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A 'Requiem' and solo violins sing out at Strathmore

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Entertainment,Music,Marie Gullard

In yet another unique pairing of performance pieces, the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra's Thursday offering at Strathmore opens with an infrequently heard, delicate violin concerto in two movements; Arvo Part's "Tabula Rasa" and the ultimate choral masterwork of Mozart's brief but exceptionally brilliant life -- his "Requiem."

"Both pieces have a religious feel to them," said BSO violinist and Associate Concertmaster Madeline Adkins, who, along with violinist Qing Li, delivers Part's minimalistic piece to perfection. "There's a sort of secret, larger-than-itself mission to both, [and] it's going to be very interesting for the audience to hear the two pieces together."

Indeed, Mozart's "Requiem" is unique among his works because of its deeply personal nature. Emblematic of his own tragic last year of life, punctuated with financial insecurity and an ailing wife, the composition reflects his depressed state with somber melodies, minor keys and a bittersweet, almost pitiful rising-and-falling theme. The use of a modest orchestra without the brass, tympani and woodwinds of his previous compositions reveals a pervading sense of darkness and resignation. All of these nuances lift the audience to an almost suspended state of serenity, coupled with the larger-than-itself mystique to which Adkins refers.

"Tabula Rasa," which is Latin for "blank slate" was written in 1977 in what Adkins calls the composer's minimalistic style.

In concert
Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and the Baltimore Choral Arts Society
» Where: Strathmore, 5301 Tuckerman Lane, North Bethesda
» When: 8 p.m. Thursday
» Info: $47 to $91; 410-783-8000; bsomusic.org

"It's called 'mystical minimalism,' which sort of portrays the universe with [themes] repeated again and again," she continued. "It is a concerto for two violins and string orchestra, and there's also a piano, which makes otherworldly sounds. There is tintinnabuli -- little bell-like sounds, which he creates. It's very hypnotic, especially the second movement [where] two solo violins are basically sharing equal rolls, trading off, playing high and low and weaving in and out of each other. It makes for very interesting textures."

Adkins relates that this is the first time she has played the highly regarded piece and that she is quite excited.

"It's interesting to go from a solo piece to performing in an orchestra," she noted of following up with the "Requiem." "It's such a completely different set of skills. It is a good challenge."

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