Tour ends with affection for Temirkanov

Maestro is `very touched' as his time with BSO is ending

BSO in Europe

October 31, 2005|By TIM SMITH | TIM SMITH,SUN MUSIC CRITIC

VIENNA, Austria -- The flowers said it all.

As Yuri Temirkanov returned to the stage for a traditional solo bow after conducting the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra's European tour-ending concert Saturday night at Vienna's gilded Konzerthaus, something unconventional happened.

A large bouquet of flowers worked its way from the back of the orchestra toward him - a percussionist handed it to a wind player who handed it to a string player who handed it to the startled music director.

The token of appreciation and affection from the ensemble capped Temirkanov's third and final international tour with the BSO. He steps down as music director in June, after six years. There may have been tense relations with the players early on (caused mostly by his personnel changes), but there seems to be nothing but warmth now.

"I was very touched by the flowers, very touched," he said in his dressing room after the sold-out performance in between sips of beer and drags of a cigarette.

Asked his assessment of the tour, he pointed to all the sold-out houses. "Not every orchestra does that here," he said with a grin.

Later, after a short bus ride through elegant Vienna streets dusted with yellow autumn leaves, good will flowed as freely as the wine at a tour wrap-up party for the tired, famished orchestra - travel delays from Slovenia that day had left little time between hotel arrival in Vienna and the concert.

The festivities were held in a restaurant in a building where Beethoven once lived upstairs, writing his Sixth and part of the Ninth symphonies.

The gracious hosts for a copious sampling of Viennese cuisine were Robin and Rudy Breitnecker, longtime BSO patrons (they spend a good deal of time in Vienna, where Rudy was born).

During a round of toasts, Jane Marvine, head of the players committee, thanked Temirkanov "for everything he has done for the orchestra" and looked forward "to his continued presence in the musical life of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra."

That set off a deafening roar of agreement, underlined by sustained rhythmic clapping.

Responding to shouts of "Speech, speech," Temirkanov rose and (through his translator) said, "I don't think this will be my last speech. I am reminded of the opera Boris Godunov, when he is dying, and says: `I am still the czar!'"

The resultant laughter, cheers, whistles and applause could probably be heard in Budapest. Temirkanov told the musicians how moved he had been by the flowers, and recalled an interview he had given earlier in the day to an Austrian journalist. "I was asked what my greatest accomplishment has been in six years with the Baltimore Symphony," he said. His reply: "That they feel sorry I am leaving - and I feel sorry I am leaving."

More prolonged applause.

"I think you are now among the great orchestras," Temirkanov said, the kind of compliment he does not give loosely.

That Temirkanov is among the great conductors, not to mention classiest, was affirmed every night of this four-country, seven-city tour. Even when the musicians did not give him a fully polished response, you could always sense how strongly they were connected to him.

Understandably, they were not operating on all cylinders Saturday night, the last of four one-night-stands that spanned three countries, but the emotion in the playing was at the hottest level, seemingly spurred on by the frequent smiles that came across Temirkanov's face as he conducted.

Gershwin's An American in Paris flowed vividly; Rhapsody in Blue crackled, with Turkish pianist Fazil Say at his most reckless, imaginative and electrifying. Dvorak's New World Symphony had many a compelling nuance. And the encore, Elgar's disarming Salut d'Amour, simply glowed in the historic hall.

The night before, in the mountain-skirted Slovenian capital city of Ljubljana, the BSO gave a tightly meshed performance of the Gershwin-Dvorak bill in a severe, Soviet-styled concert hall. A rapt audience seemed to hang on every note.

Afterward, the orchestra was treated to a generous spread of local dishes and good wines, co-hosted by the U.S. and Turkish ambassadors to Slovenia. "With deep roots in `Bal'mor,'" the American career diplomat, Thomas Robertson, said, "I am very proud to have the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra here."

Calling him "a real legend," Roberston thanked Temirkanov "for everything you have done for music, for Baltimore and the world."

This "farewell tour" with the BSO has underscored how steadily and tellingly Temirkanov has enhanced the ensemble. Something of the man's spirit, his soulful Russian expressiveness, his unapologetic demand for artistic quality reverberated from Madrid to Vienna. Long live the czar.

tim.smith@baltsun.com

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