Zinman, BSO dance through tricky waltz work

September 22, 1990|By Stephen Wigler | Stephen Wigler,Sun Music Critic

Michael Torke's "Bright Blue Music" is Herb Alpert and th Tijuana Brass meet Johann Strauss Jr. and the Vienna Waltz Kings. With its repetitive, danceable energy, it's the kind of music that members of the stair-climbing cult at local gyms might enjoy while tightening the gluteus maximus.

This is not to denigrate "Bright Blue Music," which was performed last night in Meyerhoff Hall by the Baltimore Symphony and its music director, David Zinman.

It is only to say what it is: a dance of notes in which delicious scraps of waltz tunes (is there a reference in the title to the most famous of the Strauss waltzes?) rise and fall through the young composer's orchestral glitter. It is exuberantly playful, happy music that often has a Mexican flavor.

One could say that "Bright Blue" is only feel-good music that makes one want to twirl around a room -- an expertly orchestrated aerobics tape, in other words.

But it is cleverly put together (the ear, for example, expects waltz time but is surprised by strong beats in unexpected places), and it's fun to listen to.

The orchestra played the Torke piece expertly -- something that required a substantial amount of work, since the music is so FTC dense and filled with such tricky rhythms.

The amount of rehearsal time it required was clearly demonstrated in the undistinguished performance conductor and orchestra gave of Mozart's Symphony No. 36 ("Linz").

It was hard to believe that this was the same orchestra and conductor that gave so fine a performance of the same piece in July's Summerfest.

The ensemble in the first movement was poor; the slow movement and minuet were boring.

L It was only in the final movement that the piece came alive.

The orchestral playing was better in the accompaniment that Mihaly Virizlay, the BSO's principal cellist, received for a performance of Dvorak's Cello Concerto.

There is very little that Virizlay cannot do on the cello. His playing was never less than expressive, and some of it -- the playing in the ethereal, elegiac final pages of the slow movement, for example -- was almost unbelievably beautiful.

About the only thing Virizlay did not do last night -- and, unfortunately, the Dvorak cannot succeed without it -- was to produce a genuinely heroic timbre.

Despite Zinman's considerate accompaniment, there were too many passages in which the cellist failed to make himself heard over the orchestra.

One suspects that Virizlay's beautiful but small-toned -- particularly in the upper register -- instrument was the culprit.

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