A crisp orchestra, a lyrical violinist

April 20, 1996|By Stephen Wigler | Stephen Wigler,SUN MUSIC CRITIC

Last night's Baltimore Symphony Orchestra concert in Meyerhoff Hall was a superb pastry -- cool and crisp on the outside, warm and inviting inside.

The outside consisted of music director David Zinman leading the orchestra in the youthful exercises in neoclassicism by Prokofiev (the "Classical Symphony") and Bizet (the Symphony in C Major); the inside by violinist Dylana Jenson's performances of Saint-Saens' "Introduction and Rondo" and Ravel's "Tzigane."

Some music lovers may remember Jenson as the lovely teen-ager who returned from Moscow's Tchaikovsky Competition -- where she had been the audience favorite -- with the Silver Medal.

She went on to make some recordings that included an extraordinary Sibelius concerto (with Eugene Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra) and some fine Brahms sonatas that confirmed her dramatic flair and her gift for passionate lyricism.

The violinist did not achieve the fame that seemed within her grasp at the time -- perhaps because she preferred to spend more time with the three children she has raised with her husband, conductor David Lockington, than an international career would have allowed.

But her performances last night made clear that Jenson can still play the violin -- perhaps better than ever.

Her playing impresses for a variety of reasons -- not least because of a large, warm tone that she achieves without forcing the instrument and because of an all but impregnable technique that was never -- even in the virtuosic music of Saint-Saens and Ravel -- merely flashy.

She has a personal magnetism and an uncanny ability to communicate with an audience.

The Saint-Saens was warmly expressive from the first phrase of the "Introduction"; the "Rondo," taken at a comfortable speed that was not intended to dazzle, was exciting because of its rhythmic incisiveness.

Temperatures in her performance of Ravel's "Tzigane" reached red-hot levels.

The "Meditation" from Massenet's "Thais," which she played as an encore, was intensely sweet without becoming cloying.

Zinman and the orchestra, who accompanied the violinist expertly, gave beguiling performances of the Prokofiev and Bizet works.

The "Classical Symphony" had the right mixture of elegance and spikiness, and Zinman pointed up the music's high spirits with infectious wit.

Bizet's Symphony in C Major glowed with with warmth. The orchestral playing was admirable in its polish and elegance, and Joe Turner made the wistful, tender oboe solos in the slow movement sing out with special eloquence.

Pub Date: 4/20/96

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