Masterpieces from the musical traditions of France and Russia, along with contemporary American fare and three of the great concertos from the classical canon, will dominate the Columbia Orchestra's 26th season in Howard County.
"We have excellent soloists, a variety of styles and a lot of ear-catching music to share," says conductor Jason Love. "We're excited about the season."
A pair of great valedictory works highlights the opening concert Oct. 18, when the orchestra will perform the super-charged Pathetique symphony of Tchaikovsky and Elgar's last major work, the autumnal Concerto for Cello and Orchestra.
Bringing to life the sustained intensity of Elgar's solo writing will be Dariusz Skoraczewski, a member of the Baltimore Symphony's cello section and a resident of Elkridge.
"What a pleasure it's been to watch Dariusz grow into such a fine artist," says Love, who was a contemporary of the cellist at Baltimore's Peabody Institute. "He's just a fantastic player."
Rounding out that first concert will be Benjamin Britten's seldom heard Russian Funeral, a piece for brass and percussion in the British wind band tradition.
The orchestra crosses the Channel to the continent at its December concert, which will feature three works by the dexterous French master Maurice Ravel: the flowing Pavane, the snappy Alborada del Gracioso (The Morning Song of the Jester) and the sultry, much loved Bolero.
George Gershwin's delightful An American in Paris rounds out this program so replete with Gallic charm.
A pair of contemporary American composers takes center stage in February.
Richard Danielpour, who has become famous as one of our most accessible neo-Romantic voices, is the composer of Vox Populi, a work full of jazzy, forward-looking urban influences. "Think of it as a kind of West Side Story of the '90s," Love says with a chuckle. "It's a blast."
Christopher Theofanides' Rainbow Body is a remarkable new work based on a line of chant crafted by Hildegard of Bingen, the medieval German abbess, mystic and composer of sacred songs who has become the darling of New Age spiritualists everywhere.
The grandly symphonic B-flat Piano Concerto of Johannes Brahms, imbued with equal parts lyricism and rugged strength, fills out the program with pianist Brian Ganz, a native of Columbia, at the keyboard.
Violinist Igor Yuzefovich, winner of the 2003 Yale Gordon Competition, brings the songful E minor Concerto of Felix Mendelssohn to Jim Rouse Theatre in April, where it will complement Petrushka, Igor Stravinsky's bustling ballet score.
The season concludes in June with "Symphonic Pops," an appealing program of favorites highlighted by selections from John Williams' film scores to the Harry Potter films.
"In the theater, I barely noticed the music," Love says. "Then I rented them and watched a second time. You know, there's some pretty nice stuff in there."
Columbia Orchestra 2003-2004 season
Oct. 18: Dariusz Skoraczewski, cello; Jason Love, conductor; Benjamin Britten: Russian Funeral; Edward Elgar: Cello Concerto; P. I. Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 6, Pathetique
Dec. 13: Young Artists Competition Winners; Jason Love, conductor; George Gershwin: An American in Paris; Maurice Ravel: Alborada del Gracioso; Maurice Ravel: Pavane; Maurice Ravel: Bolero
Feb. 28: Brian Ganz, piano; Jason Love, conductor; Richard Danielpour: Vox Populi; Christopher Theofanides: Rainbow Body; Johannes Brahms: Piano Concerto No. 2
April 17: Igor Yuzefovich, violin; Jason Love, conductor; Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Overture to The Marriage of Figaro; Felix Mendelssohn: Violin Concerto in E minor; Igor Stravinsky: Petrushka
June 5: "Symphonic Pops," Jason Love, conductor; pop, jazz and light classical selections.
All Columbia Orchestra concerts are presented at Jim Rouse Theatre at Wilde Lake High School in Columbia. Concert time for all events is 8 p.m. Subscription information: 410-381-2004, or www. columbiaorchestra.org.