This weekend's Maryland Symphony Orchestra concerts will present a program of music by six composers — "Masters of Baroque."
The works will represent the Baroque period, which ran from about 1600 to 1760. The works are Johann Pachelbel's Canon in D Major; Johann Sebastian Bach's Suite No. 1, C Major; Arcangelo Corelli's Concerto grosso op. 6, No. 11, in B flat; Giovanni Battista Pergolesi's Sinfonia in F Major; Antonio Vivaldi's Concerto for Violin, Two Horns, Two Oboes and Bassoon in F Major; and George Frideric Handel's "Royal Fireworks Suite."
The performances at The Maryland Theatre will showcase the MSO's own musicians as soloists. Featured will be violinists Heather Austin Stone, Marissa Murphy and Joanna Owen; cellist Jessica Sammis; horn players Joseph Lovinsky and Sean Hagen; oboists Fatma Daglar and David James; and bassoonist Karen Smith Manar. Wayne Wold will play harpsichord.
Baroque-era music is rather elegant, rather ornamented and rather busy, Wold said during a phone interview from his home in Frederick, Md., where he is associate professor of music at Hood College. It is often dance-like and tries to express different emotions, he added.
Wold has performed with the MSO several times — playing organ, piano and harpsichord. He and his harpsichord will be involved in all of the program's selections, something that is characteristic of the Baroque era, he said.
"Any small, large, sacred or secular instrumental grouping nearly always had a harpsichord in it," Wold said. It was the instrument that generally filled in all the harmonies, he added.
Wold described the harpsichord's sound as light and somewhat metallic. The strings are plucked — not struck with hammers as are those of the piano.
"There is kind of a gentleness," he said.
Wold liked the instrument's sound before he even knew what it was. He guessed he was about 10 when he put thumbtacks in his piano and created a sound similar to the harpsichord's.
The harpsichord will be heard on Corelli's concerto grosso. The work also features violinists Marissa Murphy and Heather Austin Stone, the MSO's assistant concertmaster.
Stone, a member of the orchestra since 1995, said she is looking forward to performing the Corelli. In a break between lessons she teaches at Barbara Ingram School for the Arts, Stone said hasn't had a chance to perform a concerto grosso since high school.
Playing Baroque music is not stressful, she said. It's similar to playing the high and fast notes and complicated rhythms of some 20th-century works.
"This is much simpler music," she said.
Baroque music has challenges that are different from those of modern music, said Joseph Lovinsky, the MSO's principal horn, who has been with the orchestra since 1995. He also holds that position in The U.S. Army Band's Pershing's Own.
He and Sean Hagen will perform the horn solos on the Vivaldi concerto. Generally, the instrument used during the Baroque was a lighter, smaller horn than musicians play now, Lovinsky explained in a recent phone conversation from Virginia Beach, Va., where he was performing and teaching master classes at the Armed Forces School of Music.
Modern concert halls are larger. More volume is needed, so instruments are bigger. Baroque period composers wrote a lot of really high notes. "It's usually difficult to pick up the high notes on modern instruments," he added.
Lovinsky compared parts of the period's approach to jazz — when a part of a band, the saxophone section, for example, is featured as a soloist. There are parts written with long notes — as in the second movement of the Vivaldi — which allow the musicians to "move around and improvise to some degree," Lovinsky said. In Handel's "Fireworks Suite," improvisation is expected. "Elizabeth is great about that. She encourages that," he added.
Lovinsky called this Masterworks concert a "a real crowd-pleaser type of concert." He predicted some audience toe-tapping and that people will walk out at the end humming.
If you go ...
WHAT: Masterworks concert "Masters of Baroque"
WHEN: 8 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 12, and 3 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 13
WHERE: The Maryland Theatre, 21 S. Potomac St., downtown Hagerstown
COST: Tickets range from $15 to $49 for adults. Through a special Angel Ticket program, students in grades 1 through 12 will be admitted free. Student rush tickets for higher education students (no reservations accepted) will be available at the box office, which opens 90 minutes before the performances, for $5. Seat selection will be at the discretion of the box office personnel.
Tickets may be purchased at www.marylandsymphony.org, by calling 301-797-4000 or 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 www.marylandsymphony.org.
One hour before Saturday and Sunday's performances, Music Director Elizabeth Schulze will talk about the program and composers during Prelude. The half-hour presentation is free for ticket holders.