Friday night's concert at Meyerhoff Hall was one of the most riveting and unified the BSO has given in the past decade or more. The repeats Saturday and Sunday could get even hotter.
For the drama in the outer movements, the pianist hardly moved a muscle, yet summoned massive waves of sonic power. And in the serene Adagio, Bronfman's pearly articulation and exquisitely nuanced phrasing produced a mesmerizing effect (I'm not exaggerating -- there was nary a cough or rustle in the hall).
With Alsop a firm partner on the podium and the orchestra offering polished, cohesive support, the performance underlined the concerto's imperial status.
The audience drew an encore from Bronfman -- a sparkling account of Chopin's F major Etude (Op. 10, No. 8), a la Horowitz.
The BSO has never played Shostakovich's Twelfth Symphony before this week. Its appearance now seems eerily appropriate, given the bloodshed from the revolution/counter-revolution spiral in
This 1961 symphony is hardly Shostakovich's most inspired work, though certainly not his least significant. It traces the volatile events of 1917 and Lenin's success with considerable pictorial skill, while also seeming to suggest, especially in the super-bombastic final moments, a hollow triumph.
Even if you put aside all Bolshevik allusions and inner meanings, the work makes one heck of a concerto for orchestra, equally spotlighting each section as Shostakovich puts a slithery motto theme through all sorts of development.
Alsop seemed galvanized by the roughly 40-minute score. She shaped it with great care, sensitive to its structural and emotional arc, its rich palette of instrumental colors. The result was a wonderfully tense and volatile performance.
The orchestra responded in virtuosic form, offering terrific clarity and discipline. More significantly, there was a wealth of expressive depth in the playing, from the mightiest brass outburst to the subtlest vibration of a gong.
The evening's only sour note: Latecomers. A pack of them was allowed to interrupted the row I was in a few measures into the
The concert repeats Saturday night at Strathmore, Sunday afternoon at Meyerhoff.
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