Repin plays Shostakovich brilliantly

January 12, 1996|By Stephen Wigler | Stephen Wigler,SUN MUSIC CRITIC

Snow-clogged streets and the threat of another storm kept all but about 900 hardy souls away from Meyerhoff Hall last night to hear the Baltimore Symphony, guest conductor James DePreist and violin soloist Vadim Repin.

Those who stayed because they thought they were having a hard time should attend to the troubles of DePreist and Repin. Not only did the weather cause them to lose a rehearsal, but because of airport closings, both men had to catch red-eyes from the West Coast late Tuesday night. They arrived here Wednesday morning, red-eyed and sleep deprived.

Next, consider the program: Shostakovich's First Violin Concerto A Minor, one of the most difficult pieces in the repertory for both soloist and orchestra and which the BSO hadn't played in more than 10 years. Then there was Mahler's big Symphony No. 1, a piece the orchestra plays frequently but which is not exactly as easy to get through as a Sunday picnic.

The concert was, nevertheless, terrific. Violin aficionados nowadays argue about who is the greater player, the 24-year-old Repin or the 22-year-old Maxim Vengerov. Both are Siberian-born, both studied under the same teacher and each was trotted out a few years back by the former Soviet Union, along with pianist Evgeny Kissin, to show the West the glories of Soviet music training.

Repin made quite an impression. His Shostakovich Concerto was about as brilliant and searching as any this listener has heard since David Oistrakh and Leonid Kogan were in their prime. He played with a consistently sweet and unforced big tone. He fearlessly explored the darkness of the opening movement, the shrieks of the Klezmer-like scherzo and the emotional depths of the third-movement Passacaglia.

His conquest of the long, difficult cadenza was complete and his flying bravura in the final movement richly deserved the standing ovation it received.

DePreist, one of this country's most experienced and distinguished Shostakovich interpreters, admirably kept the orchestra safely afloat in the work's hazardous waters -- there was some especially lovely work by the woodwinds -- and he and the BSO concluded the program with a fine reading of the Mahler symphony.

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