BSO goes on, sans Temirkanov


March 28, 2009|By Tim Smith | Tim Smith,

This was supposed to be the week that Baltimore Symphony Orchestra music director emeritus Yuri Temirkanov returned to conduct after an absence of several seasons, but he canceled all U.S. engagements this month and next, leaving a lot of disappointed fans.

Temirkanov's place is being taken here by Yan Pascal Tortelier, one of the orchestra's frequent and best guest conductors. He kept the original program of Prokofiev's Symphony No. 5 and Brahms' Violin Concerto, the latter with the original soloist, Vadim Repin.

On Thursday night at the Music Center at Strathmore, the finest results came in that Prokofiev work. Tortelier did not summon the intensity and visceral power that Temirkanov could unleash in this score (in all Russian fare, needless to say). Tortelier tended to make the music sound a little too polite, even in the sardonic Scherzo.

That said, his grip on the symphony was admirably firm. He offered rhythmic snap in the work's most aggressive passages and considerable sensitivity in the darker, reflective moments. The orchestra responded strongly, with warm and cohesive sounds from the strings and colorful flourishes from the brass.

In the Brahms concerto, the unflappable Repin seemed almost too detached, keeping a distance from the heart of the richly lyrical music. He wasn't at his technical best, either, but an off night from Repin is still impressive.

The sweetness in his tone was exquisite, as was the poetic shading in the dreamiest portions of the first movement and throughout the second. It was fascinating to hear the Jascha Heifetz cadenza in the opening movement, rather than the one by Joseph Joachim; Repin made a telling case for it.

The remarkably slow tempo in that first movement was, presumably, the violinist's preference. It allowed for beautifully unhurried phrase-spinning but sometimes threatened the concerto's structural integrity.

Tortelier coaxed some lovely playing from the orchestra. Still, the synergy between soloist and ensemble could have been tighter. The repeat performances over the weekend are likely to find everyone more smoothly settled onto the same wavelength.

if you go

The BSO performs at 8 p.m. Saturday, 3 p.m. Sunday at Meyerhoff Symphony Hall, 1212 Cathedral St. Tickets are $26 to $60. 410-783-8000 or

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