Chang, 14, charms hall with violin

November 17, 1995|By Stephen Wigler | Stephen Wigler,SUN MUSIC CRITIC

Midori must be having nightmares.

The reason is Sarah Chang, a 14-year-old violinist, who played Edouard Lalo's "Symphonie Espagnole" last night in Meyerhoff Hall with David Zinman and the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra.

In an era characterized by violinists with brilliant techniques, Sarah's can be called extraordinary. She also has an enormous sound, rich in warmth and varied in color. And though Lalo's showpiece is scarcely a profound piece, Chang demonstrated tenderness of feeling and musical imagination. Her playing was, by turns, seductive, red-blooded and scintillating.

Her enormous impact upon last night's audience cannot, however, be explained completely by her mastery of her instrument and her musicianship. And adorable as this child looked in her layered pink formal dress with its matching bright pink shoes, "cute" had little to do with it.

Sarah drives an audience crazy for the same reason that balding, salt-and-pepper-shaker-shaped fiddlers such as Isaac Stern and David Oistrakh once did. It's an ability to make an audience comfortable because you seem so comfortable and so secure; it's the personal magic that makes people love you. It's called charisma, and Sarah Chang has it.

As is his wont, BSO music director Zinman gave the young violinist a first-class accompaniment. After intermission, the concert concluded with Hindemith's "Mathis der Maler" symphony, one of the toughest-to-play pieces in the repertory.

Mr. Zinman and his orchestra seem to be on a hot streak: the Hindemith received a reading that was powerfully shaped, finely detailed and transparently textured. Any conductor and orchestra would have been proud of it.

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

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