The first half of the New York Philharmonic's Beethoven program at Wolf Trap last night left the listener with one large question -- who was responsible for what, to these ears anyway, seemed one of the more bizarre interpretations of the violin concerto. The second half of the program brought the answer, neatly exposing the core of conductor Klaus Tennstedt's art and underlining the distance violinist Mark Kaplan must travel to become a mature artist.
The concerto moved in expressive fits and starts, sometimes taking on a pleasant romantic character when Tennstedt and Kaplan were in agreement, at other times disintegrating as the violinist's rhythmic and melodic manipulation destroyed all forward motion. Kaplan clearly has considerable talent but at the moment seems to be in a kind of artistic limbo, part the freshness of youth and not yet into the deeper perceptions of the seasoned performer. Attempting to fill the void with mannerisms instead of authority proved a far from successful solution.
Returning for the seventh symphony in the second half, Tennstedt showed exactly how an artist goes about being individual without becoming willful. His approach to Beethoven stems from a particular and not so common point of view which stresses the music's lyricism. His tempos in the seventh were on the slow side, giving him ample opportunity to shape broad phrases of graceful beauty. The sharp dynamic contrasts were toned down, decidely romantic ritards were introduced and the incisive rhythms were rounded off. Yet even if the listener did not always share Tennstedt's view of the music the results were highly convincing because they so obviously reflected his own inner experiences. Tennstedt succeeded in revealing to his audience facets of Beethoven's personality that more intense interpretations overshadow.