Concert displays the true Temirkanov touch

Music Review

September 11, 2004|By Tim Smith | Tim Smith,SUN MUSIC CRITIC

With a surge of soul-on-sleeve, enveloping romanticism - and, perhaps, an extra degree of passion and commitment - the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra opened its penultimate season with Yuri Temirkanov as music director last night.

Word of the conductor's decision to end his tenure in two years could have reached few people in the audience at Meyerhoff Symphony Hall, but everyone onstage had learned about it a couple of days ago. I suspect the weight of that news accounted for at least some of the compelling results.

Everything that Temirkanov has emphasized since talking the helm could be felt throughout the performance of Brahms' Symphony No. 1 that capped the evening - a claret-colored string tone, songful winds, urgent brass and, above all, an underlying, unstinting expressiveness. You couldn't ask for a better reminder of what makes this collaboration between conductor and musicians so valuable.

Much the same could be said in Schumann's Piano Concerto, when Temirkanov and the ensemble had the benefit of a like-minded, brilliantly insightful soloist - Helene Grimaud.

The French pianist, in her first BSO appearance since 1997, ensured that the smallest details emerged clearly, even when the music thickened. She caught the plangent quality in this score with an uncommonly subtle, sensual touch, while the chest-thumping elements generated seemingly effortless firepower.

Temirkanov partnered Grimaud in supple fashion and had the orchestra paying keen attention to matters of articulation, not to mention dynamic and rhythmic nuance.

Brahms has figured prominently and quite memorably during Temirkanov's tenure here. The First Symphony seemed to inspire conductor and ensemble alike to higher ground. He injected all the brooding and churning that launch the outer movements with the kind of intensity he brings to Shostakovich. He heated the second movement gently to a radiant glow, let the third exude its country-air charm unaffectedly.

The orchestra sounded thoroughly connected to the notes and the vast implications behind them. A few little matters could have been smoother, but this was very hot playing. Particularly admirable solos came from concertmaster Jonathan Carney, principal oboe Katherine Needleman and principal horn Philip Munds; the emphatic presence of timpanist Dennis Kain was another plus.

The evening began with the national anthem, which will doubtless resound even more meaningfully tonight, on this sobering anniversary of 9/11.

BSO

Where: Meyerhoff Symphony Hall, 1212 Cathedral St.

When: 8 tonight, 3 p.m. tomorrow

Tickets: $27 to $75

Contact: 410-783-8000 or www.baltimoresymphony.org

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