Press in Japan takes notice

As if reinvigorated, BSO wows Osaka

Bso In Japan

October 03, 2002|By Tim Smith | Tim Smith,SUN MUSIC CRITIC

OSAKA, Japan - The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra whisked into this affluent, congested city yesterday afternoon via one of the country's aptly named bullet trains from Hiroshima, with an extra little push from the Japanese press.

The first notice to appear - papers here regularly take several days to run reviews - was carried in one of the national dailies, Mainichi Shimbun. The critic found much to praise about the orchestra's concert in Tokyo's Suntory Hall on Saturday, starting with an overall "enthusiasm and refreshing approach to the music."

Yuri Temirkanov's conducting of Beethoven's Symphony No. 7 was "cohesive" and "uplifting," while Stefan Jackiw's playing in Bruch's G minor Violin Concerto No. 1 earned marks for its stylistic "authenticity" and "perfect control."

There were reservations - the young soloist lacked "great depth" ("understandable because he is only 17 years old"), and Temirkanov failed to bring "romance and sensuality" to the suite from Strauss' Der Rosenkavalier. But the review was, on balance, a welcome vote of confidence.

The BSO got another one from Temirkanov himself at the start of a 30-minute rehearsal an hour before last night's concert in Osaka Symphony Hall, though this praise had a couple of reservations attached, too.

"Thank you for the second and third concerts," Temirkanov said with a wide smile.

He was referring to that Suntory Hall performance and the one in Yokohama the next day; the pointed omission of the first and fourth concerts (in Tama and Tokuyama) drew a laugh from the players. They knew exactly what he meant.

The conductor could easily make the same sort of remark tonight in Niigata (though, with no rehearsal session slated, there wouldn't be as easy an opportunity), only this time saying "thank you for the second, third and fifth concerts." That fifth one was perhaps the peak of the tour so far.

It's a curious phenomenon how an orchestra undergoes changes from night to night. The music can be exactly the same, but something, somewhere will be different in the way it is played. Part of this, of course, comes from the venue.

Every hall affects a performance to some degree; Suntory's famous acoustics had a big role in the BSO's vibrant showing there. Osaka's even more in-your-face (or ear) sound certainly gave the whole ensemble a lift. But it seemed to be more than that. Maybe the musicians merely wanted to let Temirkanov know they got that earlier message loud and clear.

Whatever the motivation, whatever the atmospheric conditions, the BSO tore into Beethoven's Seventh with extra drive and elan; new shadings seemed to turn up everywhere.

Temirkanov appeared to be just slightly on edge at the very start, as if uncertain which way the wind was going to blow. But he soon was in his element, the arms sweeping with a wider arc, the face beaming confidence. There was a fresh and arresting connection going on up on that stage.

The connection was going on in the audience, too. You could sense people moving to the edge of their seats during the butt-kicking finale, intent on every note. (Not to belabor the point about Japanese concert-goers, but not a single beep from a digital watch or electronic ditty from a cell phone has been heard since the tour began, even though every man, woman and child in this country seems to have a cell phone in use out on the streets. If they can keep those things under wraps during every concert, what's the excuse back home?)

Jackiw repeated his warm and thoughtful way with the Bruch concerto for the last time on the tour and was rewarded with several bows to vociferous ovations; he heads home today.

The Strauss suite, which enjoyed burgundy-shaded string playing and a good deal more charm than before, also got its final airing. One of the players was making a final appearance, too - BSO principal harpist Eileen Mason officially retired with this performance after 24 years. The rest of the ensemble flies to Niigata this afternoon and hops another bullet train tomorrow to wrap things up back in Tokyo.

If all goes well, Temirkanov will be thanking his band at the end-of-tour party for the second, third, fifth, sixth and seventh concerts.

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