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Music Review : Mintz, Orchestra Excel

October 14, 1994|TIMOTHY MANGAN

The way it looked on paper, it was going to be the Shlomo Mintz Show, with a little band called the Israel Chamber Orchestra serving his every need. The veteran violinist Mintz would appear in triple glory as violin soloist, viola soloist and conductor.

We had no need to worry. While the concert at Ambassador Auditorium on Wednesday did prove a display for his talents, this was only a byproduct of his keen attention to the music itself and the splendid playing of the orchestra.

Opening with Mozart's Violin Concerto, K. 219, "Turkish," Mintz coaxed the orchestra through the exposition, turned and played, thereafter giving only the smallest smattering of conductorial attention to the group. No matter. This was a well-drilled performance, with all the interpretive niceties painted in.

The orchestra played with rhythmic elan, gentle lyricism and a precision that never sounded mechanical. Mintz, on a 1719 Stradivarius, offered a dashing, even bravura virtuosity, but strictly within a controlled, 18th-Century context. And, when called for, he threaded Mozart's cantilena clearly, warmly, vivaciously and poetically.

To the late and fervent Romanticism of Schoenberg's "Verklarte Nacht," Mintz brought his baton and a disciplined reading. Still relatively new to conducting (he's been at it five years), he might be accused of visually over-projecting his ideas, dotting every i, etc. On the other hand, he knew exactly what he wanted every step of the long way, and he achieved remarkable results.

The ICO gave him exactly what he wanted, showed themselves as first-rate musicians from top to bottom, and handled the considerable technical demands with little strain and much gusto.

Viola in hand, Mintz and ensemble then presented Oedoen Partos' 1951 "Yiskor" (In Memoriam), dedicated to the victims of the Holocaust. The 10-minute work is an eloquent Bartokian flight of prayer, and it was delivered with conviction.

To these ears at least, Mintz's musical talents seemed less well suited to the sturdy challenges of Haydn's Symphony No. 92, "Oxford," than they had been to Mozart's graceful classicism. At any rate, the performance unfolded with plenty of vigor and spirit, and the songful slow movement sang, but there was just a hint of stuffiness here and there, and some flatish phrasing.

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