For the final program of his penultimate season as the Baltimore Symphony's music director, David Zinman chose Mahler's Symphony No. 5. It was the central work in last night's concert in Meyerhoff Hall.
We hear so much Mahler nowadays that we sometimes forget how difficult his music can be to hold together. Within the space of a few pages, the Fifth Symphony asks an orchestra to play music that sounds like what one might hear at a particularly raucous bar mitzvah party and then, almost without transition, what sounds like the most elegant and sentimental of Strauss waltzes.
Zinman has long been attracted to Mahler's music, and his well-paced delivery of the Fifth suggested he is better than ever in driving home Mahler's crazed juxtapositions, as well as in sustaining the composer's long, melodic arches.
There may have been a shaky moment or two in the orchestra's exposition of the opening "Funeral March," but it was appropriately biting and tough-minded. More polished playing followed in the second and third movements. Certain details, such as the affecting melody in the cellos in the first of these movements, sounded more beautifully wrought than one remembers in past performances by this orchestra and conductor, and it gave way to a secure, relaxed and nicely lilting third movement.
Zinman made the fourth movement, the famously heart-piercing Adagietto, all the more tender for its restraint and understatement. And there was, in his finale, a finely detailed treatment of the counterpoint as well as a thrilling swagger and thrust that were not diminished by the headlong rush of the coda.
The occasional weakness in the first movement of the Mahler may have been caused by the rehearsal time required by David Dzubay's difficult-to-play "sun moon stars rain." This 15-minute work, consisting of sections marked "summer," "autumn," "winter" and "spring," was inspired by e.e. cummings' poem, "anyone lived in a pretty how town" -- a work to which the music bears no apparent relation.
Nevertheless, "sun moon stars rain" proved infectiously joyous in its unflagging rhythms. It's a post-modern version of Vivaldi's "Four Seasons," owing as much to bebop as to the baroque.
The program will be repeated tonight at 8.
Pub Date: 6/13/97