Welcome to a special treat courtesy of the graduate department at Peabody Conservatory. In honor of its degree candidates — in everything from instruments, vocals, and conducting — we’ve got an end of season festival of free music from the talented young peeps on the Baltimore Classical scene. I recommend you check out a few in the coming week.
Not every performance is a prize recital, but some of them should be. For what it’s worth, I’d crown debuting conductor Jacomo Rafael Bairos with my laurels.
Lucky for us, he assured me that he’s staying on at Peabody to pursue his Doctorate. So we’ll follow him in future posts. This fellow has good friends, and, if his ambition be judged by his repertory choices, he’s ready to tackle big things.
Try this lineup on for size:
Beethoven’s Leonore Overture No. 3, Op. 72
Shostakovich’s Piano Concerto No. 1 in C minor
Debussy’s La Mer
The overture did exactly what it ought to do — whet our appetite for more. As an added inducement, the BSO’s own Assistant Concermaster, Igor Yuzefovich took the first chair of the Peabody orchestra kids. When Mr. Bairos came out, to enthusiastic hoots and clapping, he leapt gracefully onto his platform.
He started Leonore off like Brandon Lee would have, if reprising the character in The Crow. Mr. Bairos raised his arms out in full-spread splendor of provoking a quiet mayhem and suddenly brought them back in to the chest to cue the first heraldic thrum.
We note this image has everything to do with the fact that Mr. Bairos forgot to bring his suit with him to Griswold Hall. Big day, lot riding on his shoulders, and we can’t imagine waking up at 8 a.m. with entire measures of La Mer on the brain blasting us into the light of day. In a pinch, he sported a black long-sleeve tee so tight you could see every flux of the shoulder blades, additionally highlighting how well the man could lead with torso and chest. Spare, tight, minimalist conducting that should help him charm the under-40 crowd. Think of a great dance partner who never has to whisper: “no, the left foot” but communicates all with the twitch of one pec.
Yes, expect great things to come. Already we reaped good fruits. His friends, soloist and Monument Trio pianist Michael Sheppard and BSO trumpeter Andy Balio, took on the Shostakovich concerto. They started us off with a loud blast from the trumpet and an explosion of piano note bursts. The young string players did admirably well at adding touches of tension, comedic bow-tapping strikes interrupted with a great, naughty-child piano blow from Michael. Then we descended into what my seatmate aptly called “a Federico Fellini three-ring circus.” We heartily thank the glad and proud Andy and the joyous Michael at the keys — a pairing in surprising contrast, especially in the lower register.
To follow, Mr. Bairos gave us quite Shostakovich’s opposite: Debussy’s watery wonder La Mer. He made at least two women into La Mer converts — I was one of them. Under his direction, Debussy’s depths were well-sounded with great tops of bright, sunlight waves striking us before two big drowning high-tides of soundswell.
A special shout-out goes to BSO percussionist Brian Prechtl, who added a fantastic behind-the-scenes touch to this performance. He whipped the young percussionists into shape with a few fast technique-sharing hints. I note a particular rapturous touch in the rimming of the cymbals. In the Dialogue du vent et de la mer, the French horns did a splendid haunting wind amid conch-like calls, while cellos growled deep from the belly.
Afterwards, to thank his performers and new fans alike, Mr. Bairos offered 20 pizzas and 20 pitchers of free beer at Mick O’Shea’s for all. A rare treat indeed and gracious to a fault…or so we suppose when we left 2/3rds of the Monument Trio, Mr. Bairos and about 18 young musicians carousing and throwing darts, after a round or two of tequila shots for the “adults.”
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