&ldquoAs Alsop faced the cellos and drew from them the most tremendously shaped phrases with every inflection of her baton, you were aware of being in the presence of greatness.&rdquo
4th May 2012

Magnetic performances from Marin Alsop, Leon Fleisher, Baltimore Symphony

Meyerhoff Hall was the place to be Thursday night. In a Baltimore Symphony program of Ravel and Shostakovich conducted by Marin Alsop, the intensity started early and never really let up.

Alsop revealed a firm grasp of its elusive structure and its extraordinary emotional content. There was a coherence, tautness and clarity in her approach on Thursday, as well as a palpable sense of involvement.

I particularly admired the pianissimo start Alsop assured for the first movement crescendo, with Brian Prechtl so delicately articulating the snare drum solo to underline the barely audible, weirdly banal tune that depicts the gradual approach of evil. Each subsequent increase in volume, like the cruel twisting of a knife, was superbly controlled.

Alsop continued to bring out telling details, from the second movement’s hints of the woodwind shudders in the “Abschied” of Mahler’s “Das Lied von der Erde” to the Adagio’s grim poetry. And the end of the symphony was made terrifically effective by the way the conductor held her forces in reserve until just the right moment to unleash the full, brassy fury.