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'The Sound of Music' In Bethesda
Downtown Bethesda took on the delights of the 1959 musical "The Sound of Music" Friday in a version that had all the pluses of a congenial family affair. An enthusiastic, mostly young cast sang its way through the familiar story of the von Trapps, enlivened by the spirited novitiate nun Maria bubbling over with the familiar songs of Rodgers and Hammerstein. The ambitious community undertaking was warmly met by applause after every song by a sizable audience of supporters ranging from grandparents to active 4-year-olds. Conducted by Samuel Bill, the event marked the third season of the Bethesda Summer Music Festival, a two-week grass-roots project featuring young professionals, backed up by students ranging from college to elementary school age. Mira Yang was artistic director.
Clad in everyday wear, the cast made the best of limited resources, yet re-created the fresh-air feeling of the Austrian Alps with effective staging by Jamie Roberts. A single set with minimal props was squeezed onto the chancel of Bethesda Presbyterian Church.
Bill carefully paced the singers and tiny orchestra (three strings, percussion and piano) at an easy gait, finely attuned to the needs of individual soloists -- most of them promising if at noticeably early stages of vocal training. With her sweet voice, Julie Hiscox made an entrancing Maria while the nuns elegantly tackled some hefty a cappella numbers. Natalia Brighindi sang with resonant clarity as Frau Schraeder; Richard Bozic (Captain von Trapp) and Albert Niedel (Uncle Max) provided strong, convincing support; and the youngsters (the seven von Trapps) sang with gusto.
-- Cecelia Porter
Flutist William Montgomery, who has long been an important figure on the Washington music scene, gave a splendid recital Saturday at the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center. A professor at the University of Maryland, he has guided decades of aspiring flutists along the path to professional careers and has served as principal flutist of such distinguished performing organizations as the Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra, the Theater Chamber Players and the Lincoln Center Chamber Music Society. He has also championed new music, especially in works of local composers. On Saturday he focused on 19th- and 20th-century flute sonatas, as the opening performance of his annual week-long master class at the College Park campus.
Montgomery's perceptive and skilled partner was pianist Roy Hakes, who, through a slew of sonatas (some little known), nailed down the precise character of every piece. The duo covered music by five composers: Giuseppe Rabboni, Darius Milhaud, Pal Jardanyi, Otto Luening and Francis Poulenc. In three of Rabboni's Twelve Sonatas, Montgomery underscored the composer's bel canto fluidity, at times yielding to the music's mischievous bent. While he drew out the sultry exoticism of Milhaud's Sonatina, Op. 76, he highlighted the primeval folk ambiance of Jardanyi's Sonatina. Luening's Short Sonata No. 1 offered a brief glimpse into Coplandesque fresh-air Americana by a composer who was long involved in electronic composition. Poulenc's Sonata had a dusky cabaret tinge, and Montgomery merged the sassy and the absurd in a uniquely French mix.
-- Cecelia Porter