On the second half of the program, Stutzmann turned the omnipresent “Nutcracker Suite” into a vital piece of classical music, the musicians presenting the familiar tunes with crisp power, careful dynamic control and a reading so far away from maudlin it was almost shocking. When Alcides Rodriguez, on bass clarinet, gave a little extra weight to the opening of the famous ruddy solo in “Danse de la Fee-Dragee,” the move seemed almost subversive. It was hard to square a section of music that’s been heard ad nauseum with the brilliant contrast of the bass voice with Peter Marshall’s chiming celeste and the soft pizzicato in the strings. Likewise, “Danse Chinoise,” taken at a deliberate pace with round, thudding pizzicato in the violins leading to fluttering woodwind counterpoint, sounded dynamic.
Maybe it’s too much to anticipate a stunning concert at every turn, and while Stutzmann undoubtedly shines with the chorus (I can still hear in my mind her choral debut from March), she seems to still be warming up to the orchestra — and vice versa. That’s to be expected. But while the first half of Thursday’s program was largely commonplace, Stutzmann’s “Nutcracker” should be enough to give even the most skeptical listener something to thoroughly enjoy.
Atlanta Symphony Orchestra
Additional performances 3 p.m. Dec. 10-11. $23-$103. Symphony Hall, 1280 Peachtree St. NE, Atlanta. 404-733-5000, atlantasymphony.org.