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Published: Saturday, 2/16/2002

Great musicians to call on Toledo

BY STEVEN CORNELIUS
BLADE MUSIC CRITIC

We have reached the midpoint of a classical music season rich in both inspiration and challenges. Some of the world's premier soloists and ensembles have graced Toledo-area stages.

Behind the scenes, administrative challenges are having a quiet impact. Toledo Symphony is making slow progress in its search for a new music director. Toledo Opera is finding a new focus under the innovative leadership of Renee Conlin, now in her second year with the company.

Despite the traumas of the fall, the remainder of the music season could hardly look more positive.

Solo artists ranging from the transcendent Russian cellist Mstislav Rostropovich to the witty Peter Schickele to heart-throb Russian baritone Dmitri Hvorostovsky are slated for performances in the months to come.

Toledo Opera will present two greatly contrasting productions. Grammy Award-winning conductor Thomas Conlin will direct Benjamin Britten's rarely performed masterpiece The Turn of the Screw in early April. Johann Strauss' ever-popular light opera Die Fledermaus is scheduled for the first weekend in May.

Masterworks Chorale is celebrating its 30th anniversary.

The fall brought Philadelphia and Cleveland orchestras to the Toledo Museum of Art Peristyle as part of that institution's centenary celebration. Hvorostovsky was scheduled to open BGSU's Kobacker Hall Festival Series.

For months, the music unfolded almost as a sidebar to the broader challenges gripping the country and world after Sept. 11.

Hvorostovsky has rescheduled his BGSU recital for Feb. 23. Rostropovich makes his third Toledo appearance in five years when he performs with the Toledo Symphony on April 26. The program is part of his 75th birthday tour.

Lighter fare will be served on April 13 when Schickele (P.D.Q. Bach) joins the Toledo Symphony for an anything-goes evening in the Peristyle.

The Toledo Symphony Classics Series continues with four more programs. Recent MacArthur Grant winner pianist Stephen Hough performs the Liebermann Concerto No. 2 on March 1-2. Violinist Hilary Hahn performs Mendelssohn on March 22-23. Soprano Christina Clark performs Villa-Lobos on April 19-20. The series closes with an all-Beethoven program on May 17-18.

For their Pops Series, the Toledo Symphony has found an engaging and skilled conductor in Carl Topilow. Guests artists still to come this season include B.J. Thomas (March 9) and Rich Little (May 11).

Also noteworthy is Toledo Symphony's ongoing commitment to new music. Andrew Massey will lead the orchestra in Oliver Knussen's Symphony No. 3 on May 25.

Looking into next season, the biggest question for Toledo Symphony concerns who will replace music director Andrew Massey. Next season will feature an array of guest conductors that includes, among others, Giselle Ben-Dor and Peter Oundjian. Boston's Handel & Haydn Society music director Grant Llewellyn will open the season on Sept. 20.

Symphony CEO Robert Bell says he expects the orchestra to make no decision on filling its music directorship until at least the 2003-2004 music season.



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