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BSO at Strathmore, with Günther Herbig

Günther Herbig, conductorThe Baltimore Symphony at Strathmore offered patrons an inspiring evening of works by Mozart and Sibelius. Due to the cancellation of Schubert’s "Unfinished" Symphony, the Overture to The Marriage of Figaro was added to the program. The orchestra presented a warm, cohesive string tutti in which the wind section seamlessly blended in and out. Brisk runs by the string sections were sometimes so smooth as to seem slightly ungrounded, though the musicians’ keen sense of pleasure when playing this music made up for any shortcomings.

Next, violinist James Ehnes joined the orchestra in Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 2 in D Major. An excellent rapport in the Allegro Moderato first movement could be heard between the soloist and first violin section, led by Concertmaster Jonathan Carney. Indeed, it was Carney who principally led the orchestra stylistically, supplementing Maestro Günther Herbig’s understated approach. Although violin soloist James Ehnes appeared to yearn for a faster tempo in the first movement than the stately one chosen by Maestro Herbig, his playing was beautiful. Mr. Ehnes has the rare gift of being able to give note- and intonation-flawless performances, if perhaps without the magnetism that greater risk-taking might provide. His cadenza in the middle Andante movement was very poetic.

Other Reviews:

Tim Smith, Ehnes and Herbig mesh with BSO (Baltimore Sun, March 10)
The Symphony No. 1 of Sibelius opens with a quiet recitation of the theme by solo clarinet. Unfortunately, there was an extraordinary amount of coughing during this important moment. Later, the brilliant brass section’s controlled swells were powerful. In the Andante movement Maestro Herbig chose a perfect, contemplative tempo that allowed the mysterious repeated bass notes to become hypnotic. It is interesting that this movement later becomes playful – especially with the triangle – and then returns to the serious material from the beginning of the movement. The timpani’s turn at reciting the motif in the Scherzo -- a half-dozen or so notes -- was thrilling and the final movement was virtuosic in every sense.

The BSO takes this program back to Meyerhoff Symphony Hall in Baltimore for three more performances: tonight and tomorrow night (March 9 and 10, 8 pm) and Sunday afternoon (3 pm).

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