The plot continues to thicken at Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts.
After an impressive season-opening concert last month led by the young Spanish maestro Jose-Luis Novo, who announced his candidacy for the vacant conductorship of the Annapolis Symphony with a program of gypsy-inspired music, the season's second aspirant comes before the local orchestra this weekend.
David Itkin is in his 12th season as music director and conductor of the Arkansas Symphony, an orchestra with a $2.9 million budget that is based in Little Rock, the state capital.
Itkin has had engagements in 43 states and 15 countries, and has been music director of Chicago's Lake Forest Symphony and the Birmingham Opera Theatre in Alabama.
Itkin also is an accomplished composer whose Jonah was nominated for the 2001 Pulitzer Prize.
Unlike Novo - conductor of New York's Binghamton Philharmonic whose programming of works by Silvestre Revueltas, Zoltan Kodaly and Manuel de Falla took him off the beaten repertory path - Itkin will stick closer to the mainstream with Mozart's sparkling overture to Cosi fan tutte and Brahms' restive Symphony No. 4.
The most exotic piece on the program for tomorrow and Saturday is the Piano Concerto by the 20th century Armenian composer Aram Khachaturian, whose lush, melodic work for piano and orchestra sits squarely in Russia's grand romantic tradition, established by Tchaikovsky and echoed by Rachmaninoff.
For rapid-fire pyrotechnics, you can't do much better than the "Allegro brillante" that closes the concerto with such a flourish.
The Annapolis Symphony management learned Monday that Italian pianist Fabio Bidini, the soloist who had been scheduled to perform the Khachaturian, would have to cancel because of a family medical emergency.
Bidini will be replaced by Jeffery Chappell, who has soloed with the symphony orchestras of Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Houston, Denver and Baltimore. Chappell has performed at New York's Carnegie Hall and at Wolf Trap in Virginia.
Chappell is no stranger to stepping into the breach. On one memorable occasion, he joined the BSO on four hours' notice as a substitute for the great Claudio Arrau, who was too ill to perform. On the agenda was Brahms' Piano Concerto No. 2, a monumental work that taxes all but the finest concert pianists even when a full complement of rehearsals is possible.
Conductor David Itkin will lead the Annapolis Symphony Orchestra in works by Mozart, Brahms and Khachaturian at 8 p.m. tomorrow and Saturday at Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts, 801 Chase St. in Annapolis. Tickets are $35, $30 and $25, with student seats available for $10. A free pre-concert lecture will be presented at 7 p.m. both nights in Maryland Hall's Room 101. Tickets: 410-263-0907 or www.annapolissymphony.org.