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Baltimore Symphony Orchestra
Maybe they didn't have to rub it in so much. On Thursday evening at Meyerhoff Hall, the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, led by the gifted maestro Roberto Minczuk, gave a must-hear concert of consistent quality and polish. Yet, in placing a beautifully shaped and luminous Beethoven symphony next to a surprisingly even-keeled concerto of his teacher and sometime rival Hadyn, the performance gave a distorted view of the relationship between these two towering masters. Yes, Beethoven went beyond Haydn, but he certainly never left him completely in the dust.
Haydn's Cello Concerto in D is a pleasant enough work with flowing tunes and some colorful orchestral accompaniment. Missing is the overflowing charm typically associated with his works. The concerto does place the spotlight squarely on the soloist, and BSO principal cellist Ilya Finkelshteyn made the most of it with some lovingly shaped themes that highlighted the cello's burnished sound. Even if the music drew less on Finkelshteyn's virtuosity than his ability to phrase cleanly, he played with panache and flair after settling down in a tepid opening movement.
In comparison, Beethoven's Symphony No. 4 in B-flat, Op. 60, was all color and energy. In the trick cadences and passages of uncommon tenderness, Beethoven shows his brilliant fusion of the wit of his teacher with a newfound sense of poetry.
Credit for that spontaneity goes to Minczuk, who led an incisive account that prized detail and clarity of texture. The chamber-size orchestra -- anchored by the broad shouldered tympani -- brought crystalline organization and rhythmic verve.
-- Daniel Ginsberg