Principal flute Julia Bogorad-Kogan stole the show at this week’s St. Paul Chamber Orchestra concerts, heard Friday morning at Ordway Center. She soloed in Bach’s Orchestral Suite No. 2, which is essentially a flute concerto.
Written in the French style, the suite has an extended overture followed by a series of dance movements. It is lightly scored, for only strings and basso continuo, which gave Bogorad-Kogan, dressed in vivid red, the chance to stand out.
In the long lines of the stately sarabande, she demonstrated an amazing breath control, while the bourrée gave her the chance to show off her fluid agility. In the finale, a badinerie, her spirit was playful. Throughout, she soared above the orchestra with a bright, crystalline sound.
Conductor Matthias Pintscher led a performance that honored the formality of the music, but breathed warmth and life into it as well.
The concert featured more Bach: the ricercar from “The Musical Offering,” originally for solo keyboard. Leading an orchestration by Anton Weber, Pintscher nicely balanced Bach’s clean lines with Weber’s modern sonorities. Ironically, this arrangement, giving a new perspective on the work, illuminated the essence of Bach even more than the original did.
In between, Pintscher led a sharp, humorous reading of the “Pulcinella” Suite, Stravinsky’s first foray into neoclassicism. The orchestra created almost too full-bodied a sound for the faux-Baroque settings.
But the performance captured Stravinsky’s witty parodies and his elegant style. The musicians often delightfully mimicked the dry sound of antique instruments.
The program concluded with Mendelssohn’s Symphony No. 4 (“Italian”). The work bears all the hallmarks of youth (Mendelssohn began it while on a grand tour of Italy in his early 20s), and it is one of the most joyous symphonies in the repertoire.
From the sparkling opening, evoking Italian sunshine, to the mock solemnity of the second movement, Mendelssohn’s reaction to a religious procession he witnessed in Naples, Pintscher led an energetic performance, despite moments when the orchestral balances sounded a bit rough.
The third movement, more of an old-fashioned minuet than the scherzo that at the time was replacing it, was overly heavy and ponderous. But the fast-paced finale brought the concert to a raucous conclusion.
William Randall Beard writes about music.