Meyerhoff Symphony Hall was nearly full for the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra's fifth annual "All-Baltimore" Concert.
Sponsored by the Baltimore Gas and Electric Company, this concert Friday night had two aims: draw in new listeners with an affordably priced ticket, and raise money for 12 local non-profit organizations, including Action for the Homeless, Associated Black Charities and the Metropolitan Education Coalition.
The large, and considerably younger than usual, audience's enthusiastic applause throughout the evening gave proof that these goals were successfully met.
Musically, the night was also a success -- but only up to a point. Conductor-in-Residence Christopher Seaman led the orchestra in a performance that was robust and occasionally grand, but just as often was lacking in subtlety and character.
That kind of approach works in a piece such as the Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto, and, fittingly, it was the most satisfying portion of the program.
Pianist Stephen Prutsman, the fourth-place medalist in the 1990 Tchaikovsky International Competition in Moscow, made the most of every big moment in this towering score.
His ferocious attack of the opening chords was riveting. Prutsman persuades by the sheer overwhelming force of his playing. At times, in his zeal to wring every ounce of sound from the piano, Prutsman would overshoot his aim and miss notes, but even that was exciting. His daredevil piano playing became driven, almost edgy, as if he was battling some inner-demon.
Battles, however, don't necessarily make for the most intimate statements, and the music's lyric passages suffered. Prutsman always produced a beautiful sound, not easy on the Meyerhoff's notoriously glassy-sounding Steinway, but his too inward lyricism didn't quite project the melodious warmth of the concerto.
That dichotomy also describes Seaman's performance of the Brahms Fourth Symphony. On its barest terms, Seaman brought out the symphony's contours but never unearthed its essentially tragic nature.
The rich store of melodies remained unshaped, lacking breadth and heart. All of the players were working so hard, as was Seaman, and if they only relaxed, even a little, the music would have been moving rather than just loud.
The concert opened with a spirited and jovial reading of Vaughn Williams' "Overture to The Wasps" that easily captured its thoroughly English character.