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Mozart's Piano Concerto No 18 in B flat K456 offered a near perfect collaboration between Levine and Richard Goode. (Levine's superb conducting of Mozart's operas at the Met has become legendary.) The elegant wind filigree in the orchestral tutti of the opening Allegro vivace served notice of a stylishly sculpted performance. Goode is a patrician of the keyboard. His sensitive touch, rigorous classicism, and attention to inner voicings yielded Mozartean dividends. Goode and Levine brought high drama and clarity to the instrumental line in the stormy central section of the Andante un poco sostenuto. The springy lightness of the Allegro vivace rondo finale was an unmitigated delight.

Edwin Barker with James Levine and the Boston Symphony Orchestra at Tanglewood on 3 August 2007. Photo © 2007 Hilary Scott
Edwin Barker with James Levine and the Boston Symphony Orchestra at Tanglewood on 3 August 2007. Photo © 2007 Hilary Scott

John Harbison's Concerto for Bass viol and Orchestra proved an important addition to the repertoire of the lower end of the string family. The bass viol makes a somewhat lighter sound than the more familiar double bass. Harbison, practically a resident composer with the Boston Symphony, is a master of instrumental timbres. (The score was commissioned by the BSO for its 125th anniversary.) His sleek, transparent orchestral fabric brightly supports the solo instrument without ever overwhelming it. Aaron Copland-like fanfares (in this case for an uncommon instrument) and jazz influences dominate the work but Harbison strikes a lyrical bent in the central Andante. Boston's principal bass Edwin Barker played Koussevitzky's bass viol, a beautiful instrument with a singing tone. Barker's lovely tonal hues and fearless agility were unfazed by the score's daunting challenges. Levine (who has championed Harbison's music, including his opera The Great Gatsby) led with rhythmic momentum and highlighted instrumental felicities. The composer joined soloist and conductor for an enthusiastic ovation.

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Copyright © 25 August 2007 Lawrence Budmen, Miami Beach, USA

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