BSO performance less than inspiring; Capacity audience sees Harth-Bedoya conduct


The career of Miguel Harth-Bedoya hasn't stood still since he turned down the musical directorship of the Annapolis Symphony, the post that Leslie Dunner accepted in the spring of 1998.

The young Peruvian was recently appointed associate conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic and director of the Auckland Philharmonia in New Zealand. Last Thursday evening, he returned to Annapolis to conduct the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra in a concert presented at the Naval Academy.

The BSO proved to be a powerful draw, with a capacity crowd filling Alumni Hall to hear three of the most beloved warhorses of them all: Glinka's Overture to "Ruslan and Ludmilla," Tchaikovsky's 1st Piano Concerto, Beethoven's 5th Symphony.

I confess I came away from the concert with mixed feelings.

It was wonderful to see so many locals connecting with the remarkably fine orchestra that resides just up the road. The BSO is an ensemble chock-full of virtuoso players, and what a joy it was to hear flutist Emily Skala spin out the bittersweet introduction to Tchaikovsky's middle movement with such haunting simplicity.

The most heartfelt moments in the Beethoven symphony came courtesy of Skala's interaction with the elegant phrases of BSO principal oboist Joseph Turner.

But individual moments were all I could treasure from most of last Thursday's concert.

Orion Weiss, the evening's 17-year-old soloist, is a youngster blessed with prodigious pianistic gifts, but his relationship with Tchaikovsky's 1st is still in the information-gathering stage. Romantic ardor, imperious technique, sizzling dramatics, ineffable poetry and Slavonic flair have yet to coalesce in his fingers.

Beethoven came off best, as Harth-Bedoya presided over a sturdy, middle-of-the-road 5th devoid of surprises, extremes and interpretive thunderbolts from the podium.

Did I enjoy hearing old Ludwig put a world-class orchestra through its paces? You betcha. Was I impressed with the level of technical acumen on display from all concerned? Sure. But was my soul carried off by the power of what I was hearing as Beethoven split the musical atom before my eyes and ears? Not by a long shot.

The BSO also sounded defeated by the acoustical gremlins of Alumni Hall. That is a little strange because lesser orchestras have come there and managed to sound pretty good.

Christoph Eschenbach had the Bamberg Symphony of Germany filling up the space with authority back in 1991, and sonic considerations were the last thing on my mind when Valery Gergiev took Russia's Kirov Orchestra on a painstakingly desolate journey through Dmitri Shostakovich's 8th Symphony a few years later.

Perhaps my perch, diagonally up to the left of the first fiddles, was in a dead spot.

Pub Date: 10/14/99

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