The Baltimore Chamber Orchestra presented its third concert of the 1993-1994 season last night at Kraushaar Auditorium under the direction of guest conductor David Itkin.
Mr. Itkin, music director of the Arkansas and Kingsport Symphony Orchestras, is a musician of not inconsiderable virtues. He possesses an outstanding ear for orchestral texture, and his sense of pace is unerring. His podium manner is admirable for its restraint and clarity of gesture.
Consequently the evening's opening work, Mendelssohn's "Hebrides" or "Fingal's Cave" Overture, was impeccably delivered by the BCO, a first-class ensemble.
For many pieces, that would be enough. But "Fingal's Cave" is the young composer's musical depiction of a treacherous voyage through Scottish waters and the imposing cavern that awaits at journey's end. The reluctance of Mr. Itkin and the orchestra to emphasize the more violent and brooding aspects of this highly romantic work sapped its emotional power.
The remainder of the concert's first half consisted of three pieces of great refinement and introspection and therefore fared much better.
The Overture to Richard Strauss' final opera, "Capriccio," scored for string sextet, exhibited both clarity and an endearing lyricism.
The ethereal Dance of the Blessed Spirits from Gluck's "Orfeo ed Eurydice" was, after a rather tentative start, sublimely executed. Kristen Winter-Jones' exquisite flute solos magically transported the audience to the Elysian Fields.
Likewise Richard Wagner's 1870 musical Christmas and birthday gift to his wife, "A Siegfried Idyll," beautifully captured the tenderness that characterizes this nineteen-minute work from beginning to end. A few orchestral miscues aside, this rapt performance was virtually all one could hope for.
In retrospect, perhaps it was a miscalculation to program three consecutive pieces that are characterized by their quiet lyricism , but given the high level of execution and interpretation, I'm not inclined to complain too loudly.
The performance of the first movement of the evening's final work, Beethoven's First Symphony, exhibited both the strengths and weaknesses noted in the Mendelssohn.
While cleanly articulated, the rendition did little to suggest the revolutionary nature of the score that raised more than a few eyebrows at its premiere in 1800.