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Maryland Symphony Orchestra performs previously unknown Pierne concerto

Weekend concerts featured works by six French composers

February 12, 2012|By DAVE McMILLION | davem@herald-mail.com
  • Pianist Edward Newman was the featured soloist Sunday at the Maryland Symphony Orchestra's "Viva la France."
By The Associated Press

Maryland Symphony Orchestra Music Director Elizabeth Schulze recalled Sunday how she made a local connection to French composer Gabriel Pierne, whose work represented a time in France when some of the greatest music was being created.

Schulze, speaking before the “Viva la France” concert at The Maryland Theatre Sunday afternoon, talked about meeting Hagerstown resident James G. Pierne when she came here about 13 years ago.

It turned out Pierne, past president and member of the MSO’s board of directors, was a great-nephew of the composer.

“For a musician, that’s like saying I’m the cousin of Elizabeth Taylor,” Schulze said.

Schulze said she started thinking more about Pierne’s music and his great-nephew gave Schulze a copy of a piano concerto written by the composer when he was about 23 years old.

The piece was no longer available and no one knew about it, Schulze said.

“It was such a splendid, splendid piece. Why did we not know about this?” Schulze asked an audience before Sunday’s 3 p.m. concert.

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Schulze asked pianist Edward Newman to learn the piece and he agreed.

Newman, who performed the concerto during concerts Saturday and Sunday, called the piece of music “instant, instant gratification. It’s hard, but it’s beautiful music,” said Newman, who had to learn the piece with no recording of it.

Pierne’s music was among works by six French composers featured in the weekend concerts.

The other composers were Cecile Chaminade, Ambroise Thomas, Jules Massenet, Georges Bizet and Camille Saint-Saens.

Chaminade died in total obscurity in 1944, but she was a superstar in the 1880s and 1890s, according to Schulze.

Although women composers were a rarity during her time, there were about 200 clubs named in her honor in the United States at one time, Schulze said.

Regarding Chaminade’s music, Schulze said it was “some of the most glorious things I have ever heard in my life.”

Sunday’s music came from an era that was the center of the musical world for those who loved opera, theater and ballet, Schulze said.

“Think of the Eiffel Tower being built, that’s what it was,” Schulze said, emphasizing the spectacular architecture that also marked the period.

Newman has given critically acclaimed performances in Europe, Australia and the United States in solo concerts and with several orchestras.

Among the spectators at Sunday’s performance were 10 students from the Massanutten Military Academy in Woodstock Va., said Greg Evans, director of public relations and marketing for the orchestra.

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