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Alisa Weilerstein and the BSO

Cellist Alisa Weilerstein, photo by Lucio Lecce
Titled “Wonder Women,” the Thursday evening concert by the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra was a part of Strathmore’s celebration of women in the arts. The evening featured 2006 Taki Concordia Conducting Fellowship (TCCF) winner Rei Hotoda, a work by Jennifer Higdon, cellist Alisa Weilerstein, and, of course, Marin Alsop. Alsop described the TCCF in her verbal welcome, stating that the program has been her “baby” since founding it in 2002. The TCCF offers one woman per year the opportunity to study with Alsop and conduct select works on various programs with Alsop. Rei Hotoda opened the concert with Jennifer Higdon's concise Fanfare ritmico. This brief piece, though show-casing the brilliant orchestration skills of Hidgon, perhaps was not the best work to let Hotoda shine on the podium – there was not a single tempo change, nor flexibility in the entire seven-minutes! One was eager to see the newly appointed Assistant Conductor of the Winnepeg Symphony Orchestra given further opportunity to lead the BSO in more of the program.

The rest of the program consisted of works involving nostalgia: Elgar's cello concerto, which longs for the era prior to WWI, and the Symphony No. 9 (“From the New World”) of Dvořák. Cellist Alisa Weilerstein (reviewed last season at Ionarts in a recital at the Corcoran and with the NSO) had the lovely ability to stretch a phrase as long as possible; one wished that all of the BSO string sections had had the same inclination. Weilerstein’s handling of the dramatic ascending scale was perfect. Her incredible bow control, comfortable virtuosity, and willingness to subtly lead ahead of the orchestra in terms of tempo easily allowed one to forget the occasional awkward interval.

The Dvořák will be recorded at this weekend’s Meyerhoff performances for a three-CD project for Naxos, which includes Symphonies 5 to 9 and the Symphonic Variations of Dvořák. The themes, many of which are based on African-American spirituals, were nice, though one wished for more of the brisk harmonic motion that is found at the end of movements one and four in more of the work. The concert was followed by a question-and-answer session with the trio of "Wonder Women."

The BSO will repeat this concert tonight (June 8, 8 pm), tomorrow evening (June 9, 8 pm), and Sunday afternoon (June 10, 3 pm), in Meyerhoff Symphony Hall in Baltimore.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for an evenhanded and perceptive review! This is such a pleasure, when so many "critics" try to impress the reader with their erudition or have an axe to grind.