BSO turns in a terrific tuneup

March 01, 1997|By Stephen Wigler | Stephen Wigler,SUN MUSIC CRITIC

David Zinman led the Baltimore Symphony in Sibelius' Symphony No. 2 Thursday evening in Meyerhoff Hall in a manner that suggested he was preparing the orchestra for the performance of the work it will give tonight at Carnegie Hall.

This is not to say there was anything second-class about the performance, which was cleanly executed, majestically paced and emotionally affecting.

But preparing for Carnegie is like training for a marathon. One wants to peak Saturday in New York, not Thursday or Friday in Baltimore.

This might explain why the conductor kept the voltage lower in the symphony's first movement than he has in the past. It also suggests the reason that Zinman took the final movement somewhat deliberately.

It is too often the case that an orchestra responds to the successive climaxes of the finale with so much fire that by the time it reaches the peroration all fuel (and passion) are spent. Zinman wisely kept the thermostat down. It has always been his practice, while preparing for an important concert, first to solve potential problems and then -- on the night on which adrenalin is called for -- to loose the reins and let the orchestra have its head.

A performance by Pamela Frank of Dvorak's Violin Concerto was an entirely different matter. This violinist seems incapable of playing at anything less than full throttle.

It was an impressive display not merely of virtuosity, but also of artistic maturity from a musician still in her 20s. Frank played with a firm, rich sound; she was able to draw out to the full the

work's lyrical sweetness and slavic melancholy; and her wide range of tone color and dynamics, as well as her tempos, made for almost perpetual excitement. Zinman and the orchestra supplied a fine, idiomatic accompaniment.

Two tiny caveats, however.

The first is that the violinist was occasionally cavalier about intonation, particularly at the uppermost register of her instrument.

One always prefers to a tepid, over-careful performance the excitement that Frank can always be relied upon to provide. But matters such as intonation, particularly in a young musician, must be attended to if they are not to grow worse.

The second is that the solo flute was conspicuously unable, in the concerto's closing moments, to keep pace with and to support the adrenalin-infused soloist.

Pub Date: 3/01/97

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