"Peeling the Onion" might have been a good title for the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra's Thursday evening concert at Strathmore Hall. With conductor Douglas Boyd at the podium, the BSO pulled apart and brought together each layer of orchestral sound in a light, enjoyable program. In an incisive and lucid performance, the BSO spotlighted each instrument and revealed the rich colors of the orchestra.
After a warm brass fanfare, the engaging British conductor took a moderate tempo in Dvorak's Serenade for Winds in D Minor, Op. 44, and found all of the music's alternating dramatic, dreamy and pastoral character. Tender lyricism merged with pulsing rhythms to trace the broad outlines of this sunny score, while ascending clarinet and oboe solos colorfully detailed these flowing textures. One could have imagined tighter phrasing, but the zesty outer movements careened along with spark and energy.
The BSO strings captured the tonal splendor of Elgar's Introduction and Allegro as the quartet of string section principals traded off lush, romantic phrases with the rest of the strings. Somber cellos and basses emphasized the nostalgic, almost elegiac atmosphere that movingly commemorated the victims of the day's attacks in London.
Everything came together in Britten's "Variations and Fugue on a Theme of Purcell," Op. 34, with each section carrying the main theme and helping to bring out the work's grandeur and energy. The playing in Igor Stravinsky's "Fireworks" was brilliantly integrated and polished.
-- Daniel Ginsberg