Concert puts art into 'Moz-Art'

November 16, 2008|By CHRIS COPLEY

HAGERSTOWN - Rarely do classical concert-goers expect much in terms of eye candy at a performance. The experience is generally all in the ears.

Not so at Saturday night's Maryland Symphony Orchestra MasterWorks II concert at The Maryland Theatre. The opening number, in particular, was a mini-play of movement and music.

"Moz-Art la Haydn" by Soviet composer Alfred Schnittke is an evocative piece, but not for everyone. Written in the edgy, experimental 1970s, the piece started with only about a dozen MSO string players on stage. Late-arriving patrons finding their seats asked neighbors, "Where is everybody?"

Suddenly, the lights went off and a single instrument played a squealing note that resembled a cat. Another instrument spoke up, playing a completely different theme. Then another player, and another, until all instruments played at the same time. The ensemble presented a musical phrase of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's, then disassembled and recreated it with guest concertmaster Robert Martin and principal second violinist Narissa Murphy playing a sort of duet in front of the ensemble.


The instruments explored variations of the Mozart theme at times melodic, at times screechy, some variations serious, some playful.

Finally, the musicians drifted away and MSO Conductor Elizabeth Schulze waved her arms desperately at a nearly empty, darkening stage.

All in about 8 minutes.

"Schnittke was trying to bring the humorous side of Mozart into the concert hall," Schulze told the audience afterward as she explained the piece.

She added that all four pieces on the program for the MSO's concert have aspects of humor or irony. The dark stage at the end of Schnittke's "Moz-Art" was a reference to Franz Joseph Haydn's "Farewell" Symphony - the second piece on the program. At the end of the "Farewell," musicians extinguished electric candles kept on their music stands and, one by one, left the stage.

During intermission, Rick Kipe said he found the Schnittke piece "very strange."

"The explanation did a lot of good, though," he added. "I'm glad Elizabeth took the time to talk about it."

Kipe, whose son, Andrew Kipe, is the executive director of the symphony, said he's glad the MSO performed the Schnittke.

"It's nice to get a little variety," he said.

Ethan Hawver came to see the concert from Winchester, Va., where he is a violin performance major at Shenandoah Conservatory.

"I really liked it," he said. "The Haydn was fantastic. And I'm glad they're going with more modern pieces."

Four Mercersburg Academy students volunteered to help seat audience members. They also saw the MSO's program.

Magdalena Kala, a student from Poland, said she liked seeing the audience respond to the MSO.

"The whole interaction between the audience and the musicians was good," she said.

"Yes, you're not allowed to laugh," said Fritzi Wentz, who is German.

Rounding out the concert were Johann Sebastian Bach's Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 in G Major and Sergei Prokofiev's Symphony No. 1 in D major.

If you go ...

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

WHEN: Today, 3 p.m.

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 will be available at The Maryland Theatre from 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.

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