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Weekend review lineup 2: Baltimore Chamber Orchestra

The Baltimore Chamber Orchestra has reached its 29th season in what sounds like fine shape, to judge by the opening concert Sunday afternoon at Goucher College.

That the ensemble can afford only three programs a season (a recitalist provides a fourth) reveals the lingering financial pressure, but this is one determined group.

It has a new slogan, too: "Baltimore's Classical Orchestra." I'm not sure what the marketing advantage might be, but this may help lure folks who get the wrong idea when they see "chamber." And it does point up the programming emphasis on Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven, Schubert, etc.

On Sunday, two repertoire staples ...

were on the bill. Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto gave concertmaster Madeline Adkins an opportunity to shine, and shine she did. Adkins, who is also associate concertmaster of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, invariably produces a refreshing spark when she plays.

Hers may not be the sweetest or most purely defined tone, but it has personality and impact. Same for her phrasing, which is enriched by a juicy application of portamento. Adkins moved surely, spiritedly through the concerto and enjoyed smooth backing from her colleagues, led by BCO music director Markand Thakar.

Adkins was back in the first chair for the second half of the concert, devoted to Beethoven's "Eroica." There are historically solid reasons to perform such a work with an orchestra of under 40. There's also a benefit in the way that musical lines can emerge with greater clarity. That said, I did miss a bigger, beefier sound in this symphony, so packed as it is with dramatic flourishes.

Still, Thakar paced the score effectively and drew generally polished, ardent work from the musicians. There was a strong kick to the first movement and a welcome breadth in the funeral march. The scherzo was a little short on wattage (the horns did admirable work here), but the finale percolated with a good deal of character.


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