BSO Salutes St. Petersburg

"Vivat! St. Petersburg," Baltimore's three-week festival celebrating the 300th anniversary of Russia's cultural capital, launched on Thursday night with a hair-raising concert by the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra in the bright acoustics of Meyerhoff Hall. St. Petersburg resident and BSO Musical Director Yuri Temirkanov fired up this highly polished orchestra, and the sparks flew in Russian music that soared like the Italianate palaces of the city on the Neva.

The stellar virtuoso Vadim Repin made his gleaming Stradivarius sing in Shostakovich's Violin Concerto No. 1 in A Minor, Op. 77, one of the supreme post-World War II musical achievements. As much in the celestial opening movement as in the poignant passacaglia, the Russian violinist brought a strong, expressive tone that captured the anguished spirit of the work. The cadenzas were memorable for their almost orchestral sonority, diversity of color and white-hot rhythm, and even as Repin careered through some of the more grotesque passages, grace and power merged to masterful effect.

A commanding Temirkanov helped the BSO get inside Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 5 in E Minor, Op. 64. Through snappy phrasing, the BSO strings displayed a newfound edginess that infused the reading with energy. Some splendid woodwind solos in the opening were matched only by the stentorian brass chorales of the finale. The tender Adagio was like an aged cognac: warm, hearty and golden.

-- Daniel Ginsberg

Pianist Jacky Terrasson

Pianist Jacky Terrasson nearly painted himself into a corner at the Kennedy Center's KC Jazz Club on Thursday night. Dominating his trio's opening set were severely overworked or harmonically undernourished pop standards, including Cole Porter's "Love for Sale," Stevie Wonder's "Isn't She Lovely?" and the melody that's nearly impossible to escape this time of year, Rodgers and Hart's "My Funny Valentine."

But Terrasson's interpretations of these tunes, as well as Charlie Chaplin's emblematic theme "Smile," proved consistently fresh and inventive. Working hand-in-glove with bassist Brandon Owens and drummer Eric Harland, Terrasson didn't rearrange the familiar tunes so much as reimagine them, adding sly introductions and bold tangents, surprising shifts in tempo and meter, and some playfully evocative touches.

"Love for Sale," for example, initially found Terrasson at the piano, muting the strings with one hand and kneading a little funk groove with the other. Then he moved over to a synthesizer, where he orchestrated the piece so that it alternately conjured the days when the Fender Rhodes keyboards and the Hammond B-3 organs routinely reverberated in jazz clubs.

In sharp contrast, Terrasson's take on "My Funny Valentine," the evening's only solo piano offering, sounded as if it were inspired by a modern dance piece juxtaposing balletic movements with bursts of dramatic tension. The trio's version of Bud Powell's "Parisian Thoroughfare," with its curious twists in time, tone and texture, was elegant as well, though far more animated and swinging. It was also the evening's best example of how Terrasson feeds off the kinetic energy supplied by his band mates, and vice versa.

-- Mike Joyce

Musical Director Yuri Temirkanov put the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra through its paces Thursday night.