Pianist a marvel with Rachmaninoff


April 27, 1991|By Stephen Wigler | Stephen Wigler,Sun Music Critic

Where talent is concerned, there are rarely any surprises in the music business. Two weeks ago when Ju Hee Suh was named by the Baltimore Symphony as a replacement for Zoltan Kocis in this week's performances of the Rachmaninoff Concerto No. 2, this listener suspected that she would give a performance that would bring the house down. Last night, of course, she did.

Music insiders have been hearing reports for at least a decade about a fantastically talented young Korean-born pianist at the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia. In the last two or three years Suh, now 23, has been concertizing rather widely, earning the kind of reviews she is now about to get from this corner.

She is a marvelous pianist, with a big technique -- how any pianist with hands so tiny can manage the composer's huge chords so easily is a mystery -- a big tone and a good deal of intelligence. She held the ear in suspense throughout the piece, making the concerto's softer passages even more more interesting than its louder ones -- which is something of a rarity in so young a pianist.

The only major reservation this listener had concerned not the pianist, but her instrument. To these ears, the BSO's leased Hamburg Steinway now produces a sound that simply is too threadbare for the big concertos of composers such as Rachmaninoff, Brahms or Bartok.

The accompaniment of the orchestra and conductor David Zinman was powerful but considerate.

The program began with two pieces by Adolphus Hailstork -- "Intrada" and "Celebration" -- that seemed like little more than band pieces.

The concert ended with Zinman's now-familiar interpretation of Beethoven's Seventh Symphony, which was lean, incisive and powerful.

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