Despite irritating flourishes, BSO displays some creativity with Vivaldi, Bach and Handel


Jonathan Carney, front. (Dave Hoffmann)

The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra offered an easy-listening concert on a balmy summer’s eve Thursday at Strathmore. Led by BSO concertmaster Jonathan Carney, the program consisted of well-known numbers by Vivaldi, Bach and Handel, with a movement from the “Holberg Suite” by Grieg. Although the orchestra was greatly reduced, it still lumbered in the faster pieces and made the harpsichord onstage basically an inaudible piece of furniture, but for a few anticipatory arpeggios.

Carney can be an irritating performer. His mannered and energy-wasting playing sometimes comes at the expense of accuracy. In his two solo numbers — “L’inverno” and “L’estate,” from Vivaldi’s “Le quattro stagioni” — he would sometimes play with his back to the audience, a la Miles Davis. And he was in over his head trying to lead the full ensemble while playing in Bach’s complex Orchestral Suite No. 3, whose faster sections were devoid of dynamics or internal shaping.

That said, the two concertos were full of individual touches bespeaking detailed creativity and thinking-through. Kudos to the BSO and especially principal cellist Dariusz Skoraczewski for successfully mastering Carney’s tempo flexibility and other dramatic flourishes. For the rest of the pieces, they were efficient run-throughs, the horns and oboes braying lustily and the trumpets, while not perfectly in tune, displaying shining tone and blend.

Battey is a freelance writer.

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