Zacharias and BSO sparkle on Mozart

August 02, 1994|By Kenneth Meltzer | Kenneth Meltzer,Special to The Sun

During last Thursday's penultimate Baltimore Symphony Orchestra Summerfest concert, pianist Christian Zacharias offered a splendid rendition of Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 15. The composer's 21st Piano Concerto is an even greater work, and Saturday evening at the Meyerhoff, Mr. Zacharias rose to the occasion with a performance that ranks among the most probing and brilliantly executed in this listener's memory.

Once again Mr. Zacharias surmounted Mozart's considerable technical demands, intensified all the more by consistently fleet tempos, with astonishing ease. Still, the pianist did not hesitate, particularly in the first movement, to linger over passages for expressive effect. Throughout, Mr. Zacharias maintained a silken tone that highlighted the vocal orientation of Mozart's piano writing.

The second and third movements were more controversial, and for that reason, absolutely riveting. Mr. Zacharias performed the famous "Elvira Madigan" Andante at a strikingly fast clip and emphasized the dark undercurrents of a movement that is usually awash in sentimentality. The concluding Allegro Vivace, taken at a seemingly impossible tempo but nonetheless impeccably articulated, operated more as a catharsis than merely a cheerful finale. The cumulative effect of this performance, expertly partnered by David Zinman and the BSO, was emotionally overwhelming. Baltimore concertgoers may be accused of being rather generous with standing ovations (there were three on this evening alone), but in the case of Mr. Zacharias, it was richly deserved.

The concert began with a committed performance of Mozart's Adagio and Fugue in C-Minor that quite properly highlighted its connections to the baroque era, but suffered at times from harsh string tone and imprecise attacks. Violinist Joshua Bell's rendition of the composer's Third Concerto began with some precarious intonation but was generally admirable from a technical point of view. Still, the violinist's choice of relatively broad tempos seemed at odds with his compact tone.

The evening concluded with a brilliant rendition of the "Haffner" Symphony. The BSO's gracious refusal to rise at its conclusion so that David Zinman could enjoy the audience's display of enthusiasm solo was a fitting tribute. Nevertheless, all parties are to be congratulated for a series of concerts that offered musical inspiration and execution of the highest order.

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