It’s been less than three years since the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra performed Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony at Strathmore, but here it was again, on Saturday evening. In 2009, the orchestra’s frequent guest conductor, Gunter Herbig, led a restrained but highly cultured reading, with a particularly outstanding contribution from the Baltimore Choral Arts Society. Under the baton of Peter Oundjian, Saturday’s performance was more vigorous, if less nuanced.
The program, which paired the Ninth with Anton Bruckner’s “Te Deum,” again showcased the remarkable Baltimore chorus, led by Tom Hall. Rather than sitting together by section, singers of different voice types are placed randomly throughout the chorus. While this presents real challenges to a conductor, who needs to communicate with particular sections at key moments, it makes each singer feel more individually responsible for delivering his or her part accurately. It also improves blend. The voices rang out with resplendent confidence, and the sopranos had no apparent difficulty reaching the cruel and challenging high B’s in the piece. The chorus’s performance was the best part of the concert.