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2.6.06

Jonathan Carney and the BSO in Khachaturian and Tchaikovsky

This account from Strathmore was kindly contributed by Ionarts guest reviewer John Henry Crosby.

Jonathan CarneyJonathan Carney arouses different emotions among those who listen to him and watch him – and if he raises others’ ire, I am a fan of his playing and leadership. This is not less true even after his somewhat troubled performance of Aram Khachaturian’s Violin Concerto with the Baltimore Symphony at Strathmore Thursday night.

While technique must always be at the service of artistry, it ought still be remarked that Mr. Carney, while offering great technical command, did not pull the concerto off quite flawlessly. Minor — very minor — lapses of intonation as well as occasional lack of clarity (in the most demanding passage work) and projection kept it some distance from perfection. At least the problem of projection was not entirely Mr. Carney’s fault. Maestro Yuri Temirkanov might well have done a better job to adjust his seemingly overbearing orchestra to his soloist’s size of tone; different violinists project to varying degrees and Mr. Carney was at times drowned out.

Despite my great admiration of Carney, I can’t say that I was “convinced” by Mr. Carney. He did not reach me. And the reason for this was not a missing intention to communicate but certain overly sculpted, overly calculated, overly technical aspects of his performance. I kept thinking how admirably he made use of his bow here, how velvety his tone there, how remarkable his technique in general. But in all of this, the world of the Khachaturian concerto did not come alive for me. The middle of the second movement – that seemingly endless passage in which the muted solo violin has a yearning, searching, plaintive song against the soft, lilting orchestral accompaniment – although played with great feeling, was lacking that icy desolation that slowly grows into unbearable intensity (Henryk Szeryng comes to mind).

The second half of Thursday’s concert featured the Manfred Symphony, the great and too rarely performed symphony/tone poem by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. Perhaps the most important accomplishment of a concert performance is to make better known a piece of such magnificence and caliber. Technically, Manfred is extremely demanding, and the musicians of the BSO met the challenge by playing tremendously. The difficult second movement was executed with tremendous élan, and throughout the entire performance there were transcendent moments, especially in the lyrical string passages: truly vintage Tchaikovsky. At the same time, it was not one of those inspired, once-in-a-lifetime concerts. That sense of inner necessity, in which the audience and the orchestra become one, just never came into Strathmore Hall.

This same program will be repeated on Friday and Saturday, June 2nd and 3rd, at 8pm and on Sunday, June 4th, at 3pm at Meyerhoff Symphony Hall in Baltimore.

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