That the auditorium was packed for yesterday's Pro Music Rara concert was due to the presence of flutist Timothy Day. During his tenure as the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra's principal flute, Day was probably the dominant player in the orchestra. In fact, some of Day's admirers referred to the BSO's European tour four years ago as the "Tim Day Farewell Tour."
What makes Day a great flutist -- and the use of that word is a considered judgment -- is much more than his beauty of expression or brilliance of technique. It is that his playing projects an enormous amount of personality even while fitting considerately and musically into any ensemble. He makes music that sends chills down a listener's spine.
It was business as usual for Day -- who left Baltimore in 1987 to become a teacher at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music-- and several members of Pro Musica Rara in yesterday's concert at the Baltimore Museum of Art in a program dedicated to music written for the court of the flute-playing Frederick the Great of Prussia.
The best performance of the afternoon came in the best music -- J.S. Bach's Sonata for flute, violin and harpsichord on a theme provided to the composer by Frederick. Day made one forget how difficult the flute part was and concentrate instead on its beauties. His playing was matched in beauty and vitality by violinist Craig Richmond and harpsichordist Shirley Mathews.
Some of the other performances of the afternoon were less persuasive -- partly because the music was less great and partly because the music seemed less carefully prepared. In Johann Gottlieb Graun's Sonata No. 2 for Viola and Clavier, violist Sharon Myers was initially beset by problems of intonation and C.P.E. Bach's Quartet for clavier, flute, viola and bass was troubled by matters of ensemble.
Much better was a sonata for flute, violin, bassoon and basso continuo by Johann Friedrich Fasch, in which both Richmond and Day struck sparks.
Some of the most intriguing music came in three solo performances by harpsichordist Mathews of the music of Claude-Benigne Balabastre. Mathews dispatched these pieces with panache and wit.