Concert proves pure Zinman

Music: The BSO and its former music director will perform a program that clearly illustrates the innovation that marked his tenure.

January 21, 1999|By Stephen Wigler | Stephen Wigler,SUN MUSIC CRITIC

This is the week that Baltimore music lovers really get to say goodbye to David Zinman.

The program the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and its former music director perform in Meyerhoff Symphony Hall this week and take to New York's Carnegie Hall on Monday evening represents Zinman's 13-year tenure better than any of the high-gloss celebrations that marked his final year on the job last season.

It includes three things Zinman does spectacularly well: interpret the music of Elgar (his "Cockaigne Overture" opens the program); collaborate with a great soloist who also happens to be a personal friend (Radu Lupu joins Zinman in Beethoven's Third Piano Concerto); and, perhaps most important, conduct music by living American composers.

"No other American orchestra is able to do the things this orchestra can do," says composer James Willey. "It's been unique in the history of American symphonic music."

No American orchestra-conductor combination has been so influential, at least not since the heyday of Serge Koussevitsky and the Boston Symphony in the 1930s and '40s. In those glorious days, that great conductor and orchestra presented world premieres of many of the 20th century's greatest masterpieces -- by composers as diverse as Aaron Copland, Leonard Bernstein, Dmitri Shostakovich, Ravel, Prokofiev, Roy Harris and Howard Hanson.

Along with several others -- three of them Pulitzer Prize winners -- Willey is one of several American composers whose work Zinman has championed and will present on the second half of this week's program.

The concert -- or, at least, its latter half -- will repeat the concept of one of the great triumphs of the Zinman years: the 1994 "Dance Mix" program that garnered national attention and, after being recorded, rose to the top of the classical charts in 1995. Zinman will perform, one right after the other, six short, rhythmically charged pieces inspired by dance music genres from rap to boogie.

It's the kind of concert that made Zinman and the BSO bywords for innovative, attention-getting programming.

"What David's good at is creating an audience out of people who always go [to classical concerts] and those who never go," said Michael Daugherty, whose "Route 66" will be performed. "I suspect that makeup of the audience will be a little bit like that of those that used to watch `The Ed Sullivan Show.' "

Daugherty and Willey were having lunch yesterday and reminiscing about the Zinman years.

"Younger people who come will hear ideas interesting to them -- such as rock rhythms -- in a context that may be new to them," Willey said.

"American music in the last 15 years or so has been on the cutting edge because of a new openness, a willingness to try anything," Daugherty added. "This orchestra has been the most influential in the country in that period."

But the program bids a belated farewell to more than the Zinman year.

"It's a statement that sums up a century," Willey said. "It's the sign-off for one hundred years."

Concert

What: "Dance Mix" concert of pieces by important American composers with Baltimore Symphony Orchestra under conductor David Zinman, with pianist Radu Lupu performing Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 3

Where: Meyerhoff Symphony Hall, 1212 Cathedral St.

When: Today and tomorrow at 8 p.m, Saturday at 11 a.m.

Tickets: $14-$55 Call: 410-783-8000 Pub Date: 1/21/99

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