Seaman brings energy to Elgar symphony


CHRISTOPHER SEAMAN, the British conductor in residence, looked like a German nutcracker doll and conducted the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra like a first-class maestro last night at the Meyerhoff Symphony Hall. Leading the BSO in Elgar's "Symphony No. 1," the animated red-headed musician showed the same enthusiasm to his adult audience as he shared with the 14,000 charmed school children in seven recent concerts.

As Elgar's symphony drifted past 45 minutes and some yawns about 10:15 p.m., Seaman was still up there keeping a brisk tempo, pivoting frequently to face the next playing section, extending his open left hand to soloists, mouthing passages in mock singing, sweeping strings, brass and woodwinds along with his arms and recapturing Elgar's main theme at the end. The orchestra responded well with either sadness or joy fitting the music's changing moods.

Elgar's piece replaced the originally scheduled Vaughan Williams' "Symphony No. 2" because Telarc wants to record David Zinman and the BSO playing Elgar's "No. 1," requiring the BSO to play it in public as a kind of warm-up. The evening began in memory of Aaron Copland, the American composer who died Sunday. Seaman led a serene playing of the close of Copland's "Appalachian Spring Suite." When Leonard Bernstein died earlier this fall, the BSO dedicated a concert to him but no Bernstein music was played.

Alicia de Larrocha, the veteran Spanish pianist, lacked the fire of the 48-year-old Seaman but her forte is touch, tone and tempo and she was mistress in residence in playing a precise "Piano Concerto No. 5" by Beethoven before intermission. In blue outfit and spiked heels, de Larrocha showed the firm control she developed over the decades since her public debut at 6 in 1929. The orchestra ably played its part of the majestic "Emperor." The hTC slow second movement remains a gem in piano concerto literature. The program is repeated at 8:15 p.m. tonight.

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