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Alsop Leads Rouse's Flute Concerto

Christopher Rouse, composer
Christopher Rouse, composer
On Saturday evening in Baltimore's Meyerhoff Hall, Marin Alsop, in her spotlight on “living Beethovens,” led the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra in Christopher Rouse’s 1993 Flute Concerto. Alsop, in her remarks to the audience, labeled the work “one of the last century’s greats” and spoke of Rouse’s use of dissonance and consonance interspersed with clips played by the orchestra. In particular, Alsop “finds the consonant more painful than the prior dissonant” material found in the Elegia third movement -- a memorial to two-year-old James Bugler, murdered in 1993 by two ten-year-old boys in England. The outer Ànhran (Gaelic for ‘song’) movements featured BSO principal flutist Emily Skala playing a wistful tune over plaintive strings.

Remarkably, Rouse made sure that the flute soloist soared above the orchestra at all times, and the BSO was careful never to overwhelm the soloist. The energetic second and contemporary jig fourth movements balanced the concerto perfectly, creating truly unique textures between the fluttering winds and flute soloist, among others combinations. Skala’s simply beautiful playing was exquisitely reinforced by the close coordination of her BSO colleagues. Rouse’s virtuosic music is remarkably listenable for modern audiences, who were highly receptive at both the National Symphony’s performance of his Second Symphony last January (some friends purchased a subscription because of the Rouse), and Saturday evening in Baltimore where the composer received a generous ovation.

Other Reviews:

Tim Smith, The BSO barrels through Beethoven (Baltimore Sun, March 8)

Mark J. Estren, Baltimore Symphony Orchestra (Washington Post, March 8)

BSO sells Rouse's flute (Washington Times, March 8)
The program began with the Leonore Overture No. 3. Later in the Fifth Symphony Alsop, who was seemingly attempting to fuse the first two motifs as one gesture, began at a vigorous clip, leaving the orchestra stuck in the notes and at times scrambling to keep up with her. Glorious music making followed, once issues of tempo were resolved, with the cello section providing supple lines in the second movement, and brilliant statements with the basses in the third movement fughettta. The fourth movement was grand, though Alsop did not give sufficient bite to certain dissonant chords near the coda. It was pleasing to experience a program pairing a "living Beethoven" with the real thing.

The BSO’s new Dvořák CD is now for sale (review forthcoming), and the 2008-2009 season has just been announced.

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