On paper, last night's Boston Symphony program could scarcely have looked less promising. Two warhorses -- Beethoven's Fifth and Ravel's "Bolero" -- were coupled with two schmaltzy violin display pieces -- Chausson's "Poeme" and Ravel's "Tzigane." It is a pleasure as well as something of a shock to report that the evening far exceeded expectations.
Having heard Beethoven's Fifth in the same hall earlier in the week, one could not avoid making comparisons, particularly when the interpretations were so different. In that regard it is sufficient to say that Beethoven moved considerably closer to Vienna in last night's performance.
Ozawa's interpretation of the Fifth was notable for its grace and restraint as well as sheer beauty and clarity of sound.
Particularly in the second movement, the players poured forth one singing line after another, holding notes as long as possible, lingering almost but never quite too long, with ravishing effect. Only in the final movement did Ozawa's supple touch seem a bit too light to convey the music's ring of triumph.
Despite a silken tone and sensitive touch, soloist Joseph Silverstein failed to find either the intensity or the brilliance needed for the two violin works. Ozawa's virtuosic handling of the underlying pulse in Ravel's "Bolero" turned that monotonous crescendo into compelling music. He was aided by highly imaginative solo playing from the orchestra.