Not too many conductors can be upstaged at their audition concert and still manage to walk away with the job. But that's exactly what happened to Annapolis Symphony maestro Leslie B. Dunner at his Maryland Hall debut last February.
Dunner was supposed to conduct soprano Sarah Reese in Andre Previn's song cycle, "Honey and Rue," then cap off the concert with Rimsky-Korsakov's blockbuster, "Scheherazade."
We got Rimsky's colorful take on the "Arabian Nights" stories, but Sarah Reese was unable to appear and Kishna Davis, a Juilliard-trained soprano from nearby Columbia, was brought in as a last-minute substitute. She gave us some of the most extraordinary vocal pyrotechnics I've ever heard and won the most enthusiastic ovation I've heard in 12 seasons of concert-going at Maryland Hall.
With her Verdi and Puccini arias conjuring up images of a young Leontyne Price, Davis had the audience in the palm of her hand and had ASO management champing at the bit to bring her back.
Davis and Dunner will be reunited at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday on the Maryland Hall stage.
This time, Dunner has chosen an all-American program to illustrate the power of our brand of musical genius.
The concert opens with the stirring "American Fanfare" by Adolphus Hailstork, composer-in-residence and professor of music at Virginia's Norfolk State University.
Also on the program is Leonard Bernstein's "Jeremiah" Symphony, the great Lenny's first large-scale composition in the symphonic idiom.
This first Bernstein symphony incorporates the composer's typically energetic jazz-inspired rhythms with touches of the Hebraic elements that often makes it into the composer's orchestral writing.
Davis will be heard in the final movement where Bernstein introduces a soprano expressing the brooding pronouncements of the biblical prophet.
Davis also will sing the local premiere of "Songs of a Motherless Child," Dunner's suite of spirituals for soprano and orchestra.
Anyone who remembers the deeply felt "He's Got the Whole World" that Davis delivered last year on that same troublesome Saturday when the Ku Klux Klan held a rally in Annapolis knows how compelling she can be in music celebrating her African-American heritage.
The concert concludes with the aptly named "Romantic" Symphony of Howard Hanson.
With its lush, textured melodies, the "Romantic" has become an American classic since its premiere by the Boston Symphony during that orchestra's 50th anniversary season in 1930.
Tickets for this weekend's concerts may be obtained by calling 410-263-0907.
Pub Date: 2/25/99