All-Mozart concert plays lesser works

June 22, 1998|By Judith Green | Judith Green,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Mozart wrote very little that was utterly worthless, but Pinchas Zukerman, artistic director of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra's Summer MusicFest, managed to find a good number of not-quites in the festival's all-Mozart concert Saturday.

The string trio in E-flat (K. 563) is not quite the best divertimento, the concert aria "Ch'io mi scordi di te/Non temer" is not quite the top of his vocal music and the Piano Concerto No. 12 is the lesser of the two written in the key of A major. Despite pleasing performances, they're not quite the works to send the audience home whistling.

The first two pieces, moreover, tested one's sitting power. Abetted by a couple of pauses -- at least one too many -- for latecomers, the string trio ran a yawnsome 45 minutes. (The whole concert lasted a ridiculous 2 hours and 45 minutes.) This gave the audience plenty of time to notice the clashes between Zukerman's hospital-white Nehru jacket, cellist Gary Hoffman's yellowing dinner jacket and violinist Ariel Shamai's busboy attire. A fashion citation is in order.

The concert aria, written for Nancy Storace, who created the role of Susannah in "The Marriage of Figaro," is about the length of the opera's second act. (Oh, all right, it's a mere 18 minutes. It just seems like an hour.) Without text or translation provided, it was hard to see what all its histrionics were about, though it was clear that soprano Arianna Zukerman, the music director's daughter, was going on and on about something.

Fortunately, she atoned in the second half with the lovely aria "L'amero saro costante," from "Il Re Pastore." The young soprano has a few too many arid high notes but a golden middle register, which is where this aria lies, and her father matched her with his creamy violin obbligato.

Leon Fleisher, always welcome whether playing one- or two-handed, gave a delicate, shapely performance of the concerto.

Zukerman's exuberant, albeit boisterous, reading of the "Linz" Symphony No. 36 gave the concert a joyous finish. His tendency to wave his arms and stomp rather than conduct must be a trial for the musicians, but they played as though they were having fun.

Summer MusicFest continues Wednesday with a program of chamber and orchestral music by Schubert. For tickets: 410-783-8000.

Pub Date: 6/22/98

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