The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra’s concert of Bruckner, Mozart, and Stucky may have sold few tickets at Meyerhoff Hall – but on Saturday, Strathmore Hall was reliably well filled, if not at capacity. Opening with Steven Stucky’s Anniversary Greeting (written for and premiered at the BSO’s 75th birthday celebration, now dug out for its 90th) the audience heard the music’s heat flickering, receding threateningly, and a quick, small, and fierce blaze. That’s about all there is to that composition, and that is also all one could jot down during the minute and a half that it lasts.
Mozart’s Horn Concerto No. 3 in E-flat Major, K. 447, with the BSO’s own Philip Munds as soloist was next. Under guest conductor Günther Herbig (ex-East Berlin, -Detroit, -Toronto, now Saarbrücken) who is the quintessential Kapellmeister, most of the strings got to partake in a performance that was surprisingly lean and streamlined. For the quantity of players involved and given the last few bouts with Mozart, the BSO sounded pretty nimble and found itself by the third movement. It was, as far as the orchestra is concerned, much better than I remember the violin concerto played (Kraggerud/Ryan) last May and a bit better, too, than the recent piano concerto (Fleisher/Alsop). Fortunately we are not running out of Mozart concertos any time soon – so there is hope that the musicians will continue with them on a regular basis. They’d be a much improved orchestra at the end of the Mozart tunnel, with classical repertoire ‘cleaning the pipes’ of an orchestra on a too high-calorie diet of Romanticism, forcing them to be more flexible, adjust their style of playing from one moment to the next, and tip-toe around music with a sprightly gait whenever necessary. In fact, the first orchestra in the region to play consistently sublime Mozart could likely claim supremacy in the local, alleged “Battle of the Bands,” just for the effects it would have on non-Mozart repertoire. BSO principal horn Munds – a great horn player, although no virtuoso – meanwhile, played along nicely with his solo parts well executed to Maestro Herbig’s gentle speeds.
G.Wand / BPh
H.Blomstedt / Leipzig Gewandhaus
John Henry Crosby, Bruckner in Baltimore (Ionarts, February 3)
Tim Smith, BSO gives Bruckner a break, with fine Symphony No. 9 (Baltimore Sun, February 4)
Tim Page, Bruckner's Ninth for Strathmore's First: The BSO's Perfect Gift (Washington Post, February 6)