Dmitri Shostakovich often subverted expectations when it was time to end his works, as evidenced by two pieces performed Friday night by the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra at Meyerhoff Hall. For starters, the collapse of the already-rickety rhythm in the "Age of Gold" suite's brief polka worked as a simple yet effective punch line, one which Music Director Yuri Temirkanov and the BSO delivered with expert timing and emphasis.
Shostakovich's Piano Concerto No. 1, for which Ignat Solzhenitsyn joined the BSO, begins with more serious stuff: a muted tension that evolves gradually into open anguish. Solzhenitsyn brought an introspective, ruminative feel to even the most virtuosic passages, with empathetic support from the BSO strings. But in the last movement, principal trumpeter Andrew Balio took over with peppy fanfares, forcing Solzhenitsyn to join the parade. The tragic catharsis that seemed to be coming was felt only by its absence, which Solzhenitsyn's performance made palpable.
Hector Berlioz didn't even bother to nod at expectations with the ending of his "Symphonie Fantastique," which is full of novel, sometimes grotesque orchestral effects and bizarre romantic drama. Temirkanov's propulsive and poetic performance, however, emphasized how much Berlioz's manipulations of the obsessively recurring theme in the work's first three movements owe to Beethoven, who had died only two years before the work was written. With the proper context established and the BSO winds and percussion going all-out, the last two movements became even more strange and arresting than usual -- a good way to close a night of surprising endings.
-- Andrew Lindemann Malone