Zukerman mix: all-Beethoven, and with zest

June 26, 1999|By Stephen Wigler | Stephen Wigler,SUN MUSIC CRITIC

Friday evening's Baltimore Symphony concert in Meyerhoff Hall marked the final appearance of violinist-violist-conductor Pinchas Zukerman's three-year tenure as artistic director of the orchestra's annual Summer MusicFest.

Last night's concert demonstrated his intelligent program-making and knack for bringing interesting, compatible artists together. The all-Beethoven program was a typical Zukerman mix of chamber (the Sonata No. 3 in A Major for Cello and Piano) and orchestral music (the Symphony No. 2 and "Triple Concerto" for violin, piano and cello).

The A Major Cello Sonata is much greater Beethoven than either the Symphony No. 2 or "Triple Concerto," and I was grateful to hear so distinguished a per formance as that of cellist Gary Hoffman and pianist Jon Kimura Parker.

The cellist is a branch of one of America's most distinguished musical families: his father, Irvin, was a well-known conductor; his mother, Esther, a wonderful violinist; and his brother, Toby, is a fine violist and composer. Now about 40, Gary Hoffman be, must be counted among the world's best cellists.

His sumptuous sound ranges from the merest whisper of a half tone to a full-blooded fortissimo. He was fortunate to have pianist Jon Kimura Parker as his partner. The Canadian pianist has a big, relaxed style that is matched by a plushly upholstered sound. But he is also a superb chamber musician. His delicacy of fingerwork, subtle shading of tone color and shapely phrasing highlighted, rather than masked, the refined lines of the cello.

After the performance of the sonata, Zukerman led the orchestra in the Second Symphony. While the quantity of adrenalin released was not always matched by the polish of the playing, this was persuasive, powerful Beethoven.

Zukerman traded the baton for the violin and joined Parker and Hoffman in the Triple Concerto. This piece can be deadly dull, but there are occasions when it can sound like first-rate Beethoven.

Last night was one of them. With BSO assistant conductor Daniel Hege leading the orchestra, the three soloists played as a team in the outer movements, allowing their personalities to blossom in the slow one.

Pub Date: 6/26/99

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