The Baltimore Chamber Orchestra and its music director Anne Harrigan, concluded its 10th anniversary season in superb fashion with a concert last night before a sellout crowd in Goucher College's Kraushaar Auditorium.
In the past decade, Ms. Harrigan has refined this group to an extremely high level. Occasionally, the quality of musical expression is so refined that it fails to "read" well in a hall as large as Kraushaar. But an overabundance of subtlety also shows that these musicians have taste -- which can't be taught -- and the caliber of musicianship necessary to take them to even greater triumphs.
The concert began with five excerpts from a wind octet #i arrangement of Mozart's "Magic Flute" by Joseph Heidenreich, a contemporary of the composer.
The choice of instruments was charming, and the playing beautiful -- but Heidenreich chose to arrange the music as he saw fit and made some hefty cuts from the overture.
I would have preferred an arrangement with all of Mozart's notes.
Altogether more satisfying music-making prevailed in the next work, Vaughan Williams' Oboe Concerto.
The taxing solo part was deftly played by the Baltimore Symphony's principal oboist, Joseph Turner, whose rich tonal nuance and no-nonsense virtuosity have delighted this listener for many years.
Ms. Harrigan's management of the orchestral accompaniment was appropriately supportive and demonstrated a remarkable sensitivity tothe lyrical sweep of this music.
George Walker's "Lyric for Strings" followed, a poignant miniature that has enjoyed several well-deserved performances in recent seasons, thanks to David Zinman's advocacy.
The chamber orchestra's reading of the work lacked the splendor that a large string section can give it, but its heartfelt sense of intimacy more than made up for this.
As a parting gesture of good humor, Ms. Harrigan ended the program with Haydn's "Farewell" Symphony (No. 45 in F-sharp Minor), the performers exiting the stage during the symphony's finale just as Haydn's original players had done.
This work was the only music on last night's program of truly energetic character, and while the playing was polished, it nonetheless lacked the incisiveness that makes Haydn's music so distinctive.