Ivan Fischer, BSO perform Dvorak with grandeur

January 05, 1991|By Stephen Wigler | Stephen Wigler,Sun Music Critic

Hungary has been the breeding ground of important conductors from Richter and Nikisch to Reiner and Szell down to the current time. Two of the most prominent of the current crop are Adam and Ivan Fischer. Because they are brothers (and share the same last name), because they are about the same age and because each has a promising international career that includes important guest engagements and a growing discography, it's not easy to tell them apart.

The only way is to listen to them conduct. A few seasons back, Adam Fischer conducted the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra in so bland a manner that this listener has long since forgotten the program. Last night in Meyerhoff Hall, Ivan Fischer made his first appearance with the orchestra in a concert so impressive that one hopes there will be many reappearances.

Surely, it will be a long time before one is able to forget so fine a performance of Dvorak's Symphony No. 6. The BSO plays this symphony well -- there was a good performance of it under Mark Elder back in 1987 -- but last night's was special. Only in ...^...C remarkable performance of Dvorak does one hear so much grandeur without a sense of the music being overblown. And only a remarkable conductor could so avoid -- as Ivan Fischer did last night -- the temptation to over-sugar this tuneful and affable score, preferring to let the music express itself in brisk, well-chosen tempos. Similar attention to detail characterized the phrasing and the dynamics. The slow movement was as ardent and as yearning as any this listener has heard, the swaggering scherzo was filled with biting violence and the finale built superbly to a thrilling conclusion.

Haydn's Symphony No. 102, which opened the concert, was almost as impressive. The performance had vitality, wit and energy, and the orchestra, particularly its wind players, was at its best. About all the performance lacked was the remarkable kind of grace that one usually hears from David Zinman in 18th-century music.

The concert's soloist was BSO principal oboist Joseph Turner, who played Jean Francaix's "L'Horloge de Flore." Francaix was the favorite pupil of Nadia Boulanger and a graceful composer of music that was usually about one millimeter deep. Nonetheless, it is always a profound pleasure to hear anything played as beautifully as Turner plays his instrument. This listener does not know of any oboist who plays with expressive warmth, seamless control and beauty of tone comparable to his.

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