The Bach Society Orchestra ended its season last Friday night with a concert neither dazzling nor disappointing. In Stravinsky's "Ragtime for 11 Instruments," out-going conductor Bentley Layton displayed the wit and care his audiences have come to expect of him. Inspired playing by the whole ensemble made the lines of the work as airy as lace.
Gregory Biss, who will conduct the BSO for its next two seasons, introduced himself in a solid, accurate performance of Haydn's Symphony No. 86 in D. Granted that the Haydn offers little latitude for a conductor's virtuosity, Biss's version was singularly unexciting. He made every important cue, handled all the details of podium performance with more polish than one expects of a novice students conductor; unfortunately, the sound lacked a matching professionalism. For example, the dynamics of the first and third movements ventured little beyond mezzo forte and forte; throughout, there was hardly any of the nuance that made Layton's performance of the Mozart Symphony No. 26 (E-flat) so pleasant. One could even argue that Biss's slow initial tempo magnified the introduction to the symphony disproportionately. Still, Biss was working with a strange orchestra, and his performance was a promising start.