Baltimore Chamber Orchestra strings together a pleasant season finale
The big item on Sunday was Tchaikovsky's Serenade, and BCO music director Markand Thakar shaped the well-worn score with considerable care. Phrases were given room to blossom fully, and keen attention was paid to dynamic subtleties, especially at the pianissimo end. The players did impressive work; I don't think I've ever heard this orchestra's string sections sound quite so luxurious.
Thakar turned the first half of the concert over to Christopher Chen, an Australian conductor who did some of his training at Peabody and who runs an arts center in China where the BCO performed this past New Year's. Chen fashioned a smooth, if a little too laid-back, performance of the Bachianas Brasileiras No. 5 by Villa Lobos (a string orchestra arrangement of the familiar version for soprano and cellos). He then assured attentive, vibrant support from the orchestra for Xiang Gao, an impressive Chinese soloist, in the C major Violin Concerto by Haydn.
Gao's tone had an appealing sweetness (a few frayed edges aside), and his phrasing was consistently elegant. His style may have been more Mendelssohn than Haydn, but the lyricism proved quite engaging. Gao was joined by
Four concerts have been planned for the BCO's 2010-11 season. Concertmaster Madeline Adkins (she has clearly been a positive influence in that chair) will step into the limelight for Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto in a November program that includes Beethoven's Seventh. BCO fans will get a New Year's-style concert of light Viennese music in early January.
Noted flutist Chris Norman will play some Bach in a February program that also features string serenades by Dvorak and Elgar. And the season will close in April with Haydn's "Surprise" Symphony, Brahms' Double Concerto (violinist David Perry, cellist Michael Mermagen) and -- the only offbeat item on the season lineup -- Ives' Symphony No. 3.
PHOTO OF MARKAND THAKAR COURTESY OF BCO