Mary Chapin Carpenter
Despite its size, Wolf Trap always feels like a more intimate venue because of the typical audience's enthusiasm and attentiveness. On Thursday night, Mary Chapin Carpenter fueled that energy with a lively performance, and the crowd responded by clapping along to the sassy "Shut Up and Kiss Me" and dancing during "Down at the Twist and Shout." The rowdiness died down during the quieter numbers, and the crowd's respectful silence reinforced Carpenter's strength as a performer.
Carpenter's jovial stage presence kept that attention even between songs. She joked that she needed to rewrite her old hit "I Feel Lucky" to downgrade the unrequited crushes she had on other country singers before her marriage (those revised lyrics: "Dwight Yoakam's in the corner, trying to catch my eye / Lyle Lovett's right beside me with his hand upon my thigh / My husband's got a nail gun and he's coming after you!").
Carpenter was even lighthearted about her songs' often-melancholy themes. She introduced "What Would You Say to Me?" as "another song about rejection, alienation and depression," and then laughed, exclaiming, "At least this one has a perky melody!"
It was those upbeat melodies that kept Carpenter's 90-minute set rolling along. Her five-piece backing band sustained the vigor, adding mandolins, guitars and a piano to her songs to expand her sound, filling the cavernous space but creating the ambiance of a small, open-air coffee shop.
-- Catherine P. Lewis
Baltimore Symphony Orchestra
Norwegian-born conductor Arild Remmereit has been making a name for himself by covering for indisposed music directors at the eleventh hour. Thursday night at the Music Center at Strathmore, he again proved his mettle by stepping in for an ailing Yuri Temirkanov with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra.
Remmereit led the orchestra in a particularly smooth and powerfully effective performance of Prokofiev's Symphony No. 7. From the darkly intense opening, conductor and orchestra together captured wry irony in the lighter portions of the work and sweeping drama in the Russian romanticism.
The orchestral soloists well deserved the standing ovation they received for Rimsky-Korsakov's dynamic "Russian Easter" Overture. Violin, cello, flute, clarinet, oboe and trombone all held forth mightily and lyrically as the spotlight shone on each of them. All the players looked elated as Remmereit brought the piece to a very thrilling conclusion.
Piano prodigy Kit Armstrong doesn't make it easy to get past the gee-whiz factor, especially since he looks four or five years younger than his actual age of 13. But the fact that he is on the professional circuit demands that he be evaluated as a concert pianist, not a curiosity.
There's no argument that his talents and showmanship are astonishing for his age. While one wouldn't claim that he sounds mature, his technique was crystal-clear and his approach musical; his serious face displayed a studied concentration beyond his years. Though more controlled than exuberant, his nearly note-perfect rendition of Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 1 was appropriately light and simple.