Conductor: Marin Alsop
Barber: Adagio for Strings
Bartok: Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta
Beethoven: Piano Concerto No 5 in E-flat Major, Op. 73, "Emperor" - André Watts
Yesterday evening another one of my subscriptions bit the dust with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and its three "B's" program, two-third of which were different from the traditional German trio of Bach, Beethoven and Brahms. Although Beethoven stayed put, his presence personified by his much loved Emperor concerto that was to be performed by long-time Romantic pianist André Watts, the more international and contemporary rest of the cast included the American Barber and his ever-popular Adagio for Strings as well as the Hungarian Bartok and his lesser-known but intriguing sounding "Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta". So all conditions seemed to converge to conclude yet another successful BSO season with an all-around high-quality concert.
I have had the pleasure of hearing the Adagio for Strings just a few weeks ago with the National Symphony Orchestra and John Adams, but that's really the type of work that can easily bear repeated listening, very straightforward yet imperceptibly involving just the same. Last night, the BSO's strings made beautifully atmospheric music together, both intense and subtle, impeccably soaring throughout the concert hall.
The following piece by Bartok was as eclectic as they come, with the first and third movements slow and abstract, the second and fourth obviously inspired by Hungarian folk tunes. Rarely performed, it was a decidedly complex blend of cerebral and earthy, vividly played by an orchestra in more than fine form.
Last, but not least, came the masterwork of the program: Beethoven's epic Emperor, ironally composed while Napoléon and his armies were besieging Vienna. Having André Watts as the soloist was of course a reassuring sight, and he easily met our high expectations. His performance was strongly heart-felt and delicately nuanced, the exquisite lilting of the piano standing strong against the more robust sounds from the orchestra. A classic ending to another classical season... May there be many more!