Cho-Liang Lin, the Taiwan-born violinist who has played with 80 orchestras, played like a tiger last night -- poised for each movement with opening chords and then leaping through all four sections of Stravinsky's Concerto in D Major at Meyerhoff Symphony Hall.
The first movement had three complicated themes, the second a fairly simple melody, the third ornamental frills and the fourth movement two main virtuoso themes for violin.
But 31 years old now and a major recording star, Lin was ready each time and hot on Stravinsky's twisting trail with an economy of moves. He was lithe, quick and daring in a piece that has more action than emotional depth. The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra's strings backed him with soft subtleness.
It was one of several dynamic moments last night in an oddly diverse and animated evening at the Meyerhoff, where the guest conductor from Estonia, Eri Klas, led his first major American concert. Klas, a first-rate musical Marco Polo in European opera and symphony houses, kept a firm hand and seemed to have fun, even tempted once to dance away to Richard Strauss' strings.
If Stravinsky's work was a tough exercise in violin expertise, the BSO's first piece, Hindemith's "Symphony Metamorphosis of Themes by Carl Maria von Weber" was witty, and its last, Strauss' "Thus Spake Zarathustra" was both ponderous and feather-light. Klas made sure the BSO was true to the composers.
Composers like to borrow as much as the next person, there being only eight whole tones and five semitones in the scale. In the second Hindemith movement, critic Richard Freed points out, Hindemith borrowed from Weber who borrowed from a tune in a Rousseau book which borrowed from a tune in a book by Jean-Baptiste du Halde.
The airy Klas helped make it all sound fresh as spring. Strauss' march tempos, touched with jazz, were direct, the slower movements reflective. Much of the fun came from Emily Controulis' flute.
The BSO played Strauss' nine movements as one pattern sewed together with full rumblings or delicate string and wind musings. All the philosophical threads of Strauss' mind come together in the peaceful ending played gently and effectively by the orchestra.
The concert is repeated at 8:15 p.m. tonight. Lin plays again at an 11 a.m. Casual Concert tomorrow -- rare for a visiting BSO artist -- but the Strauss is skipped.