Just as the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra was preparing to announce its 100th-anniversary season this week, its musicians were publicly complaining about morale. Whatever the problems behind the scenes, however, they were not apparent in the orchestra’s exceptionally beautiful all-Mozart concert this week at the Music Center at Strathmore.
Guest conductor Masaaki Suzuki recently finished a complete Bach cantata recording with Bach Collegium Japan, the historically informed performance ensemble he founded. In January, the group released a splendid recording of Mozart’s Requiem Mass, and Suzuki’s take on Mozart’s Great Mass in C Minor, K. 427, with the BSO at Strathmore suggesting that a most rewarding focus on Mozart is in his future.
Suzuki coaxed an incisive and beautifully balanced performance from the classical-period-sized orchestra. The smaller number of strings played almost entirely without vibrato, and the well-drilled University of Maryland Concert Choir sang in a mostly straight, white tone, with the soprano sound especially light. Crowning the choir’s work was a stupendous performance by Slovak soprano Simona Houda-Šaturová. Her voice was laser precise and perfectly placed from a firm low A-flat to a crystalline high C in her two solo movements.
The concert began no less admirably with the overture to “Don Giovanni,” with both fast and slow tempos pushed to extremes. Matching the soprano’s exploits was violinist Augustin Hadelich, who had an astonishing solo turn in Mozart’s fifth violin concerto; it was both technically and musically impeccable. As the final sign of his consummate musicianship, Hadelich played his own fascinating cadenzas, daringly laden with double-stops. A nightcap of Paganini’s ninth caprice, nicknamed “La Chasse,” a further study on double stops, was the perfect finish.
Downey is a freelance writer.