IT'S GOOD TO HEAR Michael Torke's music spread out over several concerts, as we are this month as David Zinman and the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra highlight the young composer in the orchestra's first American Composer Showcase.
This is not so much because you can chart Torke's stylistic growth; his 1985 "Bright Blue Music," heard Friday on the BSO's Favorites Series, does not seem very distant from "Ash," a piece written only last year and heard at Meyerhoff Hall last week.
It's more the ability to encounter a Torke work, with all its bubbly optimism (so alien to post-war contemporary music) and breathless, minimalist textures, and come back to the composer again, soon, to hear the music with his other work still fresh in memory.
Last night, during "Bright Blue," the work seemed suddenly clearer and at the same time more complex, as the extremely subtle rhythmic detail of the music -- its imitation and myriad of syncopated figures -- revealed itself.
"Bright Blue" was performed by Zinman and the BSO a few seasons ago, yet this time it seemed to have much more impact and coherence in the wake of "Ash."
Its first series of gestures is built from an upward arching melodic figure, to which Torke adds stuttering bursts of brass, lush woodwinds, and string crescendos on small motives in the style of Tchaikovsky. The BSO gave it a vivid performance.
Cellist Mihaly Virizlay has the temperament suited to Dvorak's Cello Concerto, so it was not surprising when he delivered a confident and expressive performance. The BSO's principal cellist worked beautifully with Zinman, neatly turning those tempo changes in the first movement, and maintaining good intensity while preserving ensemble and intonation.
His second theme in the first movement was full-blooded, and the following arpeggios were played accurately but his cello did not always project well in all registers. One might have wished for a bit more repose in the second movement cadenza, but Virizlay is a cellist born to give pleasure with his music, and overall that is what he did.