Some great music-making is going on in Annapolis these days. And nowhere was this more evident than at Maryland Hall Friday and Saturday, when Leon Fleisher led the Annapolis Symphony Orchestra in three challenging works that provided a short tour of the Austrian and German repertoire.
The first stop was the classical period, represented by Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 12, which Fleisher, the orchestra's former music director, conducted from the keyboard.
Fleisher drew graceful string playing from his orchestra, then repeated those musical lines in his crisp, direct keyboard style.
The orchestra attacked the opening of the third movement with obvious relish and fine playing as the brisk pace never faltered in the dialogue between piano and orchestra. It was clear that the orchestra and the soloist were having fun and that was communicated to the audience.
The Early Modern Era was represented by Paul Hindemith's Kammermusik No. 1, the first of a series of compositions written between 1921 and 1928. While the others of the series feature vvTC solo instrument, this one puts all 13 of its players in the spotlight.
The players aptly followed the composer's markings of "very fast and wild" in the giddy opening section with nary a misstep. The wistful third movement provided a showcase for beautiful playing by Kristin Winter Jones on flute, Fred Jacobowitz on clarinet and Karen Smith Manor on bassoon.
The entire group is to be commended, both for the quality of its individual playing and for the sense of teamwork that Fleisher instilled. For this listener, the Hindemith was the high point of the evening and left me wondering why the music of this brilliant and innovative composer is not played more often.
The concluding piece, Brahms' Symphony No. 4, was marginally less successful than the other two.
This is a work of great power and warmth, and, for a performance to succeed, the orchestra must communicate the grand structure of the piece without losing sight of the details. While the orchestra's playing was generally excellent, it lacked the rich, weighty tone that a great Brahms performance requires.
The first two movements were well-executed, without being particularly notable. However, in the third movement, a joyous scherzo, the entire orchestra played with zest. In the finale, too, Fleisher took to heart Brahms' tempo indications of "energetic and passionate," and the orchestra concluded the symphony with committed playing.
In sum, a very good performance but not one to bring to mind the verdict of the great Viennese critic Eduard Hanslick, who wrote at this symphony's premiere: "It is like a dark well: the longer we look into it, the more brightly the stars shine back."
Pub Date: 2/05/97