Fine, if not most radical

MusicReview

February 24, 2005|By Tim Smith | Tim Smith,SUN MUSIC CRITIC

Peabody Conservatory's admirable, roughly two-month exploration of the Second Viennese School - tradition-shredding composers Arnold Schoenberg, Alban Berg and Anton Webern - is perhaps more about the Second Viennese Pre-School.

The focus is not on the most radical works of these men, but those with one foot, or at least a toe, back in the romantic world of Wagner and Mahler.

I found myself wishing for a total 12-tone blowout at the Peabody Symphony Orchestra's program Tuesday night, instead of the more conservative side of Schoenberg on display, the same side featured in the first exploration concert in January.

Still, any chance to hear Schoenberg's Chamber Symphony No. 2 in concert is welcome. Conductor Hajime Teri Murai effectively drew out the sense of a deep longing in the score, a longing briefly encouraged, ultimately unfulfilled. The students played with discipline and expressive involvement.

The orchestra lost technical ground when it turned to Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 20, but the soloist, Mi-Yeon I, a grad student of Boris Slutsky's at Peabody, offered abundant polish in a vividly limned performance. Although more tonal delicacy would have been welcome in spots, the pianist's rhythmic boldness elsewhere proved quite compelling.

Concert Artists

Last weekend, the Concert Artists of Baltimore continued its track record of imaginative programs and satisfying performances at the acoustically classy Gordon Center for Performing Arts in Owings Mills.

Saturday night's salute to Eastern European composers included Tchaikovsky's absurdly ignored Orchestra Suite No. 1, a sparkling score that suggests a ballet in search of a story. Conductor Edward Polochick tapped the many charms of the work and drew warm, dynamic playing from the ensemble. The bassoons nearly stole the show with their lush solo work.

Bohulslav Martinu's deftly crafted Concerto for Two Pianos, which Bach might have written had he lived in the 1940s, received a crisp, sweeping performance. Duo-pianists Mark Clinton and Nicole Narboni offered supple technique and terrific color, while Polochick had the orchestra digging just as animatedly into the notes.

The Concert Artists' chorus delivered a fascinating group of a cappella items - breezing through the challenging styles of eminent contemporary composers Krzystof Penderecki and Gyorgy Ligeti; reveling in the nostalgic warmth of a folk song by Soviet-era Vissarion Shebalin; and romping through a doo-be-doo-be-doo vocalization of an instrumental tune by Tchaikovsky.

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