Violinist Haendel performs Sibelius with fire, insight Haendel substituted for the ailing Shlomo Mintz.

February 15, 1991|By Stephen Wigler | Stephen Wigler,Sun Music Critic

The news early yesterday that the indisposed Shlomo Mintz would be replaced at last night's Baltimore Symphony Orchestra concert by violinist Ida Haendel did not cause consternation among violin fanciers. The 68-year-old Haendel is something of a cult figure -- and she was going to play the Sibelius Concerto.

Haendel has an extraordinary identification with this piece -- her recording of it with Paavo Berglund is considered by Sibelians nearly on a par with those of Heifetz and Oistrakh -- and last night she played it with with customary fire and insight. There were flaws of intonation that one inevitably expects from a string player of nearly 70, but these didn't matter much when a player was as deep inside the piece as Haendel.

Music director David Zinman presented two Baltimore premieres: a 60-second "postcard" by John Harbison to commemorate the BSO's 75th year and Kamran Ince's "Before Infrared." The Harbison -- titled "David's Fascinating Rhythm -- stands the Gershwin tune of that name on its head in charming ways.

Ince -- one of many brilliant young composers out of the Eastman School in Rochester, N.Y., in recent years -- begins "Beyond Infrared" with a low drone on the basses accompanied by subdued lower-register percussion and timpani and follows it with a long-breathed phrase on the upper strings -- punctuated by trumpet blasts -- of almost Mahlerian loveliness. The rest of the piece did not live up to this promise, but still left one wanting to hear more from this composer.

An unusually early deadline permitted this listener to hear only the first two movements of Brahms' Symphony No. 1. What was heard was refreshingly varied in tempo and spontaneous in impulse.

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