Detroit's Orchestra Hall has a well-earned reputation as one of the finer concert halls in North America, but its resident orchestra has been less impressive on the whole. While the strings and winds have admirably recovered from a 2011 musicians strike, the current ensemble boasts a weak brass section and a Music Director who seems unable to fix it. Thursday evening's concert was a mostly excellent affair under guest Andrey Boreyko, but also showed that these problems are perhaps not Leonard Slatkin's to solve.

Andrey Boreyko © Christoph Rüttger
Andrey Boreyko
© Christoph Rüttger

The opening work was from 2011, Alexander Raskatov's A White Night's Dream. Like the composer's recent Piano Concerto, the present work is filled with odd sounds and eerie ambiance, but it's not a work that really tickles the ear for a repeat, nor did it seem to inspire the Detroit players or audience. Brass had an untamed, unpleasant quality, and overall impressions were tepid at best.

Conversely, young pianist Behzod Abduraimov is a superstar in the making, if he isn't one already. Still in his early 20s, he's wisely waited this long to record, and he's just now establishing himself on the concert circuit. This is the first of two times this year he will bring Prokofiev's Piano Concerto no. 3 in C major to Michigan, as he will also play the work in Ann Arbor early next year. He also played it on his concerto debut album. In other words, he knows the work well. The Detroit Symphony last performed the work with Lang Lang, but I found Abduraimov to be far more poetic. That's not to say Abduraimov lacks in any way technically; rather, his technical skills never overwhelmed the music. Conductor Andrey Boreyko's response to the shortcomings of his ensembe was obvious; underplay the brass and let eveyone else shine. That wasn't an issue in the responsively played concerto.

Underplaying the brass is more of a concern in Pictures at an Exhibition, which requires a virtouso orchestra capable of color above all. While the strings, led masterfully by Yoonshin Song, were on their top form, there were noticable issues in the brass section, and solo and unison passages alike were shaky. In the final movement, a warm and glowing sonority was most welcome, but also mildly inappropriate for the music at hand. Additionally, the tension seemed to slacken after a gloriously played middle section, and the work ended with less impact than expected. Boreyko had some interesting mannerisms here and there, but ultimately proved neither a plus nor minus. Issues aside, this had none of the big problems of recent DSO concerts, and was ultimately a fine evening.