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Dichter plays on expectations in Beethoven piano concerto


Pianists who perform Beethoven's Concerto No. 1 in C Major usually fall into two groups: those who play the familiar, shorter cadenza and those who choose the longer, more difficult third cadenza written almost 15 years after the concerto's 1795 premiere. Short-and-early cadenza folks (Fleisher, Argerich, Gilels and Lupu) almost invariably place the concerto in a classical, almost Mozartean context; long-and-late ones (Richter, Michelangeli, Pollini) usually justify their choice with large-scale, dramatic performances that suggest the C Major concerto's Romantic progeny.

Count on Misha Dichter for something different.

When Dichter last appeared here four years ago, he presented a Beethoven Concerto No. 3 spiked with attitude. Last night in a performance of the Concerto No. 1 with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and guest conductor Marek Janowski in Meyerhoff Hall, he also flouted expectations: He used the long cadenza in a performance that emphasized the concerto's classical antecedents.

Dichter has always had a splendid pianistic mechanism, a wide palette of colors and an imagination to match. There was diamond clarity as well as poetic shading in the passage work. The dynamic scale was on the small side, with suggestions of power coming from sharp contrasts. The first-movement cadenza, while not conventionally big, was excitingly played.

The pianist, now 50, has been an important player on the musical scene for three decades. He has always been brilliantly promising, and it was good to hear him give so distinctive and stimulating a performance.

Dichter got a sympathetic accompaniment from the orchestra and Janowski. The Warsaw-born and German-trained conductor concluded the program with a warm, dramatic performance of Schumann's "Rhenish" Symphony, one that featured the most inspirational account -- with the BSO brass rising sonorously to the occasion -- of the slow movement that this listener has heard in years.

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