Cyr's new symphony a bafflement to the ear

April 15, 1994|By Stephen Wigler | Stephen Wigler,Sun Music Critic

Gordon Cyr's Symphony No. 2 shares with Dimitri Shostakovich's Symphony No. 6 a peculiarity of construction. An emotionally gigantic (and in the case of the Shostakovich, gigantic in duration) first movement is followed by two smaller movements that seem to bear little relation to it.

In the case of the Shostakovich No. 6, this works out well enough because the second and third movements are fun to listen to and easy to follow. In the case of the Cyr No. 2, which received its world premiere in Meyerhoff Hall last night from David Zinman and the Baltimore Symphony, I was lost after the first movement.

Let me say at once that that first movement is wonderful: propulsive, exciting and despite its rather short length (the entire symphony lasts only about 15 minutes), one that casts a huge, tragic curve. But it is followed by a scherzo that made no sense. And then by series of variations and a finale that were -- at least on first hearing -- next to impossible to follow.

In a program note, Cyr writes that "the listener will find little resemblance to the highly sectionalized 'theme and variations' of earlier times."

I thought I could hear snatches of six-note phrases being tossed back and forth between the sections of the orchestra, and there were some lovely Messiaen-like orchestral effects.

But this movement looked a lot more interesting on the page to the composer than it sounded in these ears.

Although Zinman has conducted the composer's first violin and cello concertos, this was apparently the first time he has conducted one of Shostakovich's symphonies. It was a good first try.

The conductor took the first movement more slowly than I've ever heard it played before. But instead of developing tragic gravitas, it became merely sectionalized.

The second movement, the first of the two scherzos that end the piece, was taken at less than tempo and missed the music's satire and bite. The work's Rossinian conclusion, however, came off beautifully.

Sylvia Marcovici, who was the soloist in the Sibelius Violin Concerto, brought the house down.

Marcovici, in fact, seemed more interesting in flirting outrageously than she did in performing the concerto.

She has a large, lovely tone, and she's certainly fun to watch; I would have enjoyed the performance more, however, had her intonation been more secure and her view of the concerto more organized.

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