HAGERSTOWN — Ooh la la!
The Maryland Symphony Orchestra will present "A French Feast" this weekend, the third Masterworks concert of the season.
"This is a program I truly love," Music Director Elizabeth Schulze wrote in an e-mail. "Every piece just shines."
The concert opens with Jacques Offenbach’s Overture to "Orpheus in the Underworld," a work appropriate for a French feast.
"The Offenbach bubbles like champagne," Schulze wrote.
Next on the menu is Jacques Ibert's Flute Concerto featuring Kimberly Valerio, principal flute with the MSO since 2004.
Schulze has been looking forward to being able to present Valerio as a soloist. "She's inventive and expressive and just a joy to work with," she said.
Valerio has played the concerto for competitions and auditions and will perform it for the first time this weekend.
Schulze mentioned that the concerto, which premiered and was broadcast over the French radio broadcasting system in 1934, puts flutists through their paces, "but with jazzy elegance." Program notes — online at www.marylandsymphony.org — include "almost acrobatic," "scampers" and "playful" to describe the flute's role.
"So you can imagine how I'm feeling," Valerio said with a laugh in a recent phone interview from her Annapolis-area home. She called the piece intimidating, but said she's really looking forward to performing it.
The 41-year-old artist grew up in Naperville, Ill., and started playing the flute at age 8. Her dad had some recordings, and she loved the sound of the instrument. And, it was an easy instrument for a little girl to carry around — more manageable than the bagpipes she'd voiced an earlier interest in.
She was offered her first big solo in fifth grade with the school choir. She still has the sheet music.
"I knew then. I loved performing. I knew it was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life," Valerio said.
She took first place honors in several competitions and earned her Bachelor of Music in flute performance from the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore. It was also at Peabody — during her freshman year — that the flutist met the French hornist who would become her husband. Anthony M. Valerio is a member of the U.S. Naval Academy Band.
Valerio has taught at Salisbury State University and St. Mary's College of Maryland, and now teaches 14 students in her private studio.
She said Schulze asked her last year about performing the Ibert, and she jumped at the opportunity. Valerio said she practices "hours and hours a day." That time includes a 45-minute warm-up and another hour of practice. Her longer sessions run from about 8 p.m. — after her 5-year-old son, Christopher, is in bed — until 11:30 or midnight.
It’s not just Ibert that demands her attention. Valerio’s played with other ensembles, including the Key West (Fla.) Symphony Orchestra for 12 years. She recently returned from "a magical experience" — a 12-night symphonic cruise in the eastern Caribbean Sea, playing in a 50-piece orchestra and smaller ensembles and mingling with a group of patrons.
Valerio's been working on music for a recent engagement with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra as well as Feb. 18 and Feb. 19 performances with the Annapolis Symphony Orchestra, where she has been principal flute since 1998. On Sunday, Feb. 20, Valerio and friends — Neosonos, a wind quintet — will perform at Washington County Museum of Fine Arts in Hagerstown.
It seems the fifth-grader made the right career choice.
Masterworks III at The Maryland Theatre also includes Maurice Ravel's "Le Tombeau de Couperin," a tribute to the composer’s comrades who died in World War I. Schulze described the work as "poignant, but never maudlin or overdone."
The program will conclude with Georges Bizet’s Symphony No. 1 in C Major, written when he was just 17.
"Bizet's symphony never ceases to astonish me with its effortless grace and upbeat spirit — a perfect expression of joyful youth," Schulze wrote.
"I know the audience is going to enjoy the whole evening," she added.
If you go ...
WHAT: Masterworks III, "A French Feast"
WHEN: 8 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 12, and 3 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 13
WHERE: The Maryland Theatre, 21 S. Potomac St., downtown Hagerstown
COST: Tickets cost $15 to $49 for adults. There is no charge for students in grades one through 12 from throughout the Quad-State region. College student rush tickets (no reservations accepted) will be available for $5 at The Maryland Theatre box office 90 minutes before the performance. Seat selection will be at the discretion of box-office personnel.
Tickets are available online at www.marylandsymphony.org, by calling 301-797-4000 and in person at the Maryland Symphony Office, 30 W. Washington St., Hagerstown, today and Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday, noon to 4 p.m.
Tickets also may be purchased at the Maryland Theatre box office from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Saturday and 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. Sunday.
MORE: Program notes and audio clips of the musical selections are available at www.marylandsymphony.org.
Music Director Elizabeth Schulze and flutist Kimberly Valerio will talk about the program and composers one hour before Saturday’s and Sunday’s performances during Prelude. The half-hour presentation is free for ticket holders.
CONTACT: In case of inclement weather, information on concert cancellation will be available at 301-797-4000, www.marylandsymphony.org and at www.herald-mail.com.