Fleisher has the touch in concert

February 05, 1997|By Pierre Ruhe | Pierre Ruhe,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

The Annapolis Symphony Orchestra began its concert Sunday afternoon at the Gordon Center for Performing Arts in Owings Mills with Leon Fleisher as both conductor and soloist.

On stage, the piano's usual placement for a concerto was rotated so Fleisher faced the orchestra and the keys faced the audience. The lid was removed to disperse the sound. Despite a few ragged entrances, the orchestra provided warm and graceful accompaniment to Fleisher's limpid, well-turned phrasing in Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 12 in A, K. 414.

A few minor finger slips at the piano did nothing to distract from an outstanding Mozartean performance. Fleisher's difficulties with his right hand are well-known, so I'll put it bluntly: Who cares about a few wrong notes? Concertgoers would rather hear an artist of Fleisher's caliber, with his weighty interpretations and delicate, nuanced touch, playing Mozart concertos than a pianist with all the notes in place but unable to express his own soul and the music's spirit.

For the Brahms Fourth Symphony, Fleisher followed the Viennese tradition of splitting the violins to the left and right of center, with the cellos in the spot normally occupied by the second violins.

Such a seating arrangement heightened the symphony's textures and served Fleisher's holistic notions, creating a sound at once gritty and silken and ultimately deeply satisfying. The grit came from a rhythmic abruptness, conveyed through an insistence on crisp bowing from the strings.

Inner voices were given prominence without sacrificing balance. jTC There is a lushness in the score, however, that the orchestra couldn't supply, but it was a performance that stayed with this listener long after it ended.

Before intermission, 12 players from the orchestra addressed Hindemith's Kammermusik No. 1, which outwardly strives to reject the symphonic opulence and romantic polish heard in Brahms' music. Hindemith's effort was a case of youth rejecting outdated sounds, forging its own path.

Yet both composers sought a return to historic ideals of clarity and proportion, Hindemith through a neo-Baroque styling, Brahms by classical development and form. The seven works that make up the Kammermusik ("chamber music") series loosely follow the pattern set by Bach's "Brandenburg" Concertos.

In the Kammermusik No. 1, the conductor and his players were put through dizzying and manic paces. The decadence of Berlin in the 192Os is set to music with nightclub energy and vulgarity unbounded, until finally a police siren breaks up the party.

For the listener, the clarity of the Kammermusik's orchestration makes it a lucid romp. Although balances between instruments were off, particularly in later movements, the performers Sunday attacked the work in a witty and highly entertaining reading; only the electronic organ, which substituted for an accordion, failed in its task.

Pub Date: 2/05/97

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