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Annapolis Symphony plans challenging music season

June 18, 2008

By Phillip Greenfield | Special to The Sun

The world of dreams, a musical pilgrimage to Spain, masterworks crafted by great composers in the tenderness of their youth, and a whirlwind tour of 300 years of music history are some of the aesthetic territories awaiting exploration by music lovers and the Annapolis Symphony Orchestra in its 2008-09 subscription series.

Maestro Jose-Luis Novo and his players begin their concert season in September with the splashy colors of Ottorino Respighi's Pines of Rome, which will be followed by Frederic Chopin's romantic F-minor Piano Concerto with its heartbreakingly beautiful second movement. Italian pianist Fabio Bidini, a 1993 Van Cliburn Competition finalist, will serve as soloist. Dmitri Shostakovich's three-movement 6th Symphony, surely one of the most schizoid works of the 20th century with its brooding opening and galloping, hell-for-leather conclusion, will round out the program.

The season's thematic content begins to bubble in November with a program subtitled "Three Symphonic Centuries," a tip of the cap to celebrate the chartering of Annapolis 300 years ago. The opening work, Concerto Grosso by Arcangelo Corelli, was composed in 1708, the very year that momentous colonial paperwork was put through.

Other works will include Ludwig van Beethoven's monumental 5th Symphony, composed a century later in 1808; and Maurice Ravel's dashing, hot-blooded Rapsodie Espagnole, which was crafted in 1908. Completing this historical retrospective will be Tri-Sattawa by Narong Prangcharoen, the Thai composer who won the ASO's Charter 300 Composer Competition.

His eight-minute piece (translated appropriately as Three Centuries) is a supplication for Thailand's good angels to protect Annapolis from the forces of evil arrayed to inflict harm on the city. (Couldn't he have included something in there about getting more vendors at the Market House?)

This concert will be recorded professionally with the resulting compact disc released as a commemoration of the city's 300th birthday. The symphony also is proud to note that it recently won an award from the American Society of Composers, Authors and Producers for the innovative programming of contemporary music manifested by this highly successful competition.

Next February, the orchestra will honor a quartet of young geniuses: Georges Bizet, who came up with his bright, effervescent 1st Symphony at age 17; Felix Mendelssohn, who at 19 composed his roiling Hebrides Overture (also known as Fingal's Cave); and Sergei Prokofiev and Samuel Barber, who dashed off a fair number of masterpieces (including the two on next winter's concert bill) while in their 20s.

In March, the maestro whisks us off to the land of his birth for quintessentially Spanish fare highlighted by Manuel de Falla's dashing Three-Cornered Hat, a ballet score full of the irresistible dance rhythms that give the Iberian Peninsula its kick. Also on that program is Joaquin Rodrigo's Concierto de Aranjuez, the best-loved guitar concerto of them all.

The Annapolis Chorale joins the orchestra in May for a musical dream sequence composed of Josef Strauss' Music of the Spheres waltz, Johannes Brahms' supercharged Song of Fate, and Felix Mendelssohn's incidental music to A Midsummer Night's Dream.