Hungarian flavor makes all the difference

November 13, 1992|By Stephen Wigler | Stephen Wigler,Music Critic

The Hungarians, a talented and fiery people, have produced at least two things in extraordinary abundance in this century: nuclear physicists and conductors. Luckily, most of them have come to this country -- that's how we got the the atomic bomb and how we got Fritz Reiner, two extremely explosive properties.

night's Baltimore Symphony concert in Meyerhoff Hall -- the Magyar line continues to flourish. Ivan Fischer, who made a terrific impression two years back with Dvorak's Symphony No. 6, made an equally terrific one with the Dvorak No. 7. A friend says he can always tell a good movie from the opening credits. I think he's right, and I think the same thing can be said about a symphony performance. From the moment one heard the chillingly majestic way in which Fischer inflected the Dvorak's first bars, one knew one was hearing quite a performance.

Arturo Toscanini used to say that tradition was the last bad performance of a piece, and that remark often came to mind during Fischer's riveting reading. He scrubbed the piece clean of its ritards and sentimental flourishes. The first movement lacked the rhetorical inflation that most conductors inflict upon it; in the second one, Fischer closely observed the "poco adagio" marking, permitting the music to move without languishing in nostalgia; his third movement danced, and his finale built to a tremendous conclusion. Anytime a conductor can make such an overplayed piece seem so completely fresh, attention must be paid.

If Fischer was somewhat less successful with John Adams' "Fearful Symmetries," I suspect that was because he pushed the piece a little too fast at times and -- perhaps because he is a Hungarian -- did not make the most of the work's frequent allusions to boogie-woogie riffs and big band sounds. But he let "Fearful Symmetries" emerge as the wonderful work it is -- something that was acknowledged by several of the younger audience members, who cheered the music lustily.

Fischer also accompanied Mihaly Virizlay in Erno Dohnanyi's Konzertstuck for Cello and Orchestra. As in any performance by Virizlay, there was some beautiful playing -- his final bow, which produced a ravishing pianissimo, seemed a mile long. But he seemed to be experiencing a little trouble early in the piece in getting around the instrument and in coordinating himself with the orchestra.

The program will be repeated tonight at 8:15 and Saturday at 11 a.m.

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