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Concertgebouw elating, Premiere Ensemble intriguing

Bernard Haitink led the Concertgebouw Orchestra into a bracing performance of Haydn's Symphony No. 88, Monday night. The tightness of control, and accuracy of bowing was exhilerating; and there was wit to be found, too, especially in the Menuetto. The final movement spirited along lightly and airily to an energetic finale.

There was no lack of energy for Mahler's monstrous Symphony No. 5.

One can imagine a conductor -- short on rehearsal time -- giving instructions to his band: "Make noise. Make more noise. Louder. If you get tired, daydream for a few minutes. Then make more noise."

Mahler's high powered stream of consciousness seems to trap, surround, suffocate. It can take a high-tolerance level to sit through it, much less to enjoy it unless the performance is quite out of the ordinary, unless it is powered by a devil locked in combat with a poet. But such a rendition was provided by Haitink's adrenal ensemble.

The power with which the opening Trauermarsch began was immense, the precision of strings almost frightening. The second theme broke through gently, but the Concertgebouw maintained the underlying tensions.

Haitink's crescendos rush up as a wave, it's crest utterly ensnaring, wickedly powerful. Trumpets sounded dagger-like danger signals as Part 1 of the Symphony moved into its final section, currents of complexity in the strings providing brutal, vivid colors.

Moments of detached pizzicato seemed to wind down stress in the Scherzo, but inwardly the music remained taut. For the Adagietto coarse prose was waylaid by a poet who held the devil briefly entranced: there was time for reflection before storms returned; thunderous, the orchestra then charged to a tumultuous finale.

The Boston Premiere Ensemble kept to their tradition of innovative programming by providing a chance to listen to an unusual program -- including two Boston premieres -- performed with the aid of three 19th century pianos.

F. John Adams orchestra was on as good a form as ever, and the three pianists took us on an intriguing excursion into the unknown.

Heng-Jin Park led off with a performance of Debussy's Fantasie on an 'Erard piano, the leading French concert piano towards the end of the 19th century. It's tone accented the percussive, rather than the sonorous, but Park used the instrument's relatively clipped tone to draw tensions between the intense colors of the piece; the orchestra meanwhile provided a supportive backdrop.

Chopin's Variations on Mozart's "La ci darem la mano Op. 2 is not one of my favourite pieces. Smooth and dreamy if conjours up romantic images, not visions of Mozart's lustful Don Giovanni at work. The seductive power of the Mozart's aria, conveyed in its simple, direct approach, seems emasculated in Chopin's variations, especially when they are conveyed with the gossamer textures of the B"osendorfer piano played by Charles Fisk. Still, Fisk did not play without charm and the piece made a novel addition to an afternoon of iscovery.

The British Stoddard piano is much more down-to-earth than the sensuous B"osendorfer. It produced an elegant, clear sound at the hands of Lois Shapiro who played Schumann's Concert Allegro with Introduction; her interpretation of the cadenza was particularly engaging. Fisk returned to join Shapiro for Mendelssohn's

Concerto for Two Pianos in A flat, his flowing B"osendorfer in dramatic contrast to her witty, Classical Stoddard. It was almost as if Mozart was playing Stage Left, Tchaikovsky Stage Right.

The concert by the Concertgebouw attracted a large audience from MIT: 149 tickets were sold through The Tech Performing Arts Series. The Boston Premiere Ensemble did less well: only two tickets were sold, a disappointing result. Small orchestras such as the BPE contribute some of the most exciting programming to be found in Boston, and merit more support.

The Boston Lyric Opera Company will be presenting Haydn's opera Agrippina this Friday and Sunday, Boston's baroque orchestra, Banchetto Musicale will be playing in Jordan Hall on Friday, and Donna Stoering -- whose concert last Friday was postponed due to the hurricane -- will be at the Edward Pickman Hall, Longy School of Music on Sunday October 6. Managements for these artists are willing to provide special discounts for people from MIT to allow them to discover their performers talent: take advantage of these special offers.

Tickets are available through the Technology Community Association (see announcement this issue).

Jonathan Richmond->