Schumann delivered with bravura Music review

November 20, 1998|By Stephen Wigler | Stephen Wigler,SUN MUSIC CRITIC

Last evening's performance of Schumann's Concerto in A Minor in Meyerhoff Hall by the Norwegian pianist Leif Ove Andsnes, the Baltimore Symphony and its former music director, David Zinman, was little less than miraculous.

In too many performances, the Schumann concerto ends up sounding like the background music for a ladies-in-gloves church social. The fiery, crazy genius who wrote "Kreisleriana" and the slow movement of the Symphony No. 2 is left standing outside the door.

Andsnes invited him in. His bold, rhapsodic performance reconciled the work's disparate masculine and feminine Romantic elements. While he attacked the piece with unusual bravura and confidence, his playing was never merely showy. He invested each phrase with poetry, and he was capable of making magical the concerto's most intimate moments.

He also had some unusual ideas: The slow movement was taken rather more quickly than usual and the last movement flew, with Andsnes' wonderful fingers spinning out inhumanly even scales. But, with Zinman in full support, Andsnes made it all sound absolutely right.

Like his contemporary Evgeny Kissin, Andsnes is a natural pianist who makes you feel as if the instrument is an extension of his arms and fingers. His tone is substantial, colorful and subtle; he never strives for effect; he plays with a perpetually singing line; he has an unswerving sense of rhythm; and he has a heart and an intellect that rarely fail to produce emotional clarity.

The concert opened with Steven Mackey's "Eating Greens." This 20-minute work in seven short movements is one of those everything-but-the-kitchen-sink pieces that are so popular nowadays. Along with fractured Christmas tunes, a bit of Thelonious Monk, a touch of gamelan music, and a referee's whistle, it also featured a pizza delivery. This was all cleverly done and even fun for a few moments or so. But "Eating Greens" is really just another bowl of post-modernist porridge.

The concert concluded with a reading of Dvorak's Symphony No. 5 that made a strong case for this relatively underplayed work. Zinman's subtle control of tempo disguised the somewhat abrupt links in the symphony's structure; his slow movement was affecting without being sentimental; he made the scherzo dance; and he made what is often considered an overlong final movement seem radiant and all too short.

The program will be repeated tonight and Saturday at 8 p.m.

Pub Date: 11/20/98

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.