Saturday evening's Annapolis Symphony concert -- the third of this season -- provided the orchestra an opportunity to employ concertmaster Brynn Albanese as a soloist for the first time in her ASO tenure.
And an auspicious debut it was. In Vaughan Williams' beautiful mini-tone poem, "The Lark Ascending," and in the "Winter" concerto from Vivaldi's ubiquitous "The Four Seasons," Albanese was the whole package.
Her technical gifts are prodigious; there doesn't seem to be muchshe can't do with the fiddle. Her tone sings, her intonation is dead-on, and she knows what to do with a musical phrase. With the exception of one brief lapse of concentration in the concluding movement of the Vivaldi, her playing was of the highest caliber.
But, most importantly, hers is a musical personality that communicates with sincerity and passion. What a treat to hear some Vivaldi with guts after somany original-instrument performances (Pinnock, Hogwood and the usual suspects) that are long on Baroque hustle and bustle but short on real bravura.
Albanese's evocation of winter went beyond cold; likedry ice, this was a chill that burned.
The opening movement was taken more deliberately than usual so there could be no glossing over the music's vision of nature's intensity.
Vivaldi's gorgeous second movement frequently makes it onto classical "greatest hits" anthologies as a sweet, tender love song. But in this account, the phrases were articulated far more jauntily than usual as this "contentment by the fire" sequence became an affectionate, almost playful interlude. I liked it immensely.
Vaughan Williams' "The Lark Ascending" is not a dazzling showpiece but in Albanese's hands it became a bit more virtuosic than you sometimes hear.
The composer's rather dry-eyed ode to nature was suffused with a romantic passion for the majestic beauty of the world, here represented by the single bird in flight.
How sad that the poetic text that inspired this beautiful music was inexplicably left out of the printed program by the annotator. The audience would have had a clearer idea of what the composer and this gifted soloist had been up to had it been there. (". . .For singing tillhis heaven fills, 'tis love of earth that he instills . . .")
Thesoloist certainly inspired her orchestral colleagues. Save for an uneventful harpsichord continuo, the ASO's accompaniment of the Vivaldiconcerto was distinguished.
Gisele Ben-Dor and her string sectioncreated a beautiful atmosphere for the flight of the lark. They weremost impressive.
The ASO horn section is among the orchestra's most dependable aggregations but, alas, the extended horn solo in the Vaughan Williams was out of tune.
But the horns and the entire basscomplement fare well in the trivial, but cute, Stravinsky "Suite forSmall Orchestra."
But, the great "Miracle" Symphony (No. 96 in D)of Haydn blew hot and cold.
The orchestra played with considerable energy and verve. The opening movement was assertive enough, the second was lyrical and the concluding "Vivace" was suitably bracing. Solos, once the oboe got untracked in the second movement, were nicely played.
What was missing, on occasion, was the stylish, impudent charm that distinguishes Haydn from mortal men. Without much in the way of variation or structural coherence to sustain it, the first movement wore out its welcome. The "Minuet" began with a delightfully solid "eins, zwei, drei" but bogged down in the Trio. The finale was zippy, all right, but phrases sometimes ran into and over each other.
Comme ci, comme ca.
But, I harbor no such ambivalence for the disgraceful behavior of some at Saturday's concert. This Maryland Hall audience seemed better suited for the roller derby than an evening of great music.
As Ben-Dor gave her opening downbeat, six cosmically ignorant individuals were sauntering down the aisles, stepping over people in their rows to get their misbegotten behinds into their seats.Two more late-comers were engaged in animated conversation with the ASO's left-door ticket taker as the music played. Shame on these people and shame on the ASO staff for allowing it to happen.
As Albanese began "The Lark Ascending," which was the second work on the program, three additional imbeciles made their entrance.
Her concludingdiminuendo was interrupted by some bozo who couldn't wait until the work was over before mindlessly banging his hands together like an insistent seal.
I've been to cockfights where better decorum was observed.