Annapolis Symphony Orchestra The Annapolis Symphony Orchestra opened its 38th season on three pleasing notes Friday night at Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts. Conductor Leslie B. Dunner, beginning his second season as the orchestra's music director, pleased the audience without providing a thrill or putting a foot too far wrong.
A bracing attack on Smetana's 1863 Overture to "The Bartered Bride" started the evening off with a full head of steam. Barber's Violin Concerto (1940) followed, with soloist Jennifer Koh providing an energetic, bright reading of the last movement of this renowned, and otherwise entirely lyrical, beauty. The orchestra's string sections were shown to great effect, as they were in the evening's third pleasantry, Sibelius's popular Symphony No. 2 in D, Op. 43 (1901). Certain quibbles aside (insufficiently differentiated tempos in the run up to the finale and the finale itself, for example), it was a solid performance.
The season continues on Nov. 19-20 with Haydn's Symphony No. 1, Shostakovich's Piano Concerto No. 1 (with Yuliya Gorenman as soloist) and Beethoven's Symphony No. 3 ("Eroica").
The Brothers Muthspiel Jazz on jazz took the stage of the Austrian Embassy Friday night. Brothers Wolfgang and Christian Muthspiel, who debuted as the Duo Due in their native Austria 17 years ago, focused on their own compositions based on works by the American painter and sculptor Cy Twombly. The main thrust of their music is a brilliantly syncopated treatment of rhythms already displaced--like further abbreviations of shorthand symbols.
The Muthspiels' wide-ranging musical vocabulary mixes trombone and piano (Christian) with guitar and violin (Wolfgang) interacting with prepared and electric versions of instruments and taped sonorities. Verging on hyperventilation, Christian subjects his trombone to pitchless blowing, whistling into the mouthpiece, contorted slide calisthenics, multiple mutes, and motifs resembling Tibetan monks' chordal singing. Wolfgang deftly interchanges guitars, often displaying vibrant classical and flamenco styles.
The brothers' compositions also reflect traditional tonality--at times veering toward heavy dissonances--and imaginative contrapuntal textures. Yet their endless bag of virtuoso tricks, with much stage commotion, weakens their astute fusion of jazz and classical, inviting the visual to obliterate aural perception of the whole. And the inaccessibility even of reproductions of the Twombly works that inspired the music left the audience with no hint of their connection, forcing listeners to judge the Muthspiels' artistry solely on its own merits.