ASO to present dynamic masters

When the great Franz Joseph Haydn retired in 1803 from his longtime post as chief musician for Austrian Prince Nicholas Esterhazy, he recommended his friend and former student Johann Nepomuk Hummel as a replacement.

A virtuoso pianist and a composer, Hummel (1778-1837) jumped at the chance for the money, security and fame that he would accrue as the great Haydn's successor.


As an audition piece for the new job, Hummel composed a concerto for the trumpet that he submitted for a performance on New Year's Day, 1804.

His grand fanfares and brilliant pyrotechnics did the trick; 11 days later, Hummel signed on the dotted line to take the prestigious post he would hold for the next seven years.


Hummel's glittery handiwork will be on display Friday and Saturday, when conductor Leslie B. Dunner and the Annapolis Symphony take the stage at Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts to perform the concerto.

The soloist will be no stranger to local music lovers, for Tage Larsen is a former member of the ASO, having played for two seasons as the orchestra's principal trumpet.

Once the first trumpet of the U.S. Marine Band in Washington, Larsen is in his first season as second trumpet in Dutch conductor Hans Vonk's world-class St. Louis Symphony.

Also on the program is the exhilarating and bumpy "Short Ride in a Fast Machine" by American minimalist composer John Adams, and the heaven-storming Symphony No. 1 of Gustav Mahler.

"To write a symphony is, for me, to construct a whole world," said Mahler, and the great Symphony in D, sometimes referred to as "The Titan," is indeed a world unto itself.

In the opening movement, Mahler gives us a long, languid awakening of nature, complete with the calls of cuckoos and other birds. By interlude's end, though, nature's hushed introspection has culminated in a series of exciting releases that announce the arrival of one of the world's greatest symphonists.

Another highly original portion of this piece is the third movement, which begins with a rather grating "Frere Jacques" melody set in a minor key. But in a stunning turn of events, it quickly mutates into a dreamlike Jewish wedding sequence in which the principal winds imitate the Klezmer music of Eastern European Jewry.

A terrifying orchestral shudder announces the final section, which becomes one of the great ascents in music. "In Mahler's symphonies, there are many highlights, but only one great climax," said Sir John Barbirolli, one of the great conductors of the 20th century.


In the great first symphony of Mahler, that is a climax that has to be heard to be believed.

This weekend's ASO programs of works by Adams, Hummel, and Mahler are at 8 p.m. in Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts, 801 Chase St. There will be a free pre-concert lecture at 7 p.m. on both nights.

Ticket prices are $23 to $32 for both evenings. All seats are reserved. Student tickets are available for $7 for full-time students with valid identification. To order, call the Annapolis Symphony at 410-263-0907.