Saturday's final all-Mozart concert in the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra's Summerfest series presented a program with an extraordinarily high reading on the masterpiece-density scale: the Serenade No. 13 ("Eine Kleine Nachtmusik"), the Piano Concerto No. 12, the Horn Concerto No. 1, the Symphony No. 39 and, in a pre-concert chamber-music performance, the Quintet for Piano and Winds.
This kind of program can make listeners glassy-eyed. But this concert, in which Tamas Vasary served not only as a conductor but also as piano soloist, left one deeply satisfied.
The popular serenade was performed with enough freshness and spontaneity to make one almost believe he was hearing it for the first time. The Symphony No. 39, which concluded the program, had something of the same effect. Vasary's rather romantic reading might have once been called old-fashioned. But partly because the orthodoxy of the Walter-Klemperer-Szell era has been replaced by the new orthodoxy of the period-performance craze and partly because of the conductor's conviction, this performance sounded distinctively fresh.
Vasary led the slow introduction to the first movement with enough gravity to suggest a dark and tragic tone but without overwhelming the music's classical proportions. This great work can occasionally sound robotic, but this performance radiated humanity and warmth; the conductor sculpted melodic lines with nobility and adopted tempos that gave the music a sense of inevitability. The orchestra acquitted itself with distinction, even in the racing finale.
In the Concerto in D Major, BSO principal hornist David Bakkegard gave the kind of performance to which he has made this listener happily accustomed: glorious of tone, lively in phrasing and almost unerring in execution. Vasary and the orchestra gave him a witty, elegant and well-mannered accompaniment.
Vasary also gave himself a fine accompaniment in the Piano Concerto No. 12, and he deserved it. This Hungarian really is one of our great pianists. His playing made the outer movements fresh and vivacious and the poignant middle one searching and inward-looking.
The pianist was equally successful in a polished and urbane, yet affecting, performance of Quintet for Piano and Winds, in which he was joined by hornist Bakkegard, clarinetist Steven Barta, oboist Joseph Turner and bassoonist Phillip Kolker. With his lightness of touch, beauty of tone and phrasing and quite astonishing clarity, Vasary makes playing Mozart sound as natural as breathing.