Constantine, Khachatryan Take BSO to Great Heights

Saturday, March 4, 2006

Supple conducting and luminous violin playing highlighted a variegated, highly satisfying Baltimore Symphony Orchestra concert at Strathmore on Thursday night. Replacing Yuri Temirkanov, who is in Russia for personal reasons, Andrew Constantine conducted his first full-scale BSO classical concert skillfully and thoughtfully.

The opening "Intrada" by Adolphus Hailstork, written in 1991 for the BSO's 75th anniversary, was brief, bright and brassy.

Sibelius's Violin Concerto, featuring Sergey Khachatryan's BSO debut, was a marvel. Khachatryan engaged the audience with softness and silence, not just technical brilliance. In the three years since making his much-praised Sibelius recording at 18, Khachatryan has significantly deepened his interpretation. Now he has fully mastered the work's intricate details, offering poetically delicate playing atop underlying strength.

Sibelius has the orchestra complement and compete with the soloist without overshadowing him. Constantine understood this perfectly, even conducting the second movement without baton, the better to shape the sound.

The concert's second half offered contrasting fairy-tale visions from Prokofiev. His youthful and self-referential "The Ugly Duckling" was sung by mezzo-soprano Barbara Rearick, in English translation, with a clear and expressive voice. The heartfelt interpretation was abetted by fine orchestral tone painting.

The zestful Suite No. 1 from "Cinderella" (with the Mazurka unaccountably omitted) was a tour de force. High points were the sardonic "Pas de Chat," the sumptuous yet acerbic waltz and the dramatic dissonances of "Midnight."

The concert will be repeated at Meyerhoff Hall in Baltimore at 8 tonight and 3 p.m. tomorrow. It's worth the trip.

-- Mark J. Estren

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