It must be daunting to conduct Mozart's "Jupiter" Symphony. It's one of the most often performed, recorded and broadcast pieces in the symphonic repertory. All of us who listen to classical music -- even many of us who don't think we do -- walk around with it in our heads. That is why when many conductors lead this piece there is often a wooden quality to the interpretation, a sense of conducting by the numbers.
But when David Zinman conducts Mozart he seems as comfortable as a fish in water. His interpretation of the "Jupiter" last night in Meyerhoff Hall in the fourth concert of the Baltimore ,, Symphony Orchestra's "Summerfest" made the piece sound exhilarating and exciting -- as if it were being heard for the first time.
There was electricity in the conductor's fast tempos for the first movement and also a sense of grandeur -- of a weighty argument being established. In the andante, Zinman was not afraid to be songful, even romantic in drawing the piece out. The third movement allegretto was taken at quite a clip -- Zinman reminded this listener a little of the Toscanini recording -- in which the conductor was still able to create a wealth of expressive nuance. The finale -- with its erupting themes, playful counterpoint, majesty and sense of drive and destination -- is what gives the work its nickname. The conductor and his fine orchestra made that name seem appropriate. A great performance of the "Jupiter" makes the listener feel as if he is present at the moment that God calls creation into existence, and this performance did exactly that.
The rest of the program was well-performed, if not quite on the same level. Mozart's Symphony No. 29 in A Major (K. 201) was played with athletic strength in its outer movements and with a sense of delicacy and proportion in its inner ones. What I didn't hear along with the drive and the playful wit was a sense of relaxation and inner glow. But I think I hear this symphony in a more romantic way than Zinman does.
The conductor was joined by Christian Zacharias for a performance of the composer's final piano concerto, No. 27 in B-flat Major (K. 595). As he almost always does, Zinman provided beautifully turned accompaniment. Zacharias may have made the piece a little too self-consciously beautiful -- though this is, of course, one of the composer's most self-conscious works, one in which he almost parodies himself. But it was hard to resist -- particularly in an exquisitely performed first movement cadenza -- the refinement and delicacy of the playing.