BSO, Bach and the Brandenburgs prove to be potent draw
Sure, it's the time of year when pops fare is more the norm with orchestras across the country. And, yes, the BSO has had trouble selling some summer classical events in the past.
But, as Friday night's marathon of the complete Brandenburg Concertos at Meyerhoff Hall proved (at least to me), there is still plenty of room for the BSO to do besides something besides play John Williams film scores and back up tribute bands.
There was a very good turnout for this Bach event, which was a late addition to the originally announced summer season. And the audience sure sounded like it was fully engaged in the experience of hearing all six Brandenburgs in a single evening.
I found myself thinking again that there just has to be a market for a nice little series of summertime greatest hits-type programming -- how about three evenings devoted to the kind of music that makes you fall for classical in the first place? Instead of pops, popular classical -- there's a big difference.
If Bach can do so well here on a July night, surely an evening that features, say, ...
Handel's "Water Music" would be a hit, too -- as well-loved as that work is, you don't get a chance to enjoy a live performance by a top-notch orchestra every day. And that's just to keep with the baroque theme.
You know it wouldn't take long to put together a short series of programs filled with great, highly popular stuff that would be fun for the orchestra and fun for listeners. Hard to believe it's just not feasible from a marketing, or any other, standpoint.
But enough of my annual kvteching. What about Friday night?
Each of the concertos was led by a BSO string player -- concertmaster Jonathan Carney or associate concertmaster Madeline Adkins for the concertos with violins, principal violist Richard Field for the fiddle-less No. 6.
Fuzziness of articulation and loss of cohesiveness cropped up from time to time. And, while fast movements typically flew by (the finale of No. 3 may have set a speed record), some of the slow movements felt a little draggy (the Adagio in No. 6, for example, seemed far from "ma non troppo").
That said, this was still a good showing by the BSO -- a chamber-sized version thereof. There was a consistent warmth to the playing all evening, a sense of everyone onstage fully relishing Bach's melodic spark and contrapuntal brilliance.
Solo highlights (in order of appearance) included oboist Katherine Niedleman's lyrical phrasing in No. 1; the sweet blending of Adkins and flutists Marcia Kamper and Genevieve Briggs in No. 4; Andrew Balio's crystalline trumpet playing in No. 2; and Lura Johnson's no-holds dash through the extensive harpsichord cadenza in No. 5 (she was a sturdy, stylish collaborator all night).
PHOTO OF MARCIA KAMPER (by Christian Colberg) COURTESY OF BSO