Sunday, February 1, 2009

At the Bal'timorsk Symphony

Last night was my first time getting to the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra this season. I was attracted to the BSO's all-Russian program, led by guest conductor Vasily Petrenko, and reading Tim Smith's review on Clef Notes of Thursday night's "incendiary" performance cemented my resolve to go into the city a second time this weekend. Incendiary, yes. The conclusion of the first movement of Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No. 1 drew some spontaneous applause, which pianist Stephen Hough kindly acknowledged. Before proceeding with the rest of the concerto, he had to mop the perspiration from the keys. I also enjoyed hearing Liadov's "Kikimora" in live performance, and Petrenko led us on an unforgettable symphonic journey with the titanic Shostakovich 8th. The BSO turned the symphony's serene closing passages into one of those world-halting moments in the concert hall that silence all the noise of outside distractions.

After reading all the bad news about financial troubles, I was glad to see the Meyerhoff quite packed last night. The sections where I prefer to sit were almost full. I was able to get a seat there, buying my ticket at the box office on the evening of the concert, but I didn't have the usual luxury of moving to a less crowded row, if I had wanted to do so. The box office employee also informed me that rush tickets were not available last night, because sales had been rather good for this performance.

Further to good news in spite of recent cutbacks: According to the BSO's Overture magazine, they recently hired two new musicians. They are bassoonist Fei Xie, 26, and associate principal hornist Gabrielle Finck, 29.

There is a large Russian community in and around Baltimore. I have stopped being surprised when I hear Russian being spoken in the city, but last night I seemed to overhear it more as I passed by groups of people in the lobby. (So I sometimes fondly refer to Charm City as Bal'timorsk.)

Only one cell phone went off during the concert, as far as I could hear from my section. That's still one cell phone too many, and I recall hearing one the last time I attended a BSO concert. Please, please remember to turn them OFF -- or leave them in the car or at home????

I like this different but positive view of music in general with commentary on this concert in particular in the last paragraph. The link is to a post by "introverted excavator".

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