Young violinist shows power under Zukerman Music review

July 02, 1998|By Judith Green | Judith Green,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Imagine having to recite "To be or not to be" as Laurence Olivier stands there on stage beside you. That's more or less what French violinist Ann-Estelle Medouze did yesterday, playing the Tchaikovsky violin concerto while Pinchas Zukerman -- one of the world's great violinists -- led the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra in the last of its Summer MusicFest concerts.

However one feels about Zukerman as a conductor, he has been exceptionally generous as a discoverer and mentor of young musicians.

Medouze, 19, the daughter of a French mother and a father from one of the former countries of French West Africa, is the latest.

And what a find!

Her sound is huge and gorgeous; she makes the fiddle sing like a cello. It's so big that Zukerman actually asked the orchestra to play at full voice, with the result that Steven Barta, the BSO's superb principal clarinet, at first overrode the soloist. He was back to his usual flawless playing in the rest of the concerto and in the Symphony No. 5, however.

Medouze's performance was a little raw in places, but her overall approach was so explosive and invigorating that the rough stuff ceased to matter.

In the slow movement, she had all the creamy lyricism it needed. The concerto wasn't perfect, but it was dazzling.

The all-Tchaikovsky program began with the "Serenade for Strings," which I am so accustomed to seeing as a ballet (George Balanchine choreographed it in 1934) that it's hard to accept it without dancers. Concert tempo for this piece is nothing like dance tempo, which was a bit bothersome; but not nearly as bothersome as Zukerman's slapdash conducting.

The first movement was marred by ragged attacks and cut-offs, and the fughetto was so fast that the players could barely skid through it.

Happily, the concert ended with a sweeping, sumptuous performance of the Symphony No. 5, one of the splendors of the orchestral repertory.

It was a lovely way to say goodbye to Meyerhoff Symphony Hall, where extensive internal renovations begin today on its $6 million acoustic upgrade.

The BSO continues its summer season at Oregon Ridge with concerts at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, July 11, 18, 24 and Aug. 1. For tickets: 410-783-8000.

Pub Date: 7/02/98

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