Wind soloists bring stylish verve to Music of the Baroque program

By Tim Sawyier, Chicago Classical Review
November 21, 2023

In opening remarks before Monday’s Music of the Baroque concert at the Harris Theater, Dame Jane Glover expressed immense gratitude for the ensemble’s ability to field high-caliber soloists from its own ranks. The two wind soloists on the “Windy City” program more than lived up to Glover’s affectionate esteem.

William Buchman, MOB’s principal bassoon and an artistic rock in the CSO section since his appointment as assistant principal in 1996, was in the spotlight Monday in Hummel’s Bassoon Concerto in F Major. Classical wind concertos do not offer the obvious pyrotechnics of something like a Rachmaninoff showpiece, but rather call for a more understated virtuosity, which Buchman supplied in spades.

Throughout the expansive Allegro moderato Buchman sang eloquently with a flexible timbre, and dispatched Hummel’s knotty leaps with fluent technique. He easily projected over Glover’s responsive accompaniment in the operatic Romanza, where he built a dramatic arc in the work’s cadenza. 

Buchman’s reserved yet pristine artistry served the playful variations of the closing Rondo well, and his efforts were met with vigorous applause from the MOB audience. One felt as though they were expressing their appreciation not just for the Hummel, but for Buchman’s unflaggingly reliable work in the ensemble over the years.

Oto Carrillo, also a MOB principal with a CSO seat, offered an account of Mozart’s Horn Concerto No. 4 that was equally accomplished. From his seamless first entrance with the orchestra, he brought a gleaming tone and a spectrum of subtle shades to Mozart’s inimitable writing for the instrument. The Romance had the feel of an intimate aria, which contrasted with the mirth he and Glover mined in the Rondo, particularly as they emerged from the cadenza at a slow clip to allow for a headlong rush to the close.

The balance of the program showed the MOB orchestra at their best under Glover. They opened with Bologne’s Symphony No. 2 in D Major by way of an overture, capturing the open-air vitality of the outer movements and collectively bringing a wistful quality to the minor-major oscillations of the Andante.

Handel’s Water Music Suite No. 3 in G Major received a bracing account to close the first half. Glover is one of our finest Handel conductors, and brought an unexpected variety of articulation and dynamics to the well-worn score, making its familiar dance strains register anew. Continuing the “windy” theme, the wind players stood at the back of the string ensemble, with Patrick O’Malley standing out with his haunting piping on soprano recorder.

The evening closed with Haydn’s Symphony No. 96 “Miracle,” with Buchman back in the ensemble with his colleagues. After a questioning Adagio introduction, the opening Allegro went with stately spiritedness, Glover and colleagues capturing Haydn’s symphonic wit. They toyed amusingly with the ubiquitous triplet upbeats in the ensuing Andante, which closed with articulate solos from the first chair violins. Oboist Anne Bach provided one final wind feature of the evening in the Minuet’s Trio, lending her shining tone to its prominent solos, and Glover brought vigor to the scampering Finale to close the evening in high spirits.