The Meyerhoff Symphony Hall, where the Marine Band exuded Semper Fidelis self-confidence Tuesday night, switched to Russian introspection last night and not without a Tchaikovsky progression from somber to gloomy to mournful.
Conductor David Zinman and the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra found the composer's core with booming brass, lavish strings and artistic woodwinds vigorously interpreting the Symphony No. 6 ("Pathetique"). Handled by Zinman's troupe, this extravagant excess in yearning remains irresistible.
The BSO as a team got more focused for the 45-minute chunk of romantic clay when they passed the second movement waltz. They molded the stirring third movement march into a frenzied crescendo and eased the fourth movement's lament into whispers of cello melancholy.
Loud but less memorable in its short, dark moods leading to a short, dark funeral march was Tchaikovsky's rarely heard "Hamlet, Fantasy Overture" (1888). The BSO's different strings passed melodies back and forth smoothly against energetic bursts of brass and percussion.
The evening began with dessert. BSO players played with "Tapioco" by BSO pianist Jonathan Jensen and "Tapioco Pudding", a Stephen Albert 75th birthday Greeting Card. They then dipped lightly into a Russian box of musical miniatures, "Eight Russian Folk Songs" (1906) by Anatoly Liadov (1855-1914).
Meanwhile, 22 diffusors -- wooden boxes looking like bookcases with plastic awnings -- lined the three stage walls in a new experiment to see if the acoustically active site can be made less "mushy" for the musicians and, perhaps, the audience. One patron's early verdict: too early to tell.
The program is repeated at 8:15 p.m. tonight, and the "Pathetique" and "Tapioco Pudding" only in an 11 a.m. Casual Concert Saturday.