A year ago today, Yuri Temirkanov gave his first concert as music director of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. This week, the wisdom of that appointment couldn't have been more clear.
On Thursday evening at Meyerhoff Hall, the Temirkanov touch came through magically right at the delicate start of Weber's "Oberon" Overture, with superb pacing and shading to create a suspenseful, woodsy atmosphere. The responsiveness of the musicians throughout the overture spoke volumes about the way they have gotten firmly into the Temirkanov groove, which involves molding phrases with spontaneity, freedom and joy. He makes the music come from deep inside.
The Weber performance had terrific sweep and lyrical potency, setting the stage neatly for Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 3, which has all the drama and eventfulness of a three-act opera. Yefim Bronfman is just the pianist to bring out those traits in vivid form.
Bronfman's shining technique (his trills alone command respect), remarkably beautiful tone (even at its loudest, it has great warmth), and his sense of how to build a phrase kept the ear fully engaged. His entrance in the first movement had more than enough boldness to match the orchestra's force; the dialogue between the two flowed easily, eventfully. The pianist's handling of the cadenza generated tremendous fire.
In the "Largo" movement, Bronfman's capacity for producing a gentle yet penetrating touch provided keen pleasure; the quiet in the hall (except for a persistent snorer) revealed how intently listeners were hanging on his every note. And the way he eased into the finale's flurry of activity was as delectable as the bravura flashes that followed.
Temirkanov's second-nature partnering assured a tidy, vividly outlined showing by the orchestra throughout.
Turning to Stravinsky in the program's second half, he reveled in the polychromatic pleasures of "Petrouchka" (it's not part of today's "Casual Concert"). That Temirkanov conducts Russian music fabulously is hardly news, but it still was startling to experience the effortless command he had of this rich, sardonic ballet score.
Flowing in a single, unbreakable line, his interpretation didn't leave a tone unturned. Those amusing honks and tweaks in the few moments of inaction received as much care as the sizzling Russian dance in the first scene.
The BSO sailed through the music in peak, taut form, the strings bright and robust, the woodwinds spicy, the brass and percussion full of bite. Among several sterling solos, those by new principal trumpet Andrew Balio had particular shine, earning an extra roar from the house during the bows.
What: Baltimore Symphony Orchestra
Where: Meyerhoff Symphony Hall, Cathedral and Preston streets
When: 11 a.m. today
Tickets: $24 to $42