Beethoven's Romances for Violin and Orchestra are subdued pieces -- scarcely the works in which one expects a violinist to make an enormous impression. But that is precisely what Pamela Frank did last night when she played the Romances with David Zinman and the Baltimore Symphony in Meyerhoff Hall. The playing was affectingly big-hearted, perpetually singing and unobtrusively elegant. Hers were performances that found heretofore unrealized depths in these pieces without violating their slight compass.
Zinman and the orchestra were superb in the Romances, as they were in almost every other work on the program. The one exception was Barber's Second Essay for Orchestra, which needed more fine tuning to tame its bluster. One expects that by the time Zinman and the orchestra repeat the work this fall -- before recording it -- that the performance will be up to their usual standard.
The conductor and the BSO gave a superb accompaniment to Claude Frank (the violinist's father) in his authoritatively shaped reading of Beethoven's B-flat Rondo. And conductor and orchestra were hair-raising in a performance of Beethoven's Symphony No. 5 so incendiary that even the usually hapless second movement seethed with excitement.