Watching British-born pianist Steven Hough and Finnish conductor Hannu Lintu ply their respective trades, you might not think that they’d be compatible music-makers. Hough is the very model of physical restraint. Lintu is all exuberance and big gestures, curling himself into the smallest possible space to encourage a pianissimo or swinging his long arms in huge sweeping circles as the music motors to a climax. But they joined forces with the Baltimore Symphony at Strathmore on Thursday for as glowing and compelling a performance of the Liszt Piano Concerto No. 2 in A as I’ve heard.
For all his composure, Hough has the ability to draw both unusually sonorous lines and explosive eruptions from the piano. His meanderings through the Lisztian thicket of finger-twisters look almost casual but emerge with exquisite balance and shape. Lintu proved to be an ideal partner, giving the orchestra its head as it expanded on a piano statement and letting the solo surface when needed, without ever seeming to tamp down the orchestral warmth. There were fuzzy edges to some of the orchestra’s entrances, but Liszt’s orchestrations almost invite that.