In time to celebrate its 25th season, 2011-2012, Concert Artists of Baltimore will put the Baltimore back into its name.
For about a decade or so now, this combination orchestra/chorus has been based at the acoustically splendid Gordon Center in Owings Mills. Next season, it will play three concerts at Peabody Conservatory's Friedberg Hall (Oct. 9, Jan. 14, March 24) and another at the Modell Performing Arts Center at the Lyric (May 5). Programming details haven't been announced.
The organization, founded and directed by conductor Edward Polochick, has not always been able to generate a strong turnout at the Gordon Center, despite the venue's easy access and acoustical advantage. It will be interesting to see the response to the idea of a downtown location next season.
As for the current Concert Artists season, it wrapped up Saturday night at the Gordon Center with another in its periodic series of musical portrait concerts, this one devoted to ...
Rossini. A good-sized audience was on hand to hear some highly spirited music-making and a lot of commentary by Jonathan Palevsky of WBJC-FM. (I was probably in the minority, but I found the ratio of talk to music out of whack.)
The performance highlight was a terrific account of the "William Tell" Overture; it would been better placed at the end of the concert, rather than the start of the second half. Polochick lavished care on the cello-rich opening and the players, led by Evelyn Elsing, responded in glowing style. Each unfolding segment of the overture finale seemed to inspire the ensemble as the conductor kept the expressive engines firing.
I've heard a good deal of disciplined, dynamic work from this orchestra, but this may well have delivered the most visceral impact yet.
The chorus strutted its generally impressive stuff in an excerpt from the "Petite Messe Solennelle" and, especially, a couple of selections from "Sins of My Old Age."
Several chorus members stepped into the solo spotlight. Christine Kavanagh was quite the stand-out in the "Inflammatus est" from the "Stabat Mater." The soprano let loose with a bright, well-controlled tone and added full operatic weight to the phrasing. William Davenport offered an ardent "Ecco Ridente" from "The Barber of Seville."
Sarah Berger and Annabel Wherley meowed and purred amusingly through the "Cat Duet," with Polochick providing colorful accompaniment at the keyboard. Melissa Kornacki and Timothy Kjer had fun with a duet from "I'Italiana in Algeri," and they were joined by other likewise energetic colleagues for the Act 1 finale from that opera.