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In performance: Tchaikovsky at Strathmore

Web-only review:

BSO features young artists but few strings in Strathmore program
by Robert Battey

Precocious young soloists took center stage in an all-Tchaikovsky program Saturday evening, as the Baltimore Symphony continued its summer series at Strathmore. Economy seemed to be the watchword here; the orchestra was sadly undersized — a grand total of 10 low strings.

This made for poor balances in the brassy “Capriccio Italien,” and despite five names listed on the orchestra’s conducting roster, for this concert they reached down into the viola section for the evening’s maestro, Christian Colberg. With all that, plus the undoubtedly-modest honoraria paid the two 15-year-old soloists, the well-attended concert must certainly have amounted to a fiscal success.
(read more after the jump)

In the violin concerto, Sirena Huang, a mere slip of a girl, dug a strong, penetrating tone out of her fiddle, and her cadenza featured a number of original ideas (which I thought was impossible in a piece I’ve heard this often). Her intonation strayed the slightest bit during the more strenuous passage-work, and her vibrato will surely acquire more variety and expressive force in time. But this was a fully-formed reading, absolutely secure technically and full of delight.

Conrad Tao was similarly unfazed by the terrors of the big piano concerto; his poise throughout was that of a seasoned pro. He stretched out phrase-endings without a hint of self-consciousness, and tossed off the sweeping arpeggios of the first cadenza and the thundering octaves leading to the second one with calm perfection. As with Huang, his actual palette of sound and expressive devices is still in development, but the level this youth is operating on right now is amazing.

— Robert Battey
[edited to fix formatting]

By Robert Battey  |  July 18, 2010; 2:12 PM ET
Categories:  local reviews  
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After attending the Baltimore Symphony's performance last night, I found the entire evening extremely fulfilling (and it was evident by the ongoing applause that I was not alone in my sentiments). If you are familiar with the Orchestra's outreach programs you surely knew the the program's Conductor, Christian Colberg not only as a member of the Orchestra, but also as the primary instructor of the BSO's partnership with two Montgomery County public school Orchestras. (Unfortunately I didn't have the time to find recent articles on the project, but this describes it: ) I also thought the Orchestra played quite comfortably and expressively under the direction their fellow colleague which created a sense of closeness to the ensemble for the audience.

While the economy has clearly created budgetary constraints for all arts organizations, the BSO was able to provide the community with a top-notch presentation nonetheless. Not to mention, the two young "rising stars" were given a truly unique opportunity to play with one of the country's top Orchestras in one of the best concert halls today. Why would anyone argue against helping to foster young talent!

In my opinion, yesterday's concert was thoughtfully created, well executed, and bottom line was world-class music. Cheers, BSO.

Posted by: Bobsuncle | July 18, 2010 3:59 PM | Report abuse

If the BSO can produce concerts this good on the cheap, more power to them!

Posted by: kevinwparker | July 19, 2010 5:23 PM | Report abuse

A dissenting opinion:

Posted by: Lindemann777 | July 19, 2010 8:56 PM | Report abuse

(I don't mean to emphasize that I'm In Dissent about the concert, just didn't enjoy it as much as the esteemed Mr. Battey and the two commenters seemed to)

Posted by: Lindemann777 | July 19, 2010 8:58 PM | Report abuse

The piano concerto was marred by the pianist banging on the instrument rather than playing music on it. Banging on the piano makes noise, not music. The pianist should learn that now, at age 15, so that he doesn't think that audiences like his noisemaking. The playing was so bad that I left after the first movement. However, the evening was worth it to hear the wonderful playing by the violinist.

Posted by: je4421 | July 25, 2010 1:14 PM | Report abuse

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