Beethoven breaks forth freshly

BSO does the Fifth briskly, vigorously


March 27, 2004|By Tim Smith | Tim Smith,SUN MUSIC CRITIC

The four notes that launch Beethoven's Fifth Symphony - still the unrivaled attention-getter of all time - have been interpreted every which way. Those who buy the old notion that Beethoven imagined fate knocking at the door tend to rap them out heavily and distinctly, as a very impatient creditor or policeman might. Those determined to push aside such romantic notions tend to ease up on the notes, lighten their coloring so that the music is more about propulsion than drama and portent.

Last night at Meyerhoff Symphony Hall, Yuri Temirkanov's approach combined the ferocity and weight of a fatalistic summons with an energetic fearlessness. Instead of sounding like someone was outside demanding entrance, the effect suggested someone breaking out, breathless and manic. That was but one example of how the conductor helped turn the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra's account of the Fifth from just another encounter with an old, favorite score into a fresh and invigorating experience.

It's possible to quibble with some of Temirkanov's ideas. His headlong rush in the first movement left some nuances behind, some articulation blurry. And the oboe solo that interrupts that movement passed by without evoking its full, mysterious beauty (principal oboist Katherine Needleman was presumably giving Temirkanov what he wanted, the whole, long phrase in one, rather loud volume). But such reservations faded quickly in light of how the conductor recharged the symphony's batteries.

The BSO's playing suggested an air of rediscovery, never routine. The strings were particularly impressive, whether giving extra body to lyrical moments or flying through the middle portion of the scherzo with terrific intensity.

This all-Beethoven program, Temirkanov's last until June, also contained the Violin Concerto, featuring Lithuanian-born, Austrian-based Julian Rachlin, who brought down the house. His ovation rivaled that accorded stellar fiddler Gidon Kremer back in January.

Rachlin last appeared with the orchestra exactly 12 years ago yesterday; now barely out of his 20s, he plays with considerable assurance and remarkable depth of feeling. Once past a timid entrance, the violinist used his distinctively sweet tone to telling effect, limning the many high-lying passages eloquently. Rachlin had plenty of muscle, too, when need be, giving the cadenzas extra bite.

Temirkanov, ever the supportive partner, had the BSO contributing fully and richly to the dialogue. There was some wonderfully subtle playing, along with the same kind of power that would be summoned later in the Fifth Symphony.


Where: Meyerhoff Symphony Hall, 1212 Cathedral St.

When: 8 tonight, 3 p.m. tomorrow

Tickets: $30 to $81

Call: 410-783-8000 or visit

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