Even the weakest performance by the Concert Artists of Baltimore Saturday night at Friedberg Concert Hall was a good one. That's how good this group of instrumentalists and singers has become and how much their music director, Edward Polochick, has grown in the five years since they started giving concerts.
The strongest performances of the evening came in selections from Rachmaninoff's "Vespers" for chorus alone. Polochick has always been a persuasive choral conductor -- he's the director of the Baltimore Symphony Chorus -- but this performance was good even for him. Polochick got his choristers to sound authentically Russian -- there is a low B-flat early in the piece that the men made especially chilling -- and the singing throughout was both beautifully contoured and vital. Mezzo-soprano Victoria Lee Miller sang a solo with the impression of peasant weight and uncultured strength that only a sophisticated and cultivated singer can give.
The other choral piece on the program was a real rarity -- Schubert's Offertorium-Intende Voci Orationis, which received its first Baltimore performance. The choral singing was first rate, the soloist, tenor John Weber, produced singing that was sensitive, uncannily even and beautiful, and the playing of the orchestra -- particularly that of oboist Vladimir Lande with his free and sensuous vibrato -- was a pleasure.