What looked on paper to be a business-as-usual subscription program of standard-repertoire fare, at the Baltimore Symphony’s Strathmore Hall concert on Thursday, emerged as a memorable night of music-making.
Young keyboard phenom Conrad Tao commanded the solo part in Shostakovich’s Piano Concerto No 1, with playing of assertive virtuosity, razor-sharp articulation, and an embrace of both the rhapsodic and the anarchic in the writing. (In an encore, Tao further displayed his chops by whipping through a scorching rendition of the final movement from Prokofiev’s Seventh Piano Sonata.)
BSO principal trumpet Andrew Balio found just the right tone of cool detachment and dry wit in the trumpet figures Shostakovich weaves throughout his concerto as counterpoint to the piano and as sardonic musical commentary. No less arresting than the soloists was conductor Hannu Lintu. Gangly, emotive and idiosyncratic in his physicality on the podium, his sweeping, admirably clear baton technique drew from the orchestra beautifully gauged readings of the concerto, Beethoven’s Leonore Overture No 3 and Brahms’s Second Symphony. His was old-school conducting in the best sense of the term. With a scrupulous ear for instrumental color and blend, and a Karajan-like taste for seamless orchestral texture, Lintu rendered Beethoven’s and Brahms’s musical architecture with crystal clarity, kept phrasing supple and built climaxes organically, to powerful effect.
The BSO responded to him with warmly affectionate playing and tremendous concentration. The silken sheen on the upper strings and the burnished tone of the brass choir gave particular satisfaction.
Banno is a freelance writer.