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BSO, Baltimore Choral Arts Society make music to a Russian film classic

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Entertainment,Music,Marie Gullard

The spectacle of a classic film paired with a live orchestra and chorus can only be experienced in the moment. All of today's technological advances in sound scoring, while possibly more impressive in a movie theater, will never compare with the drama inside a concert hall.

The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Music Director Marin Alsop, along with the Baltimore Choral Arts Society perform Sergei Prokofiev's dramatic musical score, frame for frame, while Sergei Eisenstein's classic 1938 motion picture "Alexander Nevsky" is projected on an overhead wide screen.

Both composer and film director made motion picture magic 74 years ago. Their creative collaboration is an industry standard for filmmakers to this day. Saturday at Strathmore, a new kind of presentation is unfurled. The two artists would have been pleased.

"In a concert situation, what's interesting about this kind of endeavor is that the music and the filmmaking are put on equal status," said Choral Arts Society Director, Tom Hall. "You get as much music as you do movie."

Onstage
BSO Classical Concert Series: 'Alexander Nevsky'
Where: The Music Center at Strathmore, 5301 Tuckerman Lane, North Bethesda
When: 8 p.m. Saturday
Info: $28 to $63; 410-783-8000; bsomusic.org

The story itself depicts Alexander Nevsky's defeat of Teutonic invaders in the mid-13th-century Battle of the Ice, thus keeping safe his kingdom of Novgorod.

"The film was extremely radical for its time," Hall explained. "Back in those days, they weren't used to filming [scenes] that are this large and grand. Nevsky, in Russian history, is really a major figure, [and] the film is a piece of national art."

There is also the fact that Prokofiev and Eisenstein were two artistic heavyweights at a time in history when creating a popular hit would also appease Joseph Stalin and stave off his purges.

Presented against the spectacle of huge orchestral passages, is a poignant, almost disturbing scene toward the end of the film called "The Field of the Dead." Here, a young woman, who in this BSO production is portrayed by mezzo-soprano Irina Tchistjakova, proclaims Nevsky's victories in battle even as she mourns the deaths of the valiant heroes who fought. As a kind of Everywoman, she wanders the field searching for the body of her fiance. The film ends with a celebratory scene, however, praising the victory of Alexander Nevsky in battle.

"This is a very powerful musical experience," Hall concluded. The music is greatly enhanced by the film, just as the film is to the music."

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