Concert Artists program runs the scale of music history MUSIC REVIEW

February 01, 1993|By Robert Haskins | Robert Haskins,Contributing Writer

The literature of Western art music is vast, spanning some 500 years, and most concert programs cover only a fraction of that time. In an intriguing concert Saturday by the Concert Artists of Baltimore, however, artistic director Edward Polochick presented a group of works that, in both their historical and musical diversity, admirably demonstrated just how rich our musical heritage is.

Of course, no single concert could ever provide an exhaustive survey of the music available but rather must succeed through a view both synoptic and imaginative.

Concert Artists, which from its inception has featured both vocal and instrumental ensembles of every size, is the ideal group to present such a concert. Moreover, their program -- Rossini's "Italian in Algiers" overture, Arthur Honegger's Fourth Symphony, choral music from the Renaissance and Saint-Saens' Second Piano Concerto (with guest soloist David Buechner) -- was one of the most effective and interesting to be heard in Baltimore this season.

Honegger's work comes from a fruitful period in the '30s and '40s that saw the premieres of many symphonic masterpieces -- works unhappily rarely heard these days.

Mr. Polochick led an excellent performance, memorable for the enviable transparency of texture achieved in the symphony's complicated central movement and the ecstatic precision of its finale.

At the other end of the chronological scale were a group of Renaissance motets and madrigals. Two works by Christopher Tye received rather wooden performances, but a radiant, serene account of the famous "Ave Maria" by Josquin and a sparkling (and visually humorous) performance of di Lasso's "Echo Song" were both musically satisfying and stylistically truthful.

A stunning performance by pianist Buechner of the Saint-Saens proved the most exciting music-making of the evening. Mr. Buechner possesses a dazzling technique, but even more striking is his singular, almost fastidious expressiveness. Such qualities make him a significant pianist of his generation.

The concert also featured entertaining and informative commentary on the works by Mr. Polochick; unlike many other examples of this currently fashionable concert practice, however, these speeches neither trivialized the music nor insulted the audience's intelligence.

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