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March 1, 2012

Leon Fleisher conducts all-Brahms concert with Peabody Symphony, Yury Shadrin

Leon Fleisher brings an air of authority into a concert hall, whether he walks over to a piano or a podium.

The latter was his destination Tuesday night, when he led the Peabody Symphony Orchestra in a program devoted to Brahms, a composer who has played a significant role in Fleisher's storied career.

Symphony No. 3 found the conductor in an expansive mood, but within his broad tempos, he had phrases crackling and surging.

It was a beautifully sculpted interpretation, if not always a beautifully played one.

The orchestra sounded a couple notches below the technical level I heard earlier this season. Intonation in the brass and woodwinds proved unreliable; the strings didn't always summon a cohesive tone.

But ...

the expressive connection was there from the get-go, and that made quite a difference. (Unless my ears deceived me, there were a few touches of portamento from the strings, a once-common practice well worth bringing back in the right repertoire.)

Brahms' B-flat major Concerto took up the second half of the program, providing quite a showcase for one of Fleisher's star students, Yury Shadrin.

The Russian pianist, now in his early 30s, has been steadily building an international career -- competitions, concert engagements in this country and abroad -- since the 1990s. That he decided to clear time for additional study, and to do so with an artist of Fleisher's stature, speaks well for the young man's priorities.

His playing on Tuesday spoke well, too. Shadrin clearly has the chops for this daunting score. He handled the most difficult passages with aplomb and, even at his most forceful, avoided tonal brittleness. A wide range of nuances kept the music sounding fresh and spontaneous as the pianist effectively limned the concerto's drama, poetry and, ultimately, charm.

Fleisher could not have been a more supportive partner for his pupil. The orchestra, now slightly reduced in size, sounded much better, providing a solid foundation for the soloist's exceptional work.

Prior to the concerto performance, Robert Meyerhoff and Rheda Becker were acknowledged for their $1 million gift in support of the Leon Fleisher Scholars Fund, which will support gifted piano students at Peabody. Fleisher told the audience that, while many philanthropists give to buildings, "Bob and Rheda give to people." The couple was on hand to receive the hearty, sustained ovation.

Note that Shadrin will give a free recital presented by the Shriver Hall Concert Series at the BMA April 28.

PHOTO COURTESY SHRIVER HALL 

Posted by Tim Smith at 9:39 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Clef Notes, Peabody Institute
        

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About Tim Smith
Born and raised in Washington, D.C., I couldn't help but develop a keen interest in politics, but music, theater and visual art also proved great attractions. Music became my main focus after high school. I thought about being a cocktail pianist, but I hated taking requests, so I studied music history instead, earning a B.A. in that field from Eisenhower College (Seneca Falls, N.Y.) and an M.A. from Occidental College (Los Angeles). I then landed in journalism. After freelancing for the Washington Post and others, I was classical music critic for the Sun-Sentinel in South Florida, where I also contributed to NPR. I've written for the New York Times, BBC Music Magazine and other publications, and I'm a longtime contributor to Opera News. My book, The NPR Curious Listener's Guide to Classical Music (Perigee, 2002), can be found on the most discerning remainder racks.

I joined the Baltimore Sun as classical music critic in 2000 and, in 2009, also became theater critic, giving me the opportunity to annoy a whole new audience. In 2010, my original Clef Notes blog expanded to encompass a theatrical component -- how could I resist calling it Drama Queens? I hope you'll find both sides of this blog coin worth exploring and reacting to; your own comments are always welcome and valued (well, most of them, at least).

Think of this as your open-all-hours, cyber green room, where there's always a performer or performance to discuss, some news to digest, or maybe just a little good gossip to share.
Note: Tim Smith now writes about the fine arts at baltimoresun.com/artsmash. This blog will be kept in place as an archive for an indefinite period. Please visit the new location to get the latest Mid-Atlantic arts coverage.
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