BSO offers dynamic program of Dvorak and Brahms
First, you will hear a vibrant account of Dvorak's Symphony No.8. Second, you will hear an extremely impressive delivery of Brahms' Piano Concerto No. 2.
Lastly, you will not have to sit anywhere near the rude, crude senior citizens who filled Row Y (orchestra left) behind me Thursday night at the Meyerhoff.
If there is any justice in the world, they will be confined henceforth to a maximum security twilight home, where they can only annoy each other. I've seen six-year-olds behave better at concerts than this lot, who chatted, argued, rustled, and hacked their way blithely through the evening (I wonder if the severely guttural gentleman in this mini-mob of mature miscreants finally found a spittoon).
OK, I feel better now. I just had to get that off my chest. Now, I can talk about the music.
A Brahms-Dvorak pairing works well on many levels, starting with the fact that ...
BSO music director Marin Alsop revealed her affinity for the Dvorak score in 2008 concerts with the orchestra. This reprise found the conductor even more attuned to the romantic urgings of the music, allowing the tenderest phrases to breathe and giving dance-like passages an extra kick.
For its part, the orchestra demonstrated admirable technical snap and produced a rich, well-balanced tone. The finale, in particular, proved gripping as conductor and players meshed tightly.
The orchestra also excelled in its collaborative role during the Brahms concerto, supporting an exceptional Russian pianist in his BSO debut -- Denis Kozhukhin, who took top prize at the 2010 Queen Elisabeth Competition in Brussels (Alsop was the conductor for the finals that year).
It's not surprising to hear young keyboard talents -- Kozhukhin is 26 -- tackle big, brawny scores like this one with aplomb. Sheer virtuosity is almost dead common these days. The rarer gifts are tonal variety and interpretive imagination.
Koxhukhin breezed through the challenges of the piece with uncanny calm and clarity, not to mention muscle for the most dramatic spots. But, all the while, he made sure that his tone never turned brittle, and he enlivened his phrasing telling, expressive coloring from the get-go. The ethereal shading he produced in the middle of the scherzo was but one example.
Alsop stayed with the soloist all the way and drew passionate playing from the BSO. Gabrielle Finck's sumptuous horn solo in the first movement and Dariusz Skoraczewski's radiant cello solo in the third were major assets in this highly satisfying performance.
The modest-sized audience made enough of a fuss after the concerto to get an encore from Kozhykhin, who obliged with an elegantly sculpted account of the Bach-Siloti B-minor Prelude. By this point, I had moved far away from Row Y (orchestra left), so the encore sounded even sweeter.