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Marin Alsop and the Baltimore Symphony live — and work — for the present




The evening started with an energetic burst, the overture from Mozart’s “Marriage of Figaro.” Alsop set a hurtling pace — the ensemble nearly spun out on the first couple of corners — but most notable was the palpably physical sound: The elbow grease of music-making was not only visible (concertmaster Jonathan Carney and principal cellist Dariusz Skoraczewski, animated and demonstrative, led the way), but also audible, a balance of individual vividness and collective punch.




The athleticism of Yulianna Avdeeva, the soloist in Chopin’s Piano Concerto No. 2, was, perhaps, more elegantly choreographed, but her playing had a similar muscular quality. The winner of the 2010 International Chopin Piano Competition, Avdeeva combined technical confidence with an assertive, iron-fingered touch, cannetille decoration turned into insistent torrents. It wasn’t the most transparent playing, but, supported by the orchestra’s outgoing accompaniment, it foregrounded the spine of Chopin’s melodies to an uncommon and persuasive extent. (An encore, Chopin’s posthumously published Nocturne in C minor, had comparably sharp eloquence.)

And then, brawling love, and loving hate: 12 movements from the two concert suites Prokofiev fashioned from his 1935 “Romeo and Juliet” ballet. There was a fair amount of push and pull; in contrast with the Mozart, one could feel Alsop here working to restrain the tempo, trying to engineer more deliberate enunciation. But that was part of the appeal as well.

One felt that this was what orchestra and conductor revel in — a score requiring emphasis and character, delivered with grit and zeal. Solo lines consistently pushed past conventionally pretty tone into more piquant territory, flutist Emily Skala and bassoonist Harrison Miller providing especially strong personality. And in the most forceful moments — the menacing “Montagues and Capulets,” the fierce “Death of Tybalt” — the performance bit down hard and held on. Alsop and the players left it all on the field. The future could wait.

The full program repeats Sunday at 8 p.m. at the Music Center at Strathmore. The Prokofiev only will be performed Friday at 8:15 p.m. at Strathmore and Saturday at 7 p.m. in Meyerhoff Hall. bsomusic.org.

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