This past weekend brought an exceptionally unfortunate schedule conflict with two major Prince George's County music organizations opening their seasons on the same night at the same time and in the same end of the county.
Among other problems, it was a reviewer's nightmare which in this case was solved by spending the first half with the Prince George's Symphony at Friendly High School in Oxon Hill, intermission in a frantic rush to Hillcrest Heights, and the second half with the Southern Maryland Choral Society at Hillcrest Baptist Church.
Prince George's Symphony began its program in an unpromising manner with a ragged performance of Wagner's "Siegfried Idyll." Marred by faulty string intonation and fumbled entrances, it brought no credit to either conductor Frederick Morden or the ensemble.
The premiere of Morden's short piece, "Wedges II," found the orchestra in better form, projecting successfully the composer's intent. The work itself was little more than a competent orchestral study, building rather predictably upon a brief opening motif.
A better chance to assess Morden's creative talents may come in the spring when his first symphony is to be premiered by the orchestra. Certainly, his plan to write works for the group is promising.
The second half of Mendelssohn's "Elijah" was glorius enough to make one wish it had been possible to hear the first.
Conductor Sandra Willetts had the work thoroughly in hand, moving the Southern Maryland Choral Society, four fine soloists and the orchestra along with confidence and sensitivity.
She chose her tempo well, setting a solid rhythmic foundation and yet remaining highly flexible in her response to the music's expressive demands.
The chorus combined a warm, unforced sound with good diction and showed considerable musicianship in the smoothness of its entrances and the shaping of its lines.
Soloist Andrew White sang the key role of Elijah with much style, projecting its dramatic, if not always vocal, fullness.
Soprano Martha Steiger's strong voice, Adelle Nicholson's passionate alto and tenor Stanley Cornett's pleasing sound contributed to the high quality of the quartet.
The performance deserved and received enthusiastic response from the capacity audience.