Works by Brahms, Barber bring Baltimore Symphony season to gentle close
If any objections were made in-house when Marin Alsop decided to close the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra’s 2009-2010 with the poignant, understated “Knoxville: Summer of 1915” by Samuel Barber and “A German Requiem,” the predominantly low-keyed choral masterpiece by Brahms, I’m glad they were ignored.
The cumulative effect of all the gentle lyricism proved quite affecting Thursday night at the Music Center at Strathmore. The remaining performances this weekend at Meyerhoff Symphony Hall ought to be just as satisfying, if not more so. (There probably won’t be another fainting chorister at the very end of the Brahms score – poor dear – or an ill-tuned woodwind chord in the same spot.)
I hope someone will remember to provide lighting at Meyerhoff so the audience, unlike that at Strathmore, has a chance to follow the words in the text-filled program, to be more directly connected to the music. I’m tired of making this complaint, but, until the BSO starts using supertitles as opera companies do (that would be my preference), there just has to be light.
I overheard complaints Thursday by patrons who didn’t enjoy being left in the dark, and I can’t blame them. Not everybody at these performances is
That said, most folks would surely have caught the gist of both works, for the performances were communicative and absorbing.
In “Knoxville,” soprano soloist Janice Chandler-Eteme sang with an exquisite warmth of tone and a sensitivity of phrasing that deftly conveyed the essence of this memory of childhood, family and internal uncertainty. The singer’s diction turned mushier the higher the vocal line rose, but the payoff was in the sweet sound she maintained. Alsop sculpted the orchestral side of things with admirable care; the playing had a consistently lovely glow.
The conductor was likewise attentive to subtleties of instrumental shading in the Requiem. Her tempos were a little businesslike at times, but she summoned considerable beauty of expression – and plenty of power for the score’s few heated moments – from the BSO and the Washington Chorus (the tenor section could have used more weight at times). Chandler-Eteme did shining work in her brief contribution. The bass solos were sung with a stirring richness of tone and phrase by Stephen Powell.
PHOTO OF JANICE CHANDLER-ETEME COURTESY OF BSO