The music directorship of David Zinman ended last night with a mighty thunderclap. Part of the noise was from the Meyerhoff Hall audience that roared its acclamation at the end of the program, when the conductor finished his 13-year tenure as the Baltimore Symphony's music director. Most of it came from the magnificent clangor created by the orchestra and its conductor.
The single work of the evening was Anton Bruckner's Symphony No. 8 in C Minor, one of the most challenging works in the standard symphonic repertory. The challenge is is for audiences as well as musicians.
The Bruckner Eighth is long (93 minutes in Zinman's performance), often enormously loud (many orchestra members used earplugs) and repetitive (the effect of the chug-a-lug 17-minute scherzo can be compared to that of being locked up in the engine room of Darth Vader's starship).
A few people could be observed leaving the nearly sold-out hall after each of the first three movements. But that almost everyone stayed to give the conductor and the orchestra an enormous and richly deserved ovation saluted the performance as well as Zinman's years as music director.
In Zinman's first year as music director, the Baltimore Symphony did not command the breadth of string tone, the on-the-mark, biting brasses, pungent woodwinds and blended ensemble that were consistently on display last night.
This is now a confident orchestra. Last night, I heard string
playing that was often serenely beautiful, wind playing that was noble and powerful and almost unbroken unanimity of ensemble.
Bruckner is not to everyone's taste; the effect of the music is rather like one that might be caused by a thoughtful cross between the music of Philip Glass and water torture. But, in a performance as intelligent as Zinman's, it was difficult to resist a Brucknerian brainwashing.
His was a seamless reading. Even in the spacious adagio -- in which the conductor took a relentlessly steady tempo -- the clarity of detail and refinement of texture were sufficient to compel the listener's attention. The program will be repeated today and tomorrow at 8 p.m.
Pub Date: 6/12/98