Maryland Symphony program to feature Beethoven

Cellist Lukasz Szyrner to solo

Cellist Lukasz Szyrner to solo

November 12, 2009|By KATE COLEMAN

The second MasterWorks program of the Maryland Symphony Orchestra's 28th season presents the work of "two towering masters," according to Music Director Elizabeth Schulze.

This weekend's concerts feature two pieces by Ludwig van Beethoven -- the "Coriolan" Overture, the story of the ancient Roman general, and the Third Symphony, called the "Eroica."

The works bracket Dmitri Shostakovich's Violincello Concerto No. 1 in E-flat major, allowing the concerto a certain kind of context, Schulze said -- the artist as hero standing up against the Soviet regime. She added that she thinks of Shostakovich as the Beethoven of our time.

Schulze called the concerto "fantastic -- a very, very strong showcase for a cellist."

It is Lukasz Szyrner who will have that showcase. Schulze called him a wonderful artist, and said she's very happy to have an opportunity to collaborate with him as a soloist.


Szyrner, 33, never has performed the piece, but it is one to which he has a deep and longstanding personal connection.

He was a 13- or 14-year-old in Poland when he first heard the work. It was during a live radio broadcast from the Russian city of Leningrad -- now called St. Petersburg -- performed by Yo-Yo Ma, whom Szyrner called a "great cellist."

Szyrner recorded it, and although the sound quality was terrible, late at night he would put the tape in his Walkman, put the headphones on and listen to it in bed before he went to sleep.

"I did that many, many times, and I just kind of grew up as a young teenager with that piece (and) with the desire eventually to be able to play it," he said.

Szyrner began to play cello at age 7. He had played violin before he entered school, but decided he wanted to play cello when he heard his teacher-mother's elementary-school orchestra perform.

"Apparently I wanted to play the cello, because while playing the cello, I could sit," he said, relating the "official" story.

Szyrner attended a specialty school in the Polish city of Poznan, which offered musical training in addition to standard academic subjects. He performed with the Poznan Philharmonic Orchestra when he was 10 and made his solo debut with the ensemble at 14. He was the youngest master's graduate of the Jan Paderewski Music Conservatory in Poznan, continued his studies for two years in Germany and traveled to the United States and the Peabody Conservatory in 1995.

He came to the MSO in 2002 and has sat in the principal cellist's chair since 2004. Szyrner also is acting principal cellist with the Lancaster (Pa.) Symphony Orchestra, principal with the Mid-Atlantic Symphony and a member of the Virginia-based National Chamber Ensemble.

Szyrner plays classical music but says hardly ever listens to it.

"I listen to jazz all the time," he said. "I love Bill Evans, Kenny Barron."

He said he also likes the quintet groups of the 1950s and '60s led by musicians such as Miles Davis or Stan Getz.

The young cellist is also a passionate competitive cyclist and records many miles on his road bike -- 12,000 miles last year.

He often rides from Baltimore to Hagerstown and said the bike-riding in Washington County is "fantastic." With mountains on each side, it's one of his favorite areas to ride and he's been many places -- California and Colorado among them.

"Maryland is great," he said.

Szyrner prefers long-distance, endurance rides to the more dangerous, fast, road races. But even so, he has fallen many times. He broke his right shoulder on a training ride in late August.

But he's healed and ready to play the Shostakovich concerto.

"It's always exciting to be able to play that kind of a work," he said.

If you go ...

WHAT: MasterWorks II, "Symphonic Revolutionaries," with the Maryland Symphony Orchestra; featuring Lukasz Szyrner, MSO principal cellist

WHEN: 8 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 14, and 3 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 15

WHERE: The Maryland Theatre, 21 S. Potomac St., downtown 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 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; seat selections will be at the discretion of box office personnel.

CONTACT: Tickets are available at , by calling 301-797-4000 and at the MSO box office, 30 W. Washington St. in Hagerstown.

MORE: Music Director and Conductor Elizabeth Schulze will talk about the program's music and composers one hour before Saturday's and Sunday's performances. Guest artists also participate. The half-hour presentation is free for all ticketholders.

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

Read about MSO's principal bassonist Karen Smith Manar by clicking here

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