Bakkegard triumphs in tricky horn concerto


In a review Thursday of a Baltimore Chamber Orchestra performance of Michael Dougherty's "Flamingo," the names of percussionists John Locke and Laurence Reese were inadvertently omitted.

The Sun regrets the errors.

Every time I think about playing the horn, I think about the poet Delmore Schwartz's remark that "even paranoids have enemies."

With instruments like theirs, horn players don't need enemies: Foot after foot of moisture-susceptible tubing that would make any plumber nervous; harmonics that lie so close together that mispitching is always a risk; and a mouthpiece that demands that almost every note be produced in exactly the same way. It is sometimes cause for astonishment that a horn player can come in on the right note, let alone with a clean attack.

So when David Bakkegard got off to an initially shaky start last night when he played Richard Strauss' Concerto No. 2 with the Baltimore Chamber Orchestra in Kraushaar Auditorium last night did not mean he was having an off night; it simply meant business as usual with the horn. Bakkegard, the principal horn player of the Baltimore Symphony, is a superb instrumentalist and he gave an expectedly fine performance. In the songful slow movement, he considerately melded his noble tone with that of the orchestra and in the vivacious final one, he produced roulade after roulade of almost perfectly turned-out notes. The orchestra and its music director, Anne Harrigan, gave him a fine accompaniment.

Last night's concert was the occasion of the world premiere of Michael Dougherty's "Flamingo," which the young composer, who teaches at Oberlin College in Ohio and who has won several important awards, described in a program note as "a postmodern flamenco dance." Two tambourine soloists positioned stereophonically at the rear of the orchestra provide a continuous rhythmic counterpoint to a motive that is first heard on piccolo and then repeated throughout the orchestra. This is a clever 8-minute piece in which canons come and go with insouciance. Because it is unflagging in its movement and never takes itself seriously, one is tempted to describe "Flamingo" as "minimalism goes mambo" or perhaps as "Michael Torke meets Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass."

The concert concluded with a performance of Mozart's Symphony No. 39 that showed Harrigan and her fine orchestra at their best. Delicacy went hand in hand with -- as conductor and ensemble made the most of the manner in which this symphony alternates fierce outbursts with daintiness. The third movement minuet, with its wonderful central section for clarinets, and the tenacious, unyielding finale were particularly fine.

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