Conductor Christopher Seaman's program for this past weekend's Baltimore Symphony Orchestra concerts was meant to feature BSO players as soloists. Seaman chose four interesting works, three of which contrasted soloistic groups against the ensemble in the manner of a concerto grosso.
Bach's Brandenburg Concerto No. 4 opened the program in a performance that featured Seaman conducting from the harpsichord, Conncertmaster Herbert Greenberg as violin soloist and Emily Controulis and Mark Sparks as flute soloists. Greenberg performed the violin part with affection and panache, Controulis and Sparks were sweetly eloquent and Seaman conducted with infectious energy.
The work that followed featured the program's only imported soloist -- Janice Chandler in Heitor Villa-Lobos' Bachianas Brasileiras No. 5 for soprano and eight cellos. Chandler sang with radiance and the BSO cello section provided sumptuous sound for her to soar above.
Richard Strauss' Duet Concertino for clarinet, bassoon and strings, which opened the concert's second half, is not from the composer's top-drawer Strauss. It has moments that recall "Rosenkavalier" -- everything Strauss wrote after 1911 recalls "Rosenkavalier" -- but not enough of them to make it interesting. Bassoonist Phillip Kolker and clarinetist Steven Barta played their intertwining parts beguilingly and Seaman demonstrated a sure grasp of the music's ebb and flow.
Only Robert Schumann would have been nutty enough to come up with the Konzertstuecke for Four Horns and Orchestra, which ended the program, and only Schumann could have brought it off. The Konzertstuecke's rolling crescendos and moments of serenity recall the composer's "Rhenish Symphony," and it features the four horns in interesting combinations with each other and with other instruments. Seaman led the work convincingly and David Bakkegard, Mary Bisson, William Kendall and Bruce Moore played with ripely romantic feeling and considerable virtuosity.