Zacharias, BSO fulfill challenges of Mozart

July 29, 1994|By Kenneth Meltzer | Kenneth Meltzer,Special to The Sun

Pianist Christian Zacharias radiates the impression that he was born to play Mozart. His crystalline tone and impeccable technique serve a keen instinct for phrasing with the utmost musicality. Given the fact that conductor David Zinman is among the the most expert of accompanists, it is not surprising that Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 15 proved to be the highlight of last night's generally rewarding Baltimore Symphony Orchestra Summerfest program at the Meyerhoff.

Time and again, Mr. Zacharias handled Mozart's demanding concerto with an ease and grace that belied the work's extreme challenges.

The pianist offered unfailingly beautiful and strikingly individual phrasing in the second and third movements of the concerto. The first movement was played with a bit less rhythmic variety than this listener would have preferred, but it is clear that Mr. Zacharias made a conscious artistic choice to pursue the music in that fashion and executed it flawlessly.

The playing by the BSO under Maestro Zinman's baton was so exceptionally wedded to that of Mr. Zacharias that I hesitate to refer to it as "accompaniment." It was a splendid achievement all around and a great incentive to attend Mr. Zacharias' performance of the Concerto No. 21 with the BSO on Saturday.

Mozart's condescension toward the Parisian concertgoers is evident in correspondence to his father. Some have argued that the composer's negative attitude is likewise reflected in his "Paris" Symphony (No. 31), a work that appears to be more a virtuosic showpiece than an expression of profound thought. Still, Mozart's genius seemed incapable of fashioning a work that lacked musical substance and heart.

The performance by Zinman and the BSO did not ignore the crowd-pleasing aspects of the Paris Symphony, but it also gave full weight to the work's finer qualities, particularly in a sublime rendition of the andante second movement.

No reservations need be expressed about the greatness of Mozart's tragic Symphony No. 40 in G-minor, and the interpretation by Maestro Zinman and the BSO was of the highest level. Tempos were consistently fleet, but the searing emotional content of the work received its due.

One curious note: Zinman is usually meticulous in his observance of all repeats in symphonies of the Classical era. In this performance of the G-minor, various repeats in the final three movements were omitted, depriving the work to an extent of its )) full architectural breadth. Given the high level of performance, this proved to be among the few disappointments of a stimulating evening.

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