Was able last weekend to take in performances at two of the finest venues for drama and music in D.C. On Saturday, we saw King Charles III at the Shakespeare Theater Company's Sidney Harman Hall. This is a fanciful drama by Mike Bartlett, mostly written in Shakespearean iambic pentameter about the future ascension of Prince Charles to the British throne. Robert Joy, who has a lengthy list of credits from Broadway, Off-Broadway, film, TV, and D.C. theater, does a fine job in the title role, and is supported by an excellent American cast. The first act is longer and stronger but it's a good evening out.
Sunday afternoon, the setting was Strathmore, the music auditorium with superb acoustics just above the Beltway in North Bethesda. The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, with its music director, Marin Alsop, conducting, presented a fine program. The opener was a commissioned piece called Dancin' Blue Crabs, by Jonathan Leshem, which was fine but seemed to be over almost before it started. Then we heard Samuel Barber's First Symphony, which is played without breaks between movements. This was written in the 1930s and had plenty of good music which was worth hearing. It was followed by Aaron Copland's often-played Lincoln Portrait, which to me has the grandeur I associate with Copland. The spoken part was well performed by Barry Williams.
After the interval, we returned for the piece de resistance: Dvorak's Cello Concerto. The cellist was Johannes Moser, a German-Canadian. We had seats in the front row, which meant we could not see the whole orchestra but did see both the soloist and the conductor, who both expended plenty of effort. The result was magnificent, which was anticipated if only because this is the gem of the cello repertoire. It is exciting and fantastically melodic, and stands with his New World Symphony as the composer's finest work.
This concerto leaves you the way you feel after hearing a wonderful Broadway musical--you leave the hall humming the various tunes. Maestra Alsop had the orchestra performing at top level and the solo cello was as good as anyone I heard, including the winner of the Cello Competition at Univeristy of Maryland a few years ago and the record we have of Charles Munch and the Boston Symphony featuring Gregor Piatagorsky.