Carlos Kalmar, Baltimore Symphony Orchestra present love and fire at Strathmore

Entertainment,Music,Marie Gullard

Both romance and high energy are hallmarks in Saturday evening's Baltimore Symphony Orchestra concert at the Music Center at Strathmore. Under the baton of highly popular Spanish conductor Carlos Kalmar, the program features Prokofiev's Selections from "Romeo and Juliet," Narong Prangcharoen's powerful piece "Phenomenon" and Saint-Saens' Piano Concerto No. 3 with Jean-Philippe Collard at the piano.

Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet" was, according to Kalmar, a fascinating theme for Russian composers as evidenced in Tchaikovsky's "Romeo and Juliet Overture Fantasy."

"The interesting thing about Prokofiev's 'Romeo and Juliet' is that it was written at the time he was coming back to Russia after living away for a time, and he ... grabbed a commission from the Kirov Ballet in Leningrad," said Kalmar. "But it was canceled before Prokofiev wrote a single note."

The composer, however, was so taken with the idea and the story that he completed a series of concert suites along the lines of the tragic play. Since the ballet was not being performed by dancers, Prokofiev's music was available in a series of suites for orchestra only. (It would eventually go on to become one of the most successful ballets for dance production.)

The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra with Carlos Kalmar
» Where: Strathmore, 5301 Tuckerman Lane, North Bethesda
» When: 8 p.m. Saturday
» Info: $29 to $91; 410-783-8000;

"What conductors do is that we select the pieces that we like," Kalmar continued. "A little of [suite] No. 1, a little of No. 2 and [No. 3], and everyone builds his own selection. We conductors tend to pick and choose."

"Phenomenon" is a contemporary work written by Thai composer Narong Prangcharoen.

"It has to do with the fireballs of a river in Thailand -- a natural phenomenon. Out of the river come balls of fire," Kalmar explained. "I've never seen this, but I've heard and read that every year ... hundreds of thousands of people want to travel to the site where this happens. [Prangcharoen] describes that in music; the gathering of the people, the fascination of what happens and, at the end, the light that travels toward the sky and dissipates.

"The real issue with the piece is tremendous energy. It's always a great success, and I always tell the people they should fasten their seat belts!"

Finally, Kalmar relates that he is very much looking forward to working once again with the great French pianist Jean-Philippe Collard, a soloist in Saint-Saens' Piano Concerto No. 3.

"[Collard] is a wonderful player," said Kalmar. "We will have a good time together."

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