It wasn't as if Sergei Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 3 needed any more exposure after "Shine." Tuesday night's enthusiastic audience response at Wolf Trap suggests that the film has created yet another generation of admirers for this ubiquitous piece. It didn't help matters that Yuri Temirkanov, newly appointed conductor of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, led his forces through this over-digested fare highlighting the glitz at the expense of the few interesting notions Rachmaninoff had. Soloist Horacio Gutierrez tackled his role with obvious virtuosity but little color variation, even in the more lyrical passages.
An overactive Wolf Trap sound system so distorted the balance between pianist and the BSO that, even when the orchestra had some meaty material, it was smothered by an overweening keyboard juggling only subsidiary ideas. And Temirkanov did little to keep up momentum in a torrential deluge of climactic cadences, while orchestra and soloist frequently proceeded in opposite directions.
It was a good thing that Prokofiev's Fifth Symphony gave the orchestra a chance to show what a lustrous ensemble it is. Through all four movements, Temirkanov swept his players along in the broad strokes that Prokofiev enlists to invest the course of the music with steel and iron.
The Andante bristled with bellicose thrusts of jazzy rhythmic maneuvers and martial warnings from the trumpets and drums. (The symphony was premiered in Moscow in January 1945, just as Russian forces crossed the Vistula River on their way to invade Nazi Germany.) At other times, Temirkanov etched a landscape suspended precariously in a netherworld between chilling irony and raw pathos. The Prokofiev saved the day.