Londontowne group confirms its talent

One of the surprises of last year was the level of artistry achieved by the Londontowne Symphony Orchestra, a new ensemble made up of music teachers, community players, advanced students and a smattering of professionals at the group's inaugural concert in September.

The orchestra was founded by its concertmistress - Kathy Solano, an elementary-school music teacher in Anne Arundel County and a longtime violinist with the Baltimore Chamber Orchestra - and gave concertgoers Saint-Saens and Schubert in a manner that announced the worthiness of their endeavor right off the bat.


On Friday the orchestra took the Southern High School auditorium stage again, this time in a program of Rossini, Bruch and Dvorak.

Once again, nothing was close to being bad, many things were quite good, and everything about the occasion confirmed the arrival of a new and worthy presence on the local musical scene.


Conducting Friday's program was Amy Wilson, assistant conductor of the Greater Baltimore Youth Orchestra, who has trained at the University of South Florida and the University of Cincinnati's Conservatory of Music.

Wilson's physical technique is not her greatest strength at this point in her career; her stick work is too disjointed and brusque for comfort. But clearly she has solid ideas of how and where the music should go and the ability to convey that information to the 40-odd players under her charge.

She proved a hospitable accompanist to her violin soloist, Nicholas Currie, in the G minor Concerto of Max Bruch, building up carefully to the violin's many sizzling entrances and setting the big tunes in motion when it was time for the orchestra to take the lead.

Currie, a free-lancer who plays in the Baltimore Opera Orchestra and elsewhere, returned the favor with handsome tone and the emotional fervor it takes to get an old warhorse like the Bruch concerto galloping at full speed. Though not the last word in intonation, his playing was a delight.

Upgrades in orchestra personnel were in evidence all over Antonin Dvorak's radiant 8th Symphony.

The visiting conductor presided over an opening cello theme that was majestic to a fault, and there was excellent work from the Londontowne winds, including principal flutist Chester Burke and oboist Leslie Starr.

If Starr can be enticed to come back, along with new principal French horn player Ann Stewart and the complement of clarinetists and trumpeters who played in Friday's concert, the fledgling orchestra will be blessed with strong winds for the artistic voyages to come.

The final concert of Londontowne's first season is scheduled at Southern High School for June 11 at 7:30 p.m., when Herold's Zampa Overture, Grieg's Piano Concerto and the C major Symphony of Georges Bizet will be performed under the baton of Ernest Liotti. Pianist Cristine Brunner of Severna Park will be the soloist in the Grieg A minor, one of the best-loved romantic concertos.