After the long drought of music in the pandemic, we have the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra live again at Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall. On a recent Thursday night, the program was brilliant, and the conductor, Christoph König, masterfully led the orchestra in three great classical pieces.
The first, Joseph Haydn’s “Symphony No. 59″ (”Fire”), provided an exciting opening, played with panache by the large orchestra. The piano concerto was a real innovation — my first hearing of Clara Schumann’s “Piano Concerto in A minor.” The pianist was Isata Kanneh-Mason, who played with virtuosity and flair. Clara Schumann’s music is not often heard, which is a pity for her piano concerto is first rate. As was the soloist, Ms. Kanneh-Mason, who studied in Great Britain and has a long list of awards and performances with orchestras in the United Kingdom and around the world. She gave the Schumann much excitement and beauty, especially the last movement.
If you have not been to the Baltimore Symphony in some time (like me), you can dip your toes into the music by purchasing a $10 digital concert. The Thursday night concert is offered virtually and you can try the symphony from the comfort of your home. No traveling or parking. And it is available to view again for the following two weeks. But, of course, classical music is best experienced in the concert hall with its excellent acoustics and air of true musical excitement. Their conductor for this program, Mr. König, has conducted the orchestra on several occasions. He is a powerful and exciting music director. The Sun needs a permanent fine arts critic now that the symphony and Shriver Hall Auditorium have opened for audiences.
Capping the evening was the thrilling opening of Richard Strauss’ “Thus Sprach Zarathustra” or “Thus Spoke Zarathustra,” known to most of us from the 1968 film “2001: A Space Odyssey.” But the entire symphony is a great work of art. Richard Strauss was one of the finest composers of symphony, opera, and vocal music, spanning the 19th to 20th centuries. In Zarathustra, Mr. König proves a superb conductor, bringing together the complexity of this great symphonic poem.
I must mention the creative camera work, which gives a top down view of the entire orchestra at key moments in Zarathustra, adding to the drama.
An unusual and unforgettable evening of great music.
Eileen Pollock, Baltimore
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