The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra concert at Strathmore on Thursday was a surprising mix of the serious and the lighthearted. Even the most serious composers occasionally move away from serious composition, although it may take extenuating circumstances to get them to do so. Shostakovich wrote his "Festival Overture" because the Soviet government told him to stop moping and write some festive music or face the consequences. He did, and it was played at a thrilling and breakneck pace by the BSO.
Wagner wrote "Der Meistersinger" because his pocketbook wouldn't withstand another unperformable epic like The "Ring" cycle, and the arrangement presented by conductor Mark Wigglesworth captured some favorite moments from Wagner's lone comic opera; it was played with extraordinary energy.
The only problem was the Dvorak Cello Concerto performed by BSO principal cellist Ilya Finkelshteyn. Though classical music does not have to be serious, the experience is diminished if the performer does not take it seriously. The lack of effort on the part of the cellist -- failing to memorize the score and spending the rests doodling along with the orchestra -- was detrimental to the visual effect and the sound of the piece.
The performers have an obligation to do their best for the people coming to the concert, and although in the end the audience clapped and cheered, it is sad to think that a good concert might have been great with more effort.
-- Claire Marie Blaustein