BCO's programming is nearly perfect

March 09, 1995|By Stephen Wigler | Stephen Wigler,Sun Music Critic

The Baltimore Chamber Orchestra's concert last night in Goucher College's Kraushaar Auditorium was a near-perfect model of inventive programming. Music director Anne Harrigan blended a most attractive mix: a 20th-century classic; a work that is threatening to become a staple of the contemporary repertoire; an almost unknown concerto; and one of the most beloved of Mozart's symphonies.

The little-known work was Launy Grondahl's Concerto for Trombone. The name of the composer rings a bell among old record collectors. That is because Grondahl, chief conductor of the Danish Radio Orchestra from 1925-1960, made some of the earliest (and the best) recordings of the music of Sibelius and Nielsen. His Trombone Concerto may not be a great work, but it is a good one and it was played spectacularly well by Chris Dudley.

Dudley, the associate principal trombonist of the Baltimore Symphony, is a redoubtable virtuoso. He makes playing his recalcitrant instrument sound easy, and he possesses a large and noble tone. He can also does something that is rarely heard on a brass instrument: He makes it sing. Some of this vocal quality may derive from Dudley's experience as a jazz player -- where the model for performance tends to be vocal rather than, as is the case in classical music, instrumental. But, whatever its source, Dudley plays his instrument most flexibly and was able to endow his performance with tiny inflections that gave the performance at times an almost bluesy quality.

The second half of the program began with a transcription for orchestra (by violinist Tom Ginsberg) of Frank Zappa's "Du Pree's Paradise." This is a piece that has been conducted by -- among others -- David Zinman, Pierre Boulez and Simon Rattle, and it turns up ever more frequently on the chamber music and chamber orchestra programs. It's light-hearted, feel-good music with a distinctive sense of rhythm and color.

The performance -- in addition to the BCO -- featured Dudley on an EVI, an electric brass instrument; Tom and Cyndy Ginsberg on electric violin and electric cello, Glen Workman on synthesizer, Chris Hofer on bass and Wayne Webster on drums. It was attuned to Zappa's lively spirit and his knack for introducing changes of timbre to comic effect.

Milhaud's jazz-inebriated "La Creation du Monde" received a colorful and and infectiously rhythmic performance. The program's only disappointment came in a reading of Mozart's A Major Symphony (K. 201) that -- in spite of lovely playing from the orchestra -- was so rhythmically predictable that it nearly put one to sleep.

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