Baltimore Symphony, Opera Show, Mobtown Modern

01.23.10
Garrick Ohlsson
The Baltimore Sun

By Tim Smith

My latest week of musical experiences included a first-rate concert by the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra Friday night at Meyerhoff Hall. If you can make it to Strathmore Saturday night or Meyerhoff on Sunday afternoon, I think you'll find it well worth the effort.

Yes, I'm still disappointed that a change in conductors -- Jiri Belohlavek had to cancel after injuring his back over the holidays, and Gunther Herbig stepped in -- meant some adjustments to the program. Out went rarely encountered works by Dvorak and Janacek and in came Schumann's considerably more common Symphony No. 4. But the performance Herbig led of that symphony was hardly common.

There's no mistaking this conductor's authority in the German repertoire (and much more), and there was no missing the structural unity, expressive warmth and rhythmic solidity of his interpretation. He had the players responding with admirable discipline and lyrical sweep. Concertmaster Jonathan Carney and assistant principal oboist Shea Scruggs offered particularly shining solos.

The rest of the program, devoted to Beethoven, remained the same as originally slated. The Piano Concerto No. 3 proved a superb vehicle for the soloist, Garrick Ohlsson -- come to think of it, is there any work that isn't a superb vehicle for this brilliant American pianist? He did some marvelous things here, especially in the first movement cadenza (a mix of fiery spontaneity and wonderful dabs of subtle coloring) and throughout the Largo (his poetic touch was magical). Herbig provided attentive support, and, excepting a thinning out of tone in the violins, the ensemble responded vibrantly. A taut account of the "Coriolan" Overture got the evening started.