Marian Hahn is more than a match for Brahms' First Concerto

EVEN-HANDED PIANO PLAYING

December 16, 1991|By Stephen Wigler | Stephen Wigler,Sun Music Critic

Brahms' First Piano Concerto asks a lot from the soloist. The pianist must be nothing less than an Olympic athlete and a Romantic hero. In her performance of the piece with the Peabody Concert Orchestra and conductor Hajime Teri Murai in Friedberg Hall Saturday, Marian Hahn performed both roles with full measure.

She had the temperament for the fiery outer movements; the right feel for the mournful and meditative second movement; the heroic sonority necessary to project through the dense orchestration; and the endurance to suggest that -- had she been asked -- she could have sat down and played the piece all over again. There were felicities such as the fierce expressiveness of her trills and the explosive power of her double octaves, but what impressed most was the coherence of the performance. Only an unusually fine musician can keep the thermostat turned up in this stormy and tormented piece without letting its drama become hysterical.

The First Concerto began life as a symphony, and Hahn received a fine accompaniment from Murai and the student orchestra. The Concert Orchestra is Peabody's "second" ensemble -- it's composed of younger students than the Peabody Symphony. But the fine performance -- the basically solid intonation, the fine horn playing and the relative absence of ensemble problems -- was almost of professional quality. (The string program at the school has improved enormously; six years ago -- when this listener arrived in Baltimore -- Peabody orchestras did not play this well).

The rest of the program was almost as good. Beethoven's First Symphony was played with brisk tempos and an emphatic pulse that produced a wonderful sense of inebriation in the three fast movements (the slow second movement was somewhat less effective). Hindemith's "Symphonic Metamorphosis" would have been more successful, however, if it had a little less energy and a bit more precision in ensemble and rhythm.

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