BSO unleashes energy in a rhapsody of rhythm

Beethoven, Strauss pieces bring vitality, most of it controlled

Music Review

September 21, 2002|By Tim Smith | Tim Smith,SUN MUSIC CRITIC

This week's Baltimore Symphony Orchestra program has a good beat, and you can dance to it.

There's the Symphony No. 7 by Beethoven, famously described by Wagner as "the apotheosis of the dance," and a suite of waltzes from Richard Strauss' quintessentially Viennese opera, Der Rosenkavalier (never mind that this Strauss was German - he could churn up Viennese whipped cream with the best of them).

In between comes Max Bruch's Violin Concerto No. 1, which lets loose after two moody movements with a contagious gypsy-flavored romp.

The preponderance of rhythmic vitality had the BSO operating on all cylinders with Yuri Temirkanov at the wheel Thursday night at Meyerhoff Hall. OK, so a few members of the brass section occasionally ran off the road, sometimes even hit the guardrail rather unbecomingly. Such bumps never derailed the dynamic music-making.

Temirkanov's approach to the Beethoven symphony contained few surprises, yet exuded considerable freshness.

As usual, the conductor called on the strings to produce a big sound, one that was nonetheless clear and precise enough to let the score's brilliant interplay of thematic ideas come through vividly. He took each movement in what amounted to a single, taut, cohesive sweep. If he had taken less time in between those movements, the entire symphony would have had that one-breath quality.

A slightly more lingering end to the second movement would have been welcome; a slightly more biting finish to the third would have been more effective, too. But the finale had superb thrust, tension and triumph in every bar. This was terrific conducting and playing. (The Beethoven work will not be repeated at today's Casual Concert.)

The Bruch concerto introduced Stefan Jackiw, a 17-year-old high school student from Boston who sounds like he could be on the threshold of a very serious career.

To begin with, the violinist has a remarkably gutsy (I'm tempted to say testosterone-laden) tone. It's so common to hear unvarying sweetness and light from fiddlers, especially young ones, in this piece that Jackiw's weightier sound made an extraordinary impression.

So did his unfailingly vibrant phrasing. He wasn't just going through the motions, spinning out pretty tunes. He caught the shadowy world of the first movement tellingly, underlined the throbbing poetry of the second, reveled in the sheer energy of the third.

Temirkanov partnered the violinist smoothly, coaxing some richly textured work from the ensemble. There was, though, an overly long pause between the last two movements.

The Waltz Sequence No. 1 from Rosenkavalier contains some of the opera's most indelible music.

Temirkanov demonstrated considerable sensitivity to the little nuances of tempo that make a waltz Viennese, the little shadings of dynamics that make a waltz seductive. He had fun with the splashier moments of the score, too, driving the orchestra along boldly in the process. Only the closing measures failed to make their full effect; a tighter, more exhilarating finish was needed.

Concertmaster Jonathan Carney delivered his solos in charming style. Other colorful solo efforts, among them principal bassist Robert Barney's, complemented the overall character and warmth of the orchestra's performance.

During the ovation that followed, Temirkanov stepped backstage to pick up a large bouquet of flowers, which he presented, along with kisses, to principal harpist Eileen Mason. She's retiring from the BSO after 24 years.

BSO

Where: Meyerhoff Symphony Hall, 1212 Cathedral St.

When: 11 a.m. today

Tickets: $23 to $50

Call: 410-783-8000

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