The BSO scores a win with Strathmore concert

19-year-old violinist was soloist for event

Music Review

April 16, 2005|By Tim Smith | Tim Smith,SUN MUSIC CRITIC

The consuming interest in the Washington area Thursday night was the return of baseball to the nation's capital, but that didn't seem to keep anyone away from the Music Center at Strathmore, where a young violinist hit one out of the park in the first inning and the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra scored runs on its own in the second.

The program, which has two more, well-worth-catching performances this weekend at the BSO's home plate (all right, I'll stop), revels in the melodic wealth and imaginative instrumental coloring of 1880s French romanticism.

Although best known for handling the often heavier textures of Russian music (and sometimes absurdly accused of making everything sound Russian), conductor Yuri Temirkanov has a remarkable affinity for the nuances of French repertoire.

You had only to hear the orchestra's delicate articulation in the expectant, tremulous opening of the Violin Concerto No. 3 in B minor by Camille Saint-Saens to appreciate that affinity. And the way Temirkanov assured a combination of transparency and expressive tension in the scherzo-like portion of the second movement of Cesar Franck's Symphony in D minor offered a model of sensitivity.

The conductor also understands that there is real muscle in these works, not just prettiness or atmosphere. He ensured that each unfolded in eventful, cohesive fashion.

In the Saint-Saens concerto, Temirkanov had an engaging, confident leading man in Stefan Jackiw. All of 19, the Boston-born violinist first soloed with the BSO during its 2002 tour of Japan, revealing a sweet, refined tone and strong instincts of how to shape a phrase.

On Thursday, that tone sounded just as pure, but also a little meatier, enabling Jackiw to burrow into the darker, bolder portions of the score effectively. And for sustained, eloquent lyricism, his tenderly molded playing in the Italianesque second movement would be hard to beat.

Through it all, Temirkanov partnered the soloist seamlessly and, other than a ragged patch or two in the woodwind section, had a solid orchestra on board.

Franck's Symphony, generated by a handful of malleable themes that unfold with kaleidoscopic intricacy and propelled by the sort of ever-shifting modulations one wag described as "harmonic abracadabras," can seem turgid, diffuse or just plain dull in the wrong hands.

Temirkanov knew how to make it gripping from the start, how to turn its sighs, songs and outbursts into a fresh, clear-cut adventure. The score's Germanic-scaled drama emerged in a blaze of living color, with climactic peaks powerfully attained and moments of respite given an underlying energy.

A few untidy patches aside, the BSO played with remarkable sweep and fire. Strings shimmered, solo winds glowed; the brass produced mighty walls of sound enriched by Strathmore's lively acoustics.

In the end, Franck's genius, not to mention Temirkanov's ability to reveal and inspire, received ringing reaffirmation.


What: BSO

When: 8 tonight, 3 p.m. tomorrow

Where: Meyerhoff Symphony Hall, 1212 Cathedral St.

Admission: $27 to $75

Call: 410-783-8000

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