Saturday, May 1, 2010

BSO - Leshnoff, Stravinsky & Rachmaninoff - 04/29/10

Conductor: Marin Alsop
Leshnoff: Starburst
Stravinsky: Violin Concerto in D Major - Gil Shaham
Rachmaninoff: Symphony No 2 in E Minor, Op. 27

What would the world be without the wonders of Russian classical music? the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and Marin Alsop obviously do not want to know because on Thursday evening at Strathmore their program was called "Russian Perfection". After a quick look, I saw that they were not kidding with Stravinsky's spirited violin concerto, performed by the same violinist as last year with the National Symphony Orchestra, child-prodigy-all-grown-up Gil Shaham, and Rachmaninoff's sumptuous Symphony No 2.

The concert, however, started with a short piece by a Baltimore-based composer who is really starting to make a name for himself, but which made me also wonder about the Russian connection. The name, maybe? Leshnoff? Then I heard his richly romantic, energetically melodic music and I realized that, regardless of his ancestry, there was a Russian connection right in his work... and that it was a very good thing indeed.
Next Gil Shaham was up with Stravinsky's short, but endlessly fun, when not downright idiosyncratic, violin concerto. Eons away from my beloved Romantic concertos, it is still a work that I very much enjoy for its virtuosic playfulness, and having the consummate musician that is Gil Shaham bring it to life was an especially irresistible treat. As predicted, soloist and orchestra had wonderful chemistry and the 20 minutes just flew by.
After Stravinsky's out-of-the-box endeavor, it was time for a grand lesson in full-blown Russian Romanticism with Rachmaninoff lavishly melodic second symphony. It is a good thing that the harsh reviews his first symphony received did not completely discourage him because his second effort proved an unqualified, and much deserved, success. Mostly well-know for its incredibly luscious, violin-driven third movement, the whole work remains one of the most treasured present Russia ever gave us, and that's saying a lot.

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