and became a "pretty accomplished jazz trumpet player" in high school.

Martin got serious about music while planning for college. "Music was the only thing I really wanted to do and had a passion for," he said.

He was accepted at several good music schools but chose Eastman School of Music in Rochester, N.Y., a place where he could study classical music and jazz at a very high level. He hasn't played his horn for several years and said he does miss it.

His focus is the violin, and it is serving him well. He is in his second season as principal second violin player of the Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia. Since he started that job, he's cut down the "amount of gigging" he'd done in the past few years, including performances with Peter Nero and the Philly Pops, Opera Company of Philadelphia and Pennsylvania Ballet.

While focusing on solo performances and taking auditions for various positions around the country, Martin also has cut back on teaching, and he really misses it. But he conducted a master class for Washington County string students Monday.

Martin is looking forward to performing with the MSO, and he already has family and musical connections to the area. His grandmother played saxophone, his grandfather played cornet and his father played tuba and euphonium with Hagerstown Municipal Band.

"It would be very exciting for me to get a position in a community where I have so many roots and so much family history," Martin said.

If you go ..


WHAT: MasterWorks II, "Two Centuries of Classics" by the Maryland Symphony Orchestra

WHEN: 8 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 15; 3 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 16

WHERE: The Maryland Theatre, 21 S. Potomac St., Hagerstown

COST: Tickets cost $22

to $49 for adults, $12 to $25 for children 12 and younger and for full-time students.

Tickets are available at, by calling 301-797-4000 and at the MSO box office, 30 W. Washington St. in Hagerstown. Tickets will be available at The Maryland Theatre from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Saturday and 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. Sunday. Student rush tickets (no reservations accepted) will be available beginning 90 minutes before the performance for $5.

MORE: Music Director and Conductor Elizabeth Schulze will talk about the program's music and composers one hour before Saturday's and Sunday's performance. The half-hour presentation is free for ticket-holders.

For program notes and audio clips of the weekend program, go and click on Audio Program Notes on the performance page.

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