Teen pianist triumphs with Beethoven, BSO

June 27, 1998|By Judith Green | Judith Green,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Helen Huang, all of 15, made a dazzling Baltimore debut yesterday on the third concert of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra's Summer MusicFest. The piece was a standard, Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 1, but the performance was clean, pleasant and, at times, brilliant.

Those times were in the cadenzas, which Beethoven wrote as solo displays for his own formidable technique. Huang handled them without fuss or froth. She's on her way to a remarkable career.

The all-Beethoven program was, like preceding programs devoted to Mozart and Schubert, capably played; but there seemed to be little to connect the four pieces chosen by artistic director Pinchas Zukerman, save the name of their composer.

Again, the chamber music offering spotlighted some of the BSO's players. The Atlantic String Quartet, a three-year-old ensemble comprising violinists Greg Mulligan and Rebecca L. Nichols, violist Christian Colberg and cellist Gita Roche, played the work (Op. 95) nicknamed the "Quartet Serioso": a brief, dark, taciturn work.

Zukerman then played the Romanze in G, most likely the slow movement to an unfinished violin concerto. Though he has devoted himself to the viola in recent years, his performance of this pretty piece shows him still a gracious and elegant violinist.

A good thing, too, for the skills of conducting seem beyond him. The Symphony No. 5, whose famous first movement begins on a rest, was so rickety that the musicians abandoned hope of guidance and stayed together by sheer familiarity with the score.

Zukerman telegraphed every rhythmic surprise by stomping on it -- literally. He also danced, genuflected and waved, but none of these were much help.

A larger question is why an all-Beethoven program was offered when the BSO's coming season is laden with Beethoven. Both the symphony and the concerto will be featured, along with all the other symphonies and concertos (and the "Missa Solemnis," the "Choral Fantasy" and a few overtures). There are hundreds of other composers out there who deserve an evening's attention.

The final concert of the BSO's Summer MusicFest, an all-Tchaikovsky program, is at 7: 30 p.m. Wednesday in Meyerhoff Symphony Hall. For tickets: 410-783-8000.

Pub Date: 6/27/98

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