MSO performs music that evokes images

March 16, 2011|By KATE COLEMAN |
  • Maryland Symphony Orchestra principal clarinetist Beverly Butts, shown here in a 2006 concert with MSO conductor Elizabeth Schulze, will play the opening clarinet solo this weekend when the MSO performs Jean Sibeliuss first symphony.
File photo

Maryland Symphony Orchestra’s own members will shine as they play music from the land of the midnight sun this weekend at The Maryland Theatre.

“Scandinavian Serenade,” the fourth Masterworks concert of the MSO’s 29th season, features Carl Nielsen’s “Maskarade” Overture and Hanedans and Symphony No. 1 by Jean Sibelius. Antonin Dvorak’s “The Wood Dove” also will be performed.  

The music exploits the dramatic and expressive depths of the ensemble, MSO Music Director Elizabeth Schulze wrote in an e-mail.

“Each work has a story to tell, and the virtuosity of the writing is a challenge technically and emotionally for the players and the conductor,” she added.

Nielsen’s comic opera “Maskarade,” composed between 1904 and 1906, is a story about arranged marriages, true love and hidden identities, according to program notes online at  

The Danish composer’s Hanedans includes a “Mozartian melody for the oboe,” and although the MSO’s principal oboe Fatma Daglar never has performed it, she wrote in an e-mail that she is looking forward to it. Daglar also sits in the Annapolis Symphony’s first oboe chair, is a member of the wind quintet Neosonos and has a busy teaching schedule.

“I really enjoy ‘all-orchestra’ concerts,” she continued. “(They are) a great way to showcase the ensemble and the individual musicians that Maryland Symphony brings to Hagerstown.”

Next on the program is Dvorak’s symphonic poem “The Wood Dove.” The story on which it’s based is dark, not comic. It begins and ends with a funeral, there’s a wedding in between, and it is the wood dove’s call that propels the action.

Beverly Butts, the MSO’s principal clarinet player, doesn’t know if Finnish composer Jean Sibelius was deliberately trying to tell a story in his first symphony.

“But sometimes, music like this paints a picture,” she said in a recent phone interview.

The symphony opens with a clarinet solo. It’s rare that a symphony begins with a solo instrument, Butts said. She can’t think of another that does.

She described it as melancholy, haunting and very sad.

If Butts were trying to paint a visual picture of how the clarinet sounds to her, she would see a lone bird flying over a bleak, frozen landscape.

“But sometimes it’s interesting — as a musician or even a member of the audience — to try to get a visual picture.”

It doesn’t always happen. Music is what it is for its intrinsic value, she said.

Butts, who also is principal clarinet in the York (Pa.) Symphony and performs with the Harrisburg (Pa.) Symphony, has private students and teaches at Lebanon Valley College in Annville, Pa.

She was happy to be on spring break last week to have extra time to practice.

“I love this symphony,” Butts said. “It’s beautiful.”

If you go ...

WHAT: Masterworks IV, “Scandinavian Serenade”

WHEN: 8 p.m. Saturday, March 19, and 3 p.m. Sunday, March 20

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 by calling 301-797-4000 and in person at the MSO office, 30 W. Washington St., downtown 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 p.m. Saturday and 1:30 to 3 p.m. Sunday.

MORE: Program notes and audio clips of the musical selections are available at

Music Director Elizabeth Schulze 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.

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