Look for great concerts with Zukerman

July 13, 1996|By Stephen Wigler | Stephen Wigler,SUN MUSIC CRITIC

If his concert last night in Meyerhoff Hall was any indication of what is to come, the appointment of violinist-conductor Pinchas Zukerman as the artistic director of the BSO's Summer MusicFest was a very smart move. Zukerman does not actually get a chance to put his ideas about programming to the test until next summer, but his conducting and playing on this occasion demonstrated that BSO audiences can expect interesting and exciting summer concerts here as long as Zukerman is willing to lead them.

He participated as a soloist in both Bach's Concerto in C Minor for Violin and Oboe and the Concerto in D Minor for Two Violins. In the former, the violinist's phrasing and tonal nuance were consistently beguiling, and he beautifully partnered BSO principal oboist Joseph Turner's equally resilient and imaginative playing.

Results were just as impressive in the Double Violin Concerto, in which Zukerman was joined by BSO concertmaster Herbert Greenberg. Zukerman responded to the challenge of working with a violinist, with a different kind of sound and temperament, the way only a great chamber musician can. He reduced his enormous sound so that he did not overwhelm his tonally more restricted partner, collaborating in a manner such that he not only played to Greenberg's characteristic sweetness of expression but also made it possible for him to feel free to play with greater boldness and confidence than might otherwise have been the case. In both concertos, Zukerman's conducting provided thrust and sensitive support.

But that Zukerman is an inspired orchestral leader without his violin was obvious from his accounts of Mozart's Symphony No. 40 in G Minor and Schubert's "Rosamunde" Overture.

His conducting is both more expansive and more casual than that of BSO music director David Zinman, who created the orchestra's summer series. But to call Zukerman's style casual is not to say that it is careless. He had a real grip on the Schubert overture, but he used it to produce playing whose unaffected honesty yielded freshness of expression as well as considerable charm.

Mozart's tragic G Minor Symphony, which concluded the program, received a particularly distinguished interpretation. The stark opening, with its feverishly thrumming violas and its grieving and raging violins, established a real sense of occasion. The succeeding movements were equally convincing: gentle expressiveness in the andante, a sense of steely harshness as well as of dignity in the minuet, and a finale that was as furious as it was exhilarating.

Pub Date: 7/13/96

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