In the Summer Heat, BSO's Breath of Spring

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Under Hugh Wolff's baton, the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra gave Robert Schumann's Spring Symphony a well-crafted reading at its concert Thursday night at Strathmore Hall. The piece was a great showcase for both the BSO's tight brass section and its fine string ensemble. Wolff managed dynamic and stylistic contrasts ably, and the few intonation problems in the performance could easily be forgiven on this sweltering summer evening.

Eighteen-year-old pianist Yuja Wang attacked her instrument with ferocity in the opening of Franz Liszt's Piano Concerto No. 1. Wang didn't shy away from strong moves, and she had some very effective subtle moments, too. The second movement was especially playful, with Wang's gossamer touch. The orchestra was equally enthusiastic, performing with lyric intensity.

The only piece that was not carried off entirely convincingly was William Walton's Facade Suite No. 1. An orchestral arrangement of his delightfully quirky accompaniment to poems by Edith Sitwell, the suite was a pleasing melange of 1920s dance-hall music. But, as if uncomfortable with the angular rhythms and shifting tempos, the orchestra struggled to keep up with itself. Solo wind passages were excellent, but at other points the sections were sometimes rough around the edges. By the final tarantella, however, the piece came together in a satisfying fashion.

-- Gail Wein


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