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Roger Norrington lends freshness and discovery to bracing account of Mendelssohn's Symphony No. 4

BOSTON SYMPHONY

ORCHESTRA

Conducted by Roger Norrington.

Program of works by Haydn,

Tippett and Mendelssohn.

Symphony Hall, March 1, 3 and 6

at 8 pm, and today at 2 pm.

By JONATHAN RICHMOND

LAST NIGHT ROGER NORRINGTON led the BSO in a bright and altogether bracing account of Mendelssohn's Symphony No. 4, "Italian." Norrington is known for his fast -- and often controversial -- tempi, but when he propelled the Boston players through this flighty work their hearts but not their feet left the ground, and the music came across magically.

The opening movement got the work off to a vigorous start. But the Andante con moto was yet more splendid, beautifully and seamlessly smooth, but also intensely evocative. Above all it was fresh, and there was a sense of discovery to every measure of this well-known work.

Tensions were nicely molded during the third movement, and there was some delightful wind playing here. Norrington is known for his ability to allow his original instruments wind voices to maintain their separate identities, but combine to glorious effect, and he achieved the same with the modern instruments BSO.

The finale was more than exciting: alert but well controlled, details sharply defined and put in the foreground for the listener's enjoyment, it was exhilarating.

Haydn's Symphony No. 83, "The Hen," with which the program had begun, was not equally successful. The strings did not always sound sharp, and several passages came across ponderously. The Andante was flowing and graceful for at least a part of its length, but choppy in places. The third movement sounded thinnish at times and, while there were some measures of felicitous playing in the Finale, it didn't hold together adequately.

Tippett's Fantasia concertante on a Theme of Corelli worked better. It was played colorfully, and with fine solo work, especially from cellist Jules Eskin. The baroque elements at the core of the work shone through, but the richer style of Tippett was equally at home.