Thursday’s appearance of Maestra Alsop at the helm of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra was a special one, by all means: her first concert with the band to which she was (controversially) appointed Music Director last summer. On the program were works that may have presented the future symbiosis of a post-Temirkanov, Alsop-led BSO. A heavy-hitting Romantic (Dvořák) together with a 20th-century tonal American composer (Christopher Rouse). Replacing the indisposed Piotr Anderszewski was Leon Fleisher – and instead of Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 14 we got No. 12 in A major.
The first symphony of Christopher Rouse, a work of less than 30 minutes duration (24, according to the program) but easily sounding 40 minutes long, was a 1986 commission of the BSO from this Baltimore native. It plays with B-A-C-H, but despite claims to the contrary, there isn’t much of Bach’s influence audible behind the Romanticism. More surefooted and cleaner entries would have helped in the brass-led (including “Wagner tubas”) theme that was adopted from Bruckner; a theme of the 7th symphony molten like Dalí might have. A solid and unwavering rhythm kept the work simple even where complex orchestral colors may otherwise have obfuscated matters. When the Bruckner theme is picked up again, later in the symphony, it has transformed itself from volcanic stone into a tranquil sunrise over which the symphony seems to peter out slowly... save for one thundering crash en route. It’s modern music written not to alienate conservative audiences while being just challenging enough to have them think themselves borderline avant-garde for enduring it. Most importantly it is music that convinces upon first hearing that there is more to be gained from repeated exposure of this and other Rouse works, especially for those to whom Dominick Argento and George Rochberg appeal. The only doubt about the work in my mind was whether or not that endless 'end' (it is difficult to speak of a 'finale' in this amorphous one-movement symphony) could not have done with half as many bars. There were times when I felt as though listening to the prelude to the prelude to Das Rheingold. After the initial ‘finding process’ of the brass, though, the performance was – watch out – rouseing!
Tim Smith, Tenure's unofficial start puts strife out of mind (Baltimore Sun, January 13)
Tim Page, Baltimore's Bright New Baton (Washington Post, January 13)
Brian Sacawa, Alsop w/ BSO (Sounds Like Now, January 13)
T. L. Ponick, BSO impressive under maestra Alsop's baton (Washington Times, February 15)
Gail Wein, The Glow of Newness For Alsop and the BSO (Washington Post, February 15)
Alsop and the BSO III (July 26, 2005)
Alsop After All... (July 19, 2005)
Marin Alsop in Baltimore... or Not? (July 18, 2005)
Hilary Hahn at Strathmore [with the BSO] (February 21, 2005)
W. A. Mozart, Piano Concertos Nos. 11, 12, & 14, M. Perahia
Leon Fleisher, Two Hands
Repeat performances will take place Friday at 8PM and Sunday at 11AM. On Saturday she will conduct a similar program in her only scheduled performance at Strathmore at 8PM. (The Mozart concerto will be replaced by the Brahms "Tragic Overture".)