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Previn masterfully controls BSO performance


Andr'e Previn conducting.

With pianist Jean-Philippe Collard.

Works by Rachmaninoff and Shapero.

Symphony Hall, Jan. 16-19 and 22.



ANDR'E PREVIN, the distinguished music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, swooped into Boston this past weekend to briefly take the baton from Seiji Ozawa, music director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, and conduct a performance of Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 1 in F# minor and Shapero's Symphony for Classical Orchestra.

Accompanied by pianist Jeanne-Philippe Collard, the concerto demonstrated the crisp, strong sounds Rachmaninoff is known for. Though most of his works were composed in the 20th century, Rachmaninoff was heavily influenced by the lyrical melodies of the Romantic era. The concerto was completed while Rachmaninoff was a student at the Moscow Conservatory. Though later overshadowed by the more famous Piano Concerto No. 2, the First Concerto gave an early indication of Rachmaninoff's brilliance.

Pianist Collard's credits include playing with the New York, Los Angeles, and Royal London Philharmonics. His interpretations of the works of classical masters such as Mozart, Bartok, Prokofiev and Brahms have enjoyed critical success. Presently, he records under the EMI record label, which will soon release a set of Chopin Ballades and Chopin's Sonata No. 3.

The Shapero symphony began with the clear uniqueness that represents a bridge between modern and classical styles. Though it was confusing at times, it maintained an interesting balance between harmonious and melodic notes. The second movement, Adagietto, clearly demonstrated the piece's namesake as it successfully imitated the styles of Haydn and Beethoven in making use of the tonal quality of the violin.

The third movement, Scherzo, returned to Shapero's modern influence, showing a melody that alternates between the major and minor keys, a style pioneered by Stravinsky. The finale, Allegro con spirito, opens in the F key, which serves as the dominant note, with an occasional B flat snuck in. Throughout the movement, the full orchestral chords and dialogues between the various instruments made use of the wonderful acoustics of Symphony Hall to provide a treat for the entire audience.

Previn's masterful control of the BSO was no surprise for the audience. Previous credits include working with the London Symphony and the Pittsburgh Symphony with which he won two Emmy nominations for his PBS television series, Previn and the Pittsburgh.

As a child in California, he studied composition with Joseph Achron, and conducted with Pierre Monteux. At an early age, Previn began working with Hollywood studios as a conductor, arranger and composer where he was honored with four Academy Awards. Today, he is a guest conductor for many of the world's most renowned orchestras, including the New York Philharmonic and the Chicago Symphony. His most recent BSO appearance took place in February 1990, when he led the orchestra both at Symphony Hall and at Carnegie Hall in New York.