The past few months have been ones of dynamic change for both the Prince George's Philharmonic and its new music director, Ray Fowler.
This spring, the orchestra lost its versatile and innovative young conductor, Kenneth Kiesler, to the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra. His successor -- who, at 33, also is young to take over a major conducting post -- was married in June, moved to Maryland and immediately was required to devise a concert program.
In planning the new season, Fowler said he "really pored over possible programs, especially those works performed before with success by the orchestra. It's difficult not to travel the same path as others in this regard."
Six varied programs make up the Philharmonic's fourth season, beginning Saturday. The first of its series is an all-Russian program: the overture to Borodin's "Prince Igor," Prokofiev's "Lieutenant Kije" Suite and Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 3 in D Minor, which features Mark Clinton, a winner of several local piano competitions, as soloist.
On Dec. 6, the 60-strong orchestra will give a concert of music by Haydn ("Te Deum" and "London Symphony") and Brahms ("Schickssalslied" and "Variations on a Theme by Haydn") with the Eleanor Roosevelt Senior High School Concert Choir and its conductor, Dr. Barbara Baker.
Because Fowler believed the orchestra's brass section to be the "strongest at first hearing," he planned the concert for Feb. 21 to be "the liveliest and most mixed in style."
This includes two Gabrieli works, an Albinoni concerto, Milhaud's "Scaramouche" and Britten's "Matinees Musicales" with saxophonist Reginald Jackson.
A day later -- George Washington's actual birthday, Feb. 22 -- a shortened program of the same works will be given at the Publick Playhouse in Cheverly in an afternoon concert for young people ages 6 to 13. This performance will include introductory demonstrations, audience participation and a question-and-answer period.
On March 28, the orchestra will devote an evening to Mozart: the overture to "The Magic Flute," Concerto for Piano No. 12 in A Major and Symphony No. 40 in G Minor. Winners of the annual Young Artists' Competition also will participate.
The season will end on a note of variety, with a "gala fund-raiser" May 9. The program will feature Wolf-Ferrari's overture to "The Secret of Suzanne," two well-known Tchaikovsky ballet scores ("Serenade" and "Romeo and Juliet"), and pianist Thomas Mastroianni playing Grieg's Concerto in A Minor.
One of the orchestra's immediate goals is "finding a quality grand piano." Another chief, long-range goal, according to Fowler, "is to cultivate a stable membership of players in the Philharmonic, while producing the highest level of performance with community talent. People have expectations of this orchestra."
"We have never done a lot of the things with the orchestra we've wanted to," Fowler says. "But we don't want to push everywhere right now. We need womanpower, manpower, exceedingly dedicated persons to raise funds and develop a tighter community spirit. Once we achieve this, then perhaps we can even go on tour."
Fowler, a graduate of Juilliard School of Music in New York, has been conducting for a dozen years. He has carried out various musical projects in New Jersey and will join the Peabody Institute in Baltimore as the conductor of its preparatory orchestra.
(Except as mentioned, all performances will be held at Northwestern High School in Hyattsville, beginning at 8 p.m.)