Free concert series features Ponselle competition winners


Gary Karr, long regarded as a leading double bass player and playing the instrument of the legendary Serge Koussevitzky, performs Sunday, Sept. 29, here in the first concert of a free new classical music series by winners and advisers of the annual Rosa Ponselle International Competition.

Pianist Harmon Lewis will accompany Karr in the 7:30 p.m. concert at Kraushaar Auditorium, Goucher College. Admission is free but you are advised to call the foundation at 486-4616 to reserve tickets.

Also performing will be coloratura soprano Cheryl Parrish, recipient of the foundation's Hazel Ann Fox Award, and tenor John Weber, winner of a joint foundation-Richard Tucker Music Foundation Award.

PTC "Karr plays like a singer should sing, with such legato [smoothness], nuances and phrasing," said Elayne Duke, Ponselle Foundation president. "And the scale of his instrument is so flawless and beautiful."

Karr performed duets with the late mezzo soprano Jennie Tourel in a still-remembered Alice Tully Hall series in New York. The pair also recorded together. Koussevitzky's widow, Olga, gave Karr the double bass belonging to her late husband, who was famed for his leadership of the Boston Symphony Orchestra from 1924-49, his encouragement of young musicians and his bass and cello playing.

Bottesini (1821-89) was a famous double bass player and Karr will play a Bellini-Bottesini "Sonnambula" arrangement as well as music by Stuart Sankey, Rachmaninoff and others. The singers alone or with Karr will perform works by Donizetti, Gounod, Herbert, Rachmaninoff, Bach and Renaldo Hahn.

Duke said the concert will be the first in a biennial series to continue the Ponselle tradition of "giving a leg up" to young Baltimore artists and other musicians. Artists will be competition winners, Ponselle proteges and musicians on its advisory board.

Ponselle, who died in 1981, made her debut at the Metropolitan Opera in 1918. After a Met career as a leading soprano for almost 20 years, she sang and taught in Baltimore and was a major force in the opera company here.

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