Splendid singing marks Concert Artists' opener

November 15, 1994|By David Donovan | David Donovan,Special to The Sun

The Concert Artists of Baltimore under Edward Polochick opened its season Saturday night with a reverse history of the Romantic era.

Mr. Polochick titled his program "Words and Music." The various staging shifts at LeClerc Hall at the College of Notre Dame at times resembled well-rehearsed confusion, but the musical rewards were very clear and at times revelatory.

Edward Polochick is a conductor who tries to inspire his musicians from the podium. He is best with his singers. They watch his every move and seem in tune with his conception of the music.

His oral program notes are the great-grandchildren of Leonard Bernstein, who would have been proud of Mr. Polochick's humanizing remarks about great music.

The program opened with a short, quirky Adagio from the Ballet Suite No. 2 by Shostakovich. But the piece came and left so fast that it just didn't leave any sort of lasting impression. One could have had a little more Shostakovich rather than this brief teaser.

The remainder of the first half was devoted to the music of Sir Edward Elgar. The Four Unaccompanied Part-Songs gave the singers of the company ample opportunity to shine.

The first three songs were given loving attention, and the fourth was nothing short of magical. The men are magnificent, and the women are every bit their equals. The dynamic and tonal variety was a joy to experience. Mr. Polochick seemed to get everything he desired, and the nobility of the composer was served with great reverence.

The second Elgar work, the Serenade for Strings, was given a chamber-music clarity by the 20-player string section. They played with great confidence but could have used just a little more warmth in the slow movement. It is a treat to hear this music in an intimate setting, and LeClerc Hall had just enough reverberation.

"Nanie" by Johannes Brahms brought the entire ensemble together for the major work of the evening. The only blemish was the really ugly wind-playing at the beginning of the work. The chorus set matters right with its entrance.

The absolute beauty of sound and expressive depth shown by the vocalists in the Elgar was surpassed in this work.

The evening ended with an efficient rendition of Mendelssohn's "Italian" Symphony. The strings were very articulate but sounded a little too small for this piece. The winds were generally too loud, and the solos too literal rather than poetic. The middle movements just didn't say any more than the notes on the page, which is sad for such tender music.

The final "Saltarello" did have plenty of excitement, with fine playing from the entire ensemble. This was a demanding program, and the Concert Artists of Baltimore should be commended for offering such a varied menu to open its season.

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