BSO takes concertgoers on a wild ride

Music of motion was latest theme in the symphony's With a Twist series

April 21, 2004|By Tim Smith | Tim Smith,SUN MUSIC CRITIC

The latest program in the Baltimore Symphony Orchestras Symphony With a Twist series focused on 20th-century works held together by the theme of motion locomotive, mythological, aeronautic and superhuman. Seat belts would have been in order Saturday night at Meyerhoff Symphony Hall.

Led with typical flair and spiced with typically droll comments by Marin Alsop, the program could have used a little more contrast in orchestral coloring and volume than Gustav Holsts brief Mercury, the Winged Messenger provided, but it certainly was fun hearing so much sonic power delivered with so much skill and spirit.

Alsop and the BSO really put the pedal to the metal in excerpts from Michael Daughterys Metropolis Symphony, articulating with terrific clarity and might. On the solo front, Jonathan Carneys incendiary fiddling and Peter Landgrens gleaming horn playing proved particularly impressive. Daugherty was on hand to enjoy the sustained ovation.

Samuel Barber's Symphony No. 2 doesn't get much respect; heck, even the composer disliked it so much that he destroyed the score. Luckily, a copy turned up after his death. Ostensibly a musical portrait of flight and fliers, its abstract enough to be enjoyed simply as a well-crafted, mostly propulsive bit of writing. Alsop gave it her best shot; so did the orchestra. Jane Marvines English horn sang out warmly in the second movement, and the whole violin section did fleet, brilliant work in the finale.

Two pieces of musical mechanics were accompanied by film. The ensemble tapped most of the kinetic power of Honeggers Pacific 231, playing in sync with a French movie made decades ago to go with this homage to train power. Eric Dyer from the Maryland Institute College of Art submitted an effectively edgy, abstract video to match John Adams minimalist classic, Short Ride in a Fast Machine, which received an energized and energizing performance.

As an encore, Alsop offered Please Turn Your Cell Phones On, an audience-participation piece by David Rimelis that has some amusing bits the orchestra riffs on common cell-phone rings but loses steam. The phone-toting folks in the hall couldnt wait to chime in.

Season finale

A good crowd turned out Friday night for the season finale of Music in the Great Hall, which also marked pianist Virginia Reineckes farewell as founding artistic director after a remarkable 30 years. She joined the Borromeo String Quartet to close the concert at Towson Unitarian Universalist Church with Brahms F minor Piano Quintet. A few technical slips aside, the performance was as solid as it was passionate. The desperate urgency behind so much of Brahms music became palpable here.

The dynamic Borromeo players opened the program with a penetrating account of Beethovens A minor Quartet, Op. 132. Melodic, harmonic and metrical oddities of the piece still make it seem, as it did in the 1820s, light years ahead of its time. The ensemble delivered this deeply revealing music of the psyche with exceptional cohesiveness, sensitivity and understanding.

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