All-Baltimore Concert by BSO wasn't a fitting tribute to Rouse

October 16, 1997|By Stephen Wigler | Stephen Wigler,SUN MUSIC CRITIC

The late James Rouse deserved a better tribute than last night's All-Baltimore Concert by the Baltimore Symphony. Baltimore Gas & Electric, which regularly sponsors these annual concerts supporting several Baltimore charities, was joined this year by the Enterprise Foundation. The foundation, created by Rouse to provide affordable housing for the poor, commissioned a work for the occasion.

There is nothing seriously wrong with Jonathan Holland's 10-minute "House of Dreams." But the young composer favors shimmering suggestions of light by various instrumental groups that pretty much resemble what many other composers have been doing -- and doing better -- for the last three decades.

The lack of an individual musical voice in "House of Dreams" was compounded by the hymn-like way in which Holland used the brass and winds to convey the sense of greatness -- which has been a cliche in such pieces since Aaron Copland's "Lincoln Portrait."

I liked Stewart Goodyear's performance of Rachmaninoff's "Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini" even less. The 19-year-old pianist's sole purpose seemed that of playing the piece as fast as possible. Listening to the performance was like reading several paragraphs of run-on sentences. I don't think I heard a single phrase.

There's no fault -- particularly at Goodyear's age -- in being finger-proud. But the presence of more than a few blurred measures suggested that he need not be so proud.

Other pianists, including the composer, have played this piece more accurately at faster tempos -- and they were still able to find time to punctuate.

Daniel Hege, who conducted the BSO, concluded the concert with an enthusiastic, if messy, performance of the finale of Beethoven's Symphony No. 9, in which the Baltimore Symphony Chorus was joined by the Morgan State University Choir.

The best things on the program were performances by the Morgan choir, under its music director, Nathan Carter, of three traditional spirituals in arrangements by William Dawson ("Ain't That Good News"), Moses Hogan ("The Battle of Jericho") and Carter ("If I Can Help Somebody"). The latter featured a heart-piercingly beautiful solo by countertenor Kenneth Alston.

Pub Date: 10/16/97

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