Assessment | BSO and Jonathon Heyward provide a promising look into the longer term

It was a glimpse into the longer term at Strathmore Music Heart on Thursday evening, because the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra welcomed music director designate Jonathon Heyward. That is the primary of two packages upfront of the September begin of the conductor’s five-year contract.

You couldn’t have requested for a more practical sneak peek. We bought to listen to Heyward in three modes: As modern interpreter, with Jennifer Higdon’s heartbreaker “Blue Cathedral”; as co-pilot, with Uzbek pianist Behzod Abduraimov becoming a member of the orchestra for Tchaikovsky’s “Piano Concerto No. 1”; and as a compelling craftsman, providing an exhilarating account of Rachmaninoff’s “Symphonic Dances.”

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Once I contemplate modern works that can face up to time’s check, “Blue Cathedral” is true to its identify. Some 400-plus orchestras have carried out it since Higdon composed it in 1999, and it’s straightforward to listen to why. Written in reminiscence of her youthful brother Andrew Blue, it’s an emotional weighty work that, in the proper palms, achieves easy lightness.

Heyward stated not a phrase however went straight to his work, providing an interpretation that felt equally attuned to Higdon’s ingenious sound world as to her eager narrative capabilities.

Higdon as older sister is threaded by way of the work as a line of flute; child brother follows alongside as his instrument, the clarinet. (Expressively and fantastically performed, by Marcia McHugh and Jaewon Kim, respectively.) That is additionally each orchestra’s favourite Higdon piece for its showcase of solos. A mist of bells provides approach to a waking adagio for strings, rousing the orchestra into glowing response. A candy dialogue of flute and clarinet appeared to journey by way of years as Heyward gathered momentum and despatched the strings hovering.

From there, a turn-by-turn procession unfolds that feels equal components improbable and funereal: A unfastened melodic tangle of oboe, violin, piccolo, cello and bassoon twists into an anxious coil. A storm of thundering drums and icy chimes darken the skies (the emergence of anger, grief’s longtime companion). A wall of staccato brass and sawing strings builds to a wide ranging climax. The duo of flute and clarinet returns atop curlicues of Melissa Hooper’s oboe, all of them vanishing within the low glow of distant-sounding chimes, singing water glasses and a sheen of barely audible shakers discreetly shaken by varied BSO gamers.

It was a wonderful warm-up to Abduraimov’s triumphant tackle Tchaikovsky’s beloved 1875 concerto, to which the Uzbekistani pianist introduced measured energy and many character. Heyward crafted thrilling dynamic dips all through the expansive first motion, coaxing splendidly responsive taking part in from throughout the strings.

And whereas the concerto was famously initially met with “indiscriminate, decided censure” from the pianist Tchaikovsky had meant to premiere it — Nikolay Rubenstein — Abduraimov appeared to savor its ever-changing ambiance, participating seamlessly with the orchestra, drawing his personal marvelous particulars from the low finish and welcoming ample silence and area into his solos. (By the best way, Strathmore, that entrance in entrance of stage left may use a squirt of WD-40.)

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Abduraimov introduced softness and a slapdash wit to the tender second motion and its a number of personalities. Affiliate principal cello Lachezar Kostov, flutist McHugh and oboist Hooper gave particularly wonderful and expressive performances. (Factors off to the viewers member who tried a concerto for sweet wrapper.) The third motion was supercharged by Abduraimov’s dizzying agility. A hail of clobbering octaves towards its shut constructed to a bracing climax — and all the things previous was new once more.

Composed in 1940, Rachmaninoff’s “Symphonic Dances” was his ultimate main composition (he died in 1943), and the one piece he composed completely whereas residing in the USA.

That is perhaps simply two factors of trivia had been it not for “Dances” drawing a life’s price of inspiration and quotes from the liturgical chants of Rachmaninoff’s childhood and the pages of his personal work (in addition to a motif from Rimsky-Korsakov’s “The Golden Cockerel”). And regardless of the nostalgic flip the three dances take towards Russia, additionally they really feel firmly footed in America, with rhythmic intricacies that articulate the composer’s curiosity in jazz.

The quiet episode of oboe, clarinet, bassoon and alto saxophone (completely performed by Steve Temme) within the first motion was stunningly lovely, giving approach to chilling melodic feints within the strings, among the loveliest taking part in of the night.

Heyward approached the latter two dances with the same mixture of attentiveness and journey, balancing the wealthy harmonic heaves of the orchestra with the crisply delivered piano of principal keyboardist Lura Johnson, who was improbable all through. Concertmaster Jonathan Carney was additionally a spotlight, arresting in sound and presence, and key to suppling the urbane wit of the second dance.

Heyward then constructed the third dance from pure romance to a fiery frenzy — the fluid steering of his fingertips abruptly sharpening into mechanistic chops and swipes. It culminated in an explosive end — its thrill in defiance of how effectively all of us knew it.

And whereas the fireworks are what are likely to fill the seats lately, Heyward’s manner of bringing out the softer facet of this orchestra is what intrigues me most about his forthcoming tenure. He has an ear for nuance, a savvy sense of programming and an instantly endearing presence onstage. Now he has an orchestra, and we’d do effectively to maintain our ears on it.

Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto, that includes Behzod Abduraimov, repeats Could 6 and seven at Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Corridor in Baltimore,

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