Louis Langree leads Baltimore Symphony in vivid night of Mozart, Debussy
Louis Langree, the second French guest conductor to appear with the orchestra this month, drew a combination of elegance, finesse and drama from the musicians Friday night at the Meyerhoff.
The elegance and finesse I was expecting; the drama, not so much. But there it was, right at the opening of Mozart's Symphony No. 31, delivered with true gusto and not a little grit.
All the lyrical charm of the piece emerged, too, but I admired the way Langree had the players really digging into the notes, not just skating across them.
Mozart's supremely refined Violin Concerto No. 3 also received a fine account. Langree's model attentiveness ensured a warm framework for the soloist, James Ehnes.
His sweetness of tone and warmth of phrasing paid especially memorable dividends in the slow movement -- each time the violinist sculpted the arc of the recurring motive, the effect proved ever more poetic.
Two of Debussy's hit-parade contributions concluded the evening -- "Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun" and "La Mer." Each seemed ...
to exude freshness of color, phrase and rhythmic motion.
The Prelude, thanks to some in the audience, sounded more like the "Cough-ternoon of a Faun," but the conductor nonetheless kept his concentration. The the music flowed beautifully, with many an exquisite subtlety of dynamics or tempo adding extra character. The solo work in the orchestra proved quite eloquent. The strings purred beguilingly.
Langree likewise shaped Debussy's vivid tone poem of the sea with great care, nuance and personality. Just one highlight was the way he paced the gleaming crescendo that caps the first movement, achieving remarkable expressive impact. Except for some questionable intonation in the closing moments of the second movement (a case of mal de mer, perhaps), the orchestra again delivered impressive music-making.
PHOTO (by Benjamin Ealovega) COURTESY OF BSO