The virtue of musical comfort food, tastefully served up by Baltimore Symphony
I thought it was terrific to get such a greatest hit as Rossini's "William Tell" Overture served as an appetizer for still more musical comfort food -- Chopin's Piano Concerto No. 2 and Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 2. This kind of program is good for the soul every now and then.
"William Tell" is a splendid overture from any angle, and would still be a classic if it's final section had never ended up being borrowed to give "The Lone Ranger" a theme song.
I was thinking Friday night at Meyerhoff Hall that the music's long-ago radio/TV association probably doesn't even register with most of today's text-me generation. So, before too long, orchestras will be able to program the overture without the slightest worry that titters and chit-chat might break out during a performance when the famous trumpet fanfare erupts.
In the age-diverse crowd sitting around me on Friday, I noticed only a few older concertgoers nudge each other and break into smiles. The high school/college guys showed no change of posture or expression. But I digress.
Rossini poured some wonderful stuff into this score, and guest conductor
The Chopin concerto provided an effective vehicle for Argentinian pianist Ingrid Fliter, a recipient of the highly valued Gilmore Award. She took a refreshingly brisk approach to the music that, even for all of its vitality, managed to honor the poetic side quite winningly. Fliter summoned abundant variety of tone and phrasing along the way, and she enjoyed attentive partnering from Graf and the ensemble.
For an encore, the pianist delivered Chopin's "Minute" Waltz in what seemed like only a minute, but with delectable tonal and rhythmic nuances along the way.
Tchaikovsky's Second Symphony had some notable advocates way back when -- Mahler conducted it, Stravinsky adored it -- but, like the First and Third, it gets rather short-changed in our day. Too bad. The Second is quite the tune-fest, bubbling over the Russian folk song, and it offers a lesson in sparkling orchestration. Above all, it's fun.
Graf shaped a taut, dynamic performance that featured a typically glowing horn solo by Phil Munds and plush sounds from the strings. The rest of the ensemble, too, jumped in with a vibrant flair. All in all, a filling meal.
PHOTO (FLITER by Sussie Ahlburg, GRAF by Christian Steiner) COURTESY OF CM ARTISTS