Sometime in the next millennium, if someone were to ask me what made David Zinman such a great musician, I might talk about the Baltimore Symphony program he conducted last night in Meyerhoff Hall. It demonstrated his versatility, his ability to collaborate with a soloist and his strength as an orchestra builder.
The last of these qualities was displayed in the program's second half. "Dance Mix" bound together six short pieces, all of them written in the past six years, all based on popular dance forms and all difficult to play.
Only a conductor with sufficient confidence in himself and his orchestra would dare to play six pieces as demanding as Christopher Rouse's "Bonham," John Adams' "Lollapalooza," David Schiff's "Stomp," Michael Daugherty's "Route 66," James Willey's "A Millennial Boogie" and Aaron Jay Kernis' "New Era Dance." Such confidence was not misplaced. In his 13-year tenure in Baltimore, Zinman built an orchestra that could respond with the technical security and rhythmic accuracy necessary to race along the hairpin turns in these pieces. Those by Kernis, Rouse and Schiff had been played by the orchestra five years ago. They have not gotten any easier, and the others -- including the world premiere of Willey's "A Millennial Boogie" -- were not any easier.
The Willey piece, which dances by with limbs akimbo, was delivered with its wit, lyricism and darker moments intact. Adams' "Lollapalooza," a sinuous mix of Latin and jazz rhythms, lived up to the slangy promise of its title. And Daugherty's "Route 66," an eclectic, all-but-the-kitchen-sink collection of timbres and allusions (running all the way to TV's "Bonanza" and back), proved immensely likable.
The first half of the program demonstrated that the magic in the collaborations of Zinman and the great pianist Radu Lupu remains undiminished. Lupu's delicacy of finger work and his shading of tonal color beggared description, as did the refreshing spontaneity and interpretive depth of his conception. And with an accompaniment as firmly supportive as Zinman's, the pianist must have felt free to do his best. The concert began with a reading of the "Cockaigne" overture, Elgar's portrait of London, that moved with a sweep worthy of that great city.
Pub Date: 1/22/99