The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and its music director, David Zinman, concluded what may have been its best Summerfest series ever Saturday with the best concert of the festival. The chief reason was an extraordinary Beethoven's "Emperor Concerto" that featured the pianist Nelson Freire.
In the opinion of many piano aficionados -- including this writer -- Freire is the undisputed heir to the late Arthur Rubinstein. There is the same physical beauty of the playing -- gorgeous tone from top to bottom at all dynamic levels -- and a kind of technique that makes playing the piano seem as natural and as easy as breathing.
Freire's tone is so lovely that one sometimes can forget -- even in so fine an accompaniment as the one he received Saturday -- that other musicians are present. And it's hard to think of another pianist today who can play the solo instrument's final notes in the "Emperor" with such unpercussive brilliance and clarity. This also was an interpretation that -- all the more for its seeming spontaneity and naturalness -- showed tremendous intelligence. When the ear is kept in continual expectation
during so frequently heard a piece as the "Emperor," something special is happening.
After intermission, the BSO and its music director David Zinman gave a performance of Beethoven's Seventh Symphony that was as accurate as it was kinetic. Conductor and orchestra opened the concert with Barber's "Music for a Scene from Shelley" in a reading that was appropriately warm and lyrical.