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Master guitarist to play at symphony fund-raiser


"The harmonic effects which our guitarists produce unconsciously represent one of the marvels of natural art," said Manuel de Falla, who, in the manner of seemingly all Spanish composers, had the sound of the guitar embedded in his soul.

Falla, composer of the dashing ballet score "The Three-Cornered Hat," said this 80 years ago, but his words describe perfectly the artistry of American guitarist Christopher Parkening.

Once a student of the legendary Andres Segovia, Parkening is known worldwide as one of the most expressive and probing guitarists. As his revelatory recording of Bach transcriptions (EMI 47191) makes clear, Parkening is a master musician.

So it's fitting that when the Annapolis Symphony Orchestra wanted to engage someone special to conclude its 40th-anniversary season, Parkening was the man.

In honor of the occasion, Parkening and the orchestra will perform in a gala fund-raising concert at 7 p.m. Saturday at Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts.

The distinguished visitor will play the most beloved of all concertos for the guitar, the "Concierto de Aranjuez" by the Spanish composer Joaquin Rodrigo.

Composed in 1939, Rodrigo's "Concierto" became the first 20th-century work for guitar to carve out a niche in the symphonic repertoire. It has become the signature work for the instrument.

The outer movements of the concerto - named for an estate with beautiful gardens not far from Madrid - are full of dancing rhythms that evoke both the flamenco idiom and the infectious energy of Iberian gypsy music.

But it is the adagio - the slow movement - for which Rodrigo's masterpiece is most famous.

Melancholy, mysterious and more than a little redolent of Arab influences in southern Spain, the movement's inspired melody is intoned first by the English horn, and is then taken and embellished by the guitar as the interlude builds to its tension-packed climax. A more hypnotic 10 minutes you'd be hard-pressed to find.

In keeping with the evening's Latin theme, the symphony's music director, Leslie B. Dunner, has programmed Aaron Copland's "Three Latin-American Sketches," the haunting "Aria" from "Bachianas Brasileiras" by Brazil's Heitor Villa-Lobos, and the "Varaciones Concertantes" by Alberto Ginastera of Argentina.

Latin inspiration will be extended further at a "Tango and Tapas" reception to be held immediately after the concert. The lawn of Maryland Hall will be the setting for light fare, champagne and dancing under the stars.

Post-concert entertainment will include the Latin band Tropicombo, a flamenco demonstration by Anna Menendez, and a tango session by Jennifer Gooding, one of the area's foremost instructors of ballroom dancing.

Tickets for the concert range from $40 to $60 and will be sold at the door, subject to availability. Tickets for the reception are $40 and must be purchased separately - and in advance, as a sellout appeared near yesterday.

Tickets: 410-263-0907.

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