'Spectacular' is the word for Lupu-Zinman team

February 14, 1997|By Stephen Wigler | Stephen Wigler,SUN MUSIC CRITIC

David Zinman and the pianist Radu Lupu are in some respects very different kinds of musicians.

Because he almost always seems to have a game plan and because his interpretations -- while scarcely unfeeling -- tend to be emotionally under control, one might call the Baltimore Symphony's music director an Apollonian recreative artist.

And while Lupu has a powerful, disciplined intellect and an all-but-impregnable technique, the risks he takes with tempos, unconventional coloristic effects and ventures into music's dark side justify calling him a Dionysian interpreter.

But putting these quite different musicians together is rather like throwing a lit match into a barrel of gasoline: A Lupu-Zinman collaboration almost invariably leads to an explosive yield of heat and light.

This was certainly the case in Meyerhoff Hall last night when Lupu joined Zinman and the Baltimore Symphony in a spectacular performance of Beethoven's Concerto No. 4.

"Spectacular" is not a word one usually uses for this most poetic and meditative of all piano concertos. But how else to refer to a pianist who conquers the challenge of the concerto's opening -- with its dangerously exposed piano-alone entrance -- with never-before encountered intensity and meditative depth?

This was a reading in which Lupu's lightness of touch was such that he seemed barely to brush the keys in such passages as the opening of the finale and in which the variety of his articulation ranged from the crisp and clear to the dark and passionate. And this praise still neglects to mention a command of tone-color so wide that it made the finale sing with effervescent, almost ineffable, joy and made the slow movement's bottomless, Kafkaesque depths palpably chilling.

Lupu could not have felt free to play with such freedom and intensity without the security of knowing he had an equally inspired partner in Zinman. His refreshingly imaginative playing was matched throughout by Zinman's unstinting support and the glorious sounds he produced from the orchestra.

The program was completed by a performance of Brahms' rarely heard "Rinaldo," a forceful and solemn -- sometimes too unrelentingly so -- setting of Tasso (by way of Goethe) for orchestra, mostly male chorus and tenor soloist.

"Rinaldo" was played fervently by the orchestra and sung with splendor by soloist Chris Merrit and with occasional unsteadiness by members of the Baltimore Symphony Chorus.

The program will be repeated today and tomorrow at 8 p.m.

Pub Date: 2/14/97

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