Hersh, BSO deliver vivid 'Nutcracker'; program also offers Cabell's radiant Ravel

11.09.16
Nicholas Hersh
Baltimore Sun

One of the coolest programs of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra's season so far packed in evocative works by Adams and Ravel, along with Act 2 of Tchaikovsky's evergreen ballet, "The Nutcracker."

BSO associate conductor Nicholas Hersh was his usual dynamic self on the podium -- OK, maybe just a little too demonstrative at times -- in a concert that drew a modest-sized audience to Meyerhoff Symphony Hall last week. (Empty seats have been awfully noticeable for BSO concerts this fall.)

Hersh had the ensemble chugging along nimbly and colorfully in "The Chairman Dances," a subtly infectious passage that Adams cut from his operatic masterpiece, "Nixon in China." The performance capped by a perfect fade-out.

Hersh drew sensitive playing from the BSO throughout.

The opportunity to hear a full-sized, first-rate orchestra play more than a mere suite from "Nutcracker" doesn't come around often.

The fully symphonic richness of the music for Act 2 emerged in the BSO account, which Hersh molded with a smooth balance of propulsion and breadth. The big lyrical moments had a wonderful sweep, nowhere more intensely than in the grand Pas de deux.

Aside from the occasional ragged note, the orchestra again impressed. The violas' nimble articulation of the counterpoint at the top of the opening movement; the silken violins in the Arabian Dance; the cellos' warmth in that Pas de deux -- just a few highlights in a rewarding performance of brilliant music that is all too often taken for granted.

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