Benedetti is praised for Baltimore Symphony debut

Benedetti is praised for Baltimore Symphony debut

Nicola Benedetti (Photo credit: Simon Fowler)

Review: BSO delivers bracing Bernstein program with Benedetti, Alsop
By Tim Smith
The Baltimore Sun
May 7, 2018

Some anniversaries in the classical music world go by barely noticed. You are not likely to happen upon too many programs marking, say, the centennials this year of such composers as Gottfried von Einem, Frank Wigglesworth, Godfey Ridout or George Rochberg.

But you can’t miss the attention generated by the 100th anniversary of the birth of Leonard Bernstein, the composer, conductor and pianist who possessed seemingly super-human talents. This milestone is being celebrated far, wide and often.

Locally, the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra chimed in over the weekend with an all-Bernstein program that showcased some of his most familiar work composed for the musical theater, as well as one of his most substantive scores for the concert stage.

Bernstein’s 1954 Serenade, a concerto for violin and orchestra in all but name, was inspired by Plato’s “Symposium.” Had Bernstein written it after being more open about his own sexuality, it might have been an even more intriguing work (there’s a lot of same-sex talk in the “Symposium”).

Still, the Serenade is fascinating, imaginative, eventful. And you don’t have to think Platonic thoughts at all.

As Bernstein friend and biographer Humphrey Burton put it, “The work can also be perceived as a portrait of Bernstein himself: grand and noble in the first movement, childlike in the second, boisterous and playful in the third, serenely calm and tender in the fourth, a doom-laden prophet and then a jazzy iconoclast in the finale.”

That’s how I heard it on Friday, when the superb, Scottish-born violinist Nicola Benedetti, in her BSO debut, delivered the solo part with a sweet, but penetrating, tone and a keen sense of the music’s rich character.

Alsop provided smooth partnering and drew taut, energized playing from the orchestra. The piece will be repeated in August, again with Benedetti, when the BSO makes its Edinburgh Festival debut.

To read the complete review, click here.