Mozart, Violin Concertos, J. Ehnes, Mozart Anniversary Orchestra
Bartók, Violin Concertos / Viola Concerto, J. Ehnes, BBC Philharmonic, G. Noseda
Guest conductor Louis Langrée, music director of Lincoln Center's Mostly Mozart Festival, should have done better by the Mozart first half. He has a precise, almost fussy beat and prefers his Mozart gestures big and splashy, for example giving the upward scalar flourish that opens the first movement of the "Paris" symphony (no. 31, K. 297, D major) a bold and emphatic shape, but the BSO responded with playing that was far from crisp and unified. There were pleasing moments -- the honeyed tone of the violins and lilting movement of the second movement -- but whether under-rehearsed or underwhelmed (it was hard to tell) this was a lackluster, sometimes maladroit performance.
The orchestra sounded more coordinated in Mozart's third violin concerto, backing up the patrician solo of Canadian violinist James Ehnes. On his "Marsick" Stradivarius (1715), Ehnes produced a clean, burnished tone, with meticulous articulation contrasting crunchy detached notes with smooth legato ones. It is a broad, gorgeous sound, not overblown or with a nervous vibrato, although he did tend to play just a scintilla sharp of where the orchestra was (intonation did not settle into place as it should have). Ehnes gave a performance that was nearly flawless -- just the last few high notes of the first movement's cadenza a little sour, for example -- but not quite engaging or daring, in spite of his considerable technique. The second movement was an effortlessly soaring, spun-out cantilena, and the folk episode of the third movement made up for a real clunker somewhere in the cello or bass section in an earlier episode of the movement.
Tim Smith, Louis Langree leads Baltimore Symphony in vivid night of Mozart, Debussy (Baltimore Sun, October 22)
Joe Banno, Louis Langree and the Baltimore Symphony do justice to Mozart and Debussy (Washington Post, October 22)
Marie Gullard, Violinist James Ehnes and BSO: Keeping Mozart fresh (Washington Examiner, October 19)
Next week, guest conductor Vasily Petrenko takes the reins of the BSO, in another less-than-daring program: Rimsky-Korsakov, Rachmaninoff, and Liszt's first piano concerto, with Barry Douglas as soloist (October 28 to 30).