BEST CHAMBER ENSEMBLE (2000)

If chamber music were baseball, this might be dubbed a "rebuilding year" for the SPCO. Chamber music is not baseball, luckily. Despite the impending departure of sprightly music director Hugh Wolff, the SPCO continues to demonstrate why it is considered among the nation's preeminent small orchestras. In addition to its adventurous programming, the 41-year-old ensemble has long been an audience favorite for the clarity of its expression and the consummate musicianship of its members. The SPCO's upcoming season, which begins with a program devoted to Mozart in September, is a showcase of the group's versatility, ranging from the early Baroque canon to the American premiere of a modern symphony by Scottish composer James MacMillan. And the equally eclectic lineup of guest conductors--including James Galway, former musical advisor Stanislaw Skrowaczewski, and genre-spanning phenom Bobby McFerrin--promises to provoke lively speculation on the orchestra's future direction.

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