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MSO serves up moving program of Mozart, Bruckner

Joseph Kalichstein
Mikwaukee Journal Sentinel

By Elaine Schmidt

Friday's Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra performance was a feast of artful phrasing and captivating contrasts.

The program, conducted by MSO music director Edo de Waart, opened with guest pianist Joseph Kalichstein performing Mozart's Concerto No 22 in E-flat major.

Kalichstein worked like a sculptor, using an enormous palette of colors and interpretive details to give articulate shape to each phrase of the piece.

From the tiniest ornamented figure to his longest lines, Kalichstein made each phrase an integral part of the piece, in a fresh, fascinating performance of the familiar concerto.

De Waart and the orchestra matched his eye for phrasing with a sensitive, fluid rendering of the orchestral accompaniment.

The program's second half featured Bruckner's expansive Symphony No. 4 ("Romantic"). The piece's long history of revisions and publications make it worth noting that the orchestra performed the 1878/'80 "second version" of the symphony, edited by Leopold Nowak.

De Waart and the orchestra gave a performance full of detail and nuance, allowing the piece to unfold in riveting fashion.

Bruckner's brilliant musical architecture is built of striding, bold sections, some of which recur several times in a single movement, and sweeping string passages. He contrasted the piece's biggest moments with small, intimate passages for just a few players and, several times, haunting lines played by a single, unaccompanied woodwind voice.

Forward leaning - but never hurried - tempos gave each movement a compelling momentum. Cohesive, sensitive playing from the orchestra's string sections gave shape to sweeping string passages.

Frequent solo horn lines were deftly handled by principal horn Matthew Annin. A good deal of tight, decisive brass playing brought fire to the piece's biggest moments, while beautifully rendered woodwind solo lines provided delicate contrast to the full-orchestra swells.

De Waart and the players connected and contrasted the piece's highly textured writing, making sense of all of it for an audience that responded with a standing ovation. The length of the piece played out in a few pitch wavers near the end.