Multimedia weekend includes Concert Artists/James Westwater collaboration

Big screens in concert halls were all the rage over the weekend.

While the Baltimore Symphony was offering its audiences a multimedia experience with the 1938 Eisenstein/Prokofiev classic "Alexander Nevsky," Concert Artists of Baltimore incorporated contemporary "photochoreography" into a program of lush 20th century music.

For the opening and closing works of the Concert Artists event Saturday night at the Gordon Center, the orchestra was flanked by a stage-length, three-panel panoramic screen where expertly composed photographs by James Westwater, a pioneer in bringing orchestral and photographic products together, were projected in tight sync with the music-making.

Barber's famous "Adagio for Strings" was matched with ...

shots from the world of the Anasazi-Puebloan peoples, creating a reflection on humanity, nature and fundamental spirituality. Lush rain forests, ever under threat, became the focus during Vaughan Williams' exquisite "The Lark Ascending" (no birds in sight).

The technical level of the visuals was admirable (a mussed lighting cue at the end of the Barber piece caused minor damage), and the atmospheric effect in the darkened hall held rewards.

Edward Polochick led a sensitively shaped account of the Adagio; a few frayed edges aside, the strings responded smoothly.

Ably supported by conductor and ensemble, Concertmaster Jose Miguel Cueto delivered the subtle violin solo in the "Lark" with remarkably poise, tonal sweetness and tender phrasing, finishing off stage to create a kind of voice-calling-in-the-wilderness effect.

The non-visual portion of the concert included a warmhearted account of Copland's "Appalachian Spring" that ebbed and flowed tellingly under Polochick's careful, ever-expressive guidance. The woodwinds soloists did particularly shining work.

Baritone James Dobson, a longtime member of the Concert Artists chorus, brought a fine sense of style, if uneven vocal resources, to a selection of Copland's "Old American Songs." The lengthy program also had room for a colorful suite from Respighi's "Ancient Airs and Dances."


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