Like a Midas in reverse, Pinchas Zukerman seems to infuse whatever he touches with shimmering energy. Indulging in the music-making of infectious joy, he last night led the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra in its third concert of the Festival of Festivals currently being presented at the Kennedy Center.
Beginning with how in hand, Zukerman took the first violin part in an engaging early Schubert minuet and trio for string quintet with double bass. Spurred on by flights of melodic grace from Zukerman, the quintet produced playing as light and effervescent as the music. Shifting to baton, Zukerman fairly tripped the chamber orchestra through a crisp and sparkling performance of Bartok's Rumanian Folk Dances.
Pianist Misha Dichter joined the ensemble for an intriguing rarity, Liszt's symphonic arrangement of Schubert's "Wanderer" Fantasy. Though Liszt makes the pianist's life a little easier by dividing up his chores with the orchestra -- Schubert called the original solo piano version unplayable -- he adds his own bravura touches. Dichter gave a glowing performance, taking both Schubert and Liszt in stride with his flowing technique and golden legato line. The program ended with an exceptionally subtle and delicate interpretation of Schubert's youthful Second Symphony.