Johannes Brahms would have loved the American network radio programs airing 40 years after his death. Like old-time radio program sound effects, Brahms' majestic scores were haunted by matchless mental visions.
Most important, the radio amplified and defined sound through the mind's eye and the listener's imagination. Sergiu Comissiona, conducting the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra last night at Wolf Trap, matched Brahms' music point by counterpoint with the agility of expression and manipulation of texture that no sound effects man could ever top.
The first of three "Best of Brahms" performances boasted a balanced, thoughtfull program consisting of the "Academic Festival" Overture, the Concerto for Violin and Cello in A Minor, and concluding with the masterly intoxicating Symphony No. 4 in E Minor.
Comissiona's interpretatns are not overintellectualized. Brahms' perfectionist craftmanship and exacting genius are snakily intertwined with the German composer's sublimated passion and heroic spirit. As the crickets droned in the fields alongside the outdoor pavilion, the orchestra's exquisite polished performance juggled multiple musical expressions as the full, balanced sound passed section by section.
Violinist Gyorgy Pauk played as if his life depended on it; Ralph Kirshbaum's responsive, aggressive cello anchored the urgency and pyrotechnic runs of his companion in the concerto selection. Pauk's intense, searing tone ricocheted off Kirshbaum's more relaxed, rhythmic bowing, painture of deep contrast and dazzling color.
Arguably the soloists were the perfomance's apex; but the absolute focus of attention was Brahms, whose scores were given full attention to nuance and whose emotional qualities were vehicles for the performers' own masterly ends. The "Best of Brahms" programs continue tonight and tomorrow.