Anne Arundel Community College's Kauffman Theater at the Pascal Center for Performing Arts is proving to be fertile ground for people searching for entertainment bargains.
The center offers such options as dance troupes, jazz ensembles, world-class guitar concerts and performances by the AACC Concert Band.
The major spring concert season kicked off last weekend with classical concerts by the college's Symphony Orchestra and the Concert Choir and Chamber Singers. If these opening classical concerts signal the caliber of what lies ahead, music fans are in for a treat.
On Saturday, AACC Symphony Orchestra music director and conductor Anna Binneweg, now in her seventh season at the college, brought the orchestra to a new artistic pinnacle with an all-Russian concert.
Composed of students and musicians of all ages from the Anne Arundel community and beyond, the orchestra has met new challenges every season under Binneweg. Focusing on masterworks, this orchestra has surpassed audience expectations for six successive years.
The program opened with a rendition of Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov's "Russian Easter Overture" that displayed all the energy and bright color required. Different from Western observations of Easter, the Russian Easter of Rimsky-Korsakov is titled "Bright Holiday," and depicts a joyous early Christian Russian celebration filled with excitement and mystery, with the orchestra expressing primitive energy and revelry.
A major highlight of the evening was a stunning rendition of Sergei Rachmaninov's Piano Concerto No. 2 in C Minor — often described as the greatest piano concerto ever, and requiring virtuoso playing by solo pianist and orchestra.
In the famously demanding first movement, pianist Pavel Gintov instantly displayed his virtuosity. A native of the Ukraine, Gintov has won numerous awards.
Soloist and orchestra engaged in a sensitive dialogue, the first movement filled with romance and building tension, the second bringing a quicker pace. The emotional intensity between soloist and orchestra grew into an explosion of sound to conclude the work.
At the end, the near-capacity audience rose to give Gintov and the AACC Orchestra a prolonged ovation.
The program ended with a fine rendition of Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 2 in C Minor.
Last Sunday, the AACC Concert Choir, Chamber Singers and Chamber Orchestra presented a program that included Gabriel Faure's "Requiem, Op 48" conducted by Douglas Brandt Byerly, featuring soloists Mary Anne Barcellona, soprano, and Matthew Henry Frieswyk, baritone, with Diane Kinsley on organ.
"Requiem" is a serene, consoling work that concentrates on the meaning of the word — eternal rest. Faure is said to have viewed death as "a happy deliverance." In fact, this requiem omits the "Dies Irae" describing damnation and hellfire. Especially moving in AACC's production was soprano Barcellona's singing of the famous "Pie Jesu" aria.
Other notable performances included the AACC Chamber Singers in a program of selections by women composers and the Concert Choir's lively renditions of "Buffalo Gals" and "When the Saints Go Marching In," ending the program on a joyous note.
The college's spring concert season continuesat 8 p.m. Friday, May 10, with "The Art of the Jazz Guitar," featuring Frank Vignola and Vinny Raniolo, in Anne Arundel Community College's Cade Center for Fine Arts Recital Hall (room 224). Tickets are $15 general admission and $10 for seniors, and may be ordered at the box office, 410-777-2457.
Before the concert, from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the Cade Center, Vignola and Raniolo will offer a free clinic in jazz guitar. For more information about the AACC series, go to aacc.edu/worldclassjazz.
Also on May 10, the community college's Concert Band will perform at 8 p.m. in the Kauffman Theater. Tickets are $10 general and $7 for senior citizens, groups and students.
On May 11, the Jazz Ensemble concert at 8 p.m. at Kauffman Theater will feature the AACC Small Jazz Combo and Big Band, performing works by Cole Porter, Miles Davis, Dave Brubeck, Buddy Rich, Pat Metheny, Louis Bellson, Bob Florence and others.
Tickets for that performance are $15 general admission and $7 senior citizens. Order by calling 410-777-2457.