Conductor: Itzhak Perlman
Bach: Concerto in C Minor for Oboe and Violin, BWV 1060
Tchaikovsky: Serenade for Strings, Op. 48
Beethoven: Symphony No 5 in C Minor, Op. 67
As part of my back-to-normal program last week, and with complete disregard for my reluctance of going out on "amateur night" (in the burbs on top of it!), I finally went to hear the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra for the first time this year on Saturday night at Strathmore, their second home. But when Itzhak Perlman shows up, who wouldn't go? Not to mention that it was an all the more appealing outing as the uncontested premier violin virtuoso was going to play and conduct a back-to-the-classics trio of works by Bach, Tchaikovsky and Beethoven.
Bach's Concerto for Oboe and Violin was our one and only opportunity to witness our special guest's stunning skills at violin playing, and we had to focus all our attention on it because the piece was short and the solos, either his or the oboist's, did not particularly stand out but were subtly integrated into the music. To make the experience even more pleasant, the reduced orchestra gently emphasized the courtly intricacies of the concerto and allowed the spirited melodies to playfully shine.
After Bach's Baroque moment, I had the always welcome pleasure of hearing Tchaikovsky for the second time last week. Only the full string sections of the BSO were performing his appropriately titled Serenade for Strings, a welcome respite from all the resounding brass sounds of his 4th symphony that were still ringing in my ears. Reining in his trademark sentimentality and demonstrating a quasi-Mozartian elegance, the Russian composer used his extraordinary gift for melody to the fullest and created a truly lovely serenade. No stranger to refined lyricism himself, Itzhak Perlman made all those strings sing with passion and delicacy for an enchanting divertimento.
The main course of the evening was of course Beethoven's ground-breaking Symphony No 5, a classic among classics, and it was a BSO in full force that gave us another hair-raising interpretation of it. Proving that he could skillfully handle the German master's magnificent score, maestro Perlman kept the music coming and washing over the audience from the dark, urgent first movement through the quieter, happier ones all the way to the final triumph of life. A familiar journey for the vast majority of the sold-out audience for sure, but also another memorable take on it, proving once more that you can never get too much of a good thing.