Yesterday evening's Baltimore Symphony program, which was conducted by Daniel Hege, was primarily designed to provide opportunities for members of the orchestra to shine as soloists.
In Vivaldi's Flute Concerto in D Major (Opus 10, No. 3), principal flutist Emily Skala produced a beautifully refined and cool pianissimo tone whenever such was called for and provided evidence of her virtuosity in the fast movements. Skala is more than a very good musician, however. In her dignified way -- she has unimpeachable musical taste -- she's a genuine charmer. It's hard to imagine how Vivaldi's bird-like embellished trills could have been more infectiously joyful than those of Skala.
The joyful exuberance of Bach's inspiration was also inescapable in a performance of the Brandenburg Concerto No. 2 in F Major, which featured violinist Adrian Semo, flutist Mark Sparks, oboist Joseph Turner and Don Tyson, who played the famously and perilously high trumpet part. But -- without tainting one's pleasure in the music -- there were also some moments of ragged ensemble and poor intonation.
As conductor of the works mentioned above, Hege did not have terribly much to do. But his resilient accompaniments -- with their easily bouncing fast movements and their warmly affectionate slow movements -- were never less than a pleasure to hear.
This was also true of Hege's leadership of the first of Handel's "Water Music" suites. There are purists who might have complained that the use of modern instruments resulted in textures too thick for this music. But the energy and warmth that comes from modern instruments when used intelligently came as welcome relief to ears exposed far too long to acerbic-sounding period instruments.
Hege also gave a winning performance of Haydn's wonderful, late Sinfonia Concertante. He captured the vitality and majesty of Haydn's inspiration without an hint of undue haste or breathlessness. Of the soloists -- violinist Herbert Greenberg, cellist Mihaly Virizlay, oboist Joseph Turner and bassoonist Philip Kolker -- I was least satisfied with Greenberg's contribution. He played the piece with a big sound and an intense vibrato that might have been appropriate to Glazunov or Wieniawski but that sounded somewhat out of place in Haydn.