Boston Symphony Orchestra
Eugene Indjic, soloist: at the War Memorial Auditorium Tuesday night
Labelled the "musical highlight of Winterfest," Tuesday's Boston Symphony concert marked the first appearance of a Harvard undergraduate as soloist, pianist Eugene Indjic '69. His performance certainly justified the honor; an achievement even more impressive considering the piece, the hall, and the conductor. Indjic chose to play Brahm's Piano Concerto No. 2, one of the largest and most formidable of piano works. Aside from its extreme technical demands, the concerto presents a challenge of organization; most critically, of pacing and uniting the sprawling first movement, a problem of drama as well as form. The last three movements, while structurally far less awesome, pose their own questions of spirit and emphasis. Moreover, Brahms was the first composer to have the orchestra borrow extensive material from the soloist, rather than vice versa. Hence in this concer-to the pianist bears responsibility for the initial shaping of many themes.
When assessing a musician, the impressions of a single performance may be misleading, especially when the restraints of an orchestra are involved. Yet Indjic is obviously an artist of great promise, with strong, sure hands and a sound musical imagination. His approach to the Brahms concerto reflected the precision and fidelity of today's younger school of pianists, though occasionally suggestive of Gilels' savagery (in the first movement) and Richter's coloristic indulgences (in the first movement) and Richter's coloristic indulgences (in the third and last). In his best moments, Indjic displayed a facility ranging from unerring power to an unbroken legato touch. However, it is important to add that his technique has not yet reached the point where he can freely concentrate upon interpretation alone.
The merits of Indjic's showing were his own; the contributions of conductor Erich Leinsdorf fell rather short of the inspirational. While visibly concerned with keeping orchestra and soloist together, he allowed them repeatedly to part company, primarily in the second movement. Orchestral climaxes seemed halfhearted, and the solo playing (that of cellist Jules Eskin) almost mediocre. For all his apparent courtesy, Leinsdorf did little to assist the pianist in matters of detail, and in several instances appeared to intimidate Indjic into hasty exits.
It is the popular, overplayed works which most often reveal the real character of a conductor. Leinsdorf's accounts of the Meistersinger Prelude, the Prelude to an Afternoon of a Faun, and Till Eulenspiegel, all preceding the Brahms, only further confirmed the painful facelessness of his style. Behind his strange podium histrionics and overliterate interpretations lies a dominant inability (or worse, an unwillingness) to truly communicate with his musicians. Amid this pedestrianism, most of Till's grotesque humor was lost, along with the overt charm of the Debussy Prelude. Season after season of such readings serve only to dull the sensibilities of entire audiences.
An equally ignored situation for the BSO Trustees to consider is the basic unsuitability of the War Memorial Auditorium for serious music. It makes little sense to make concerts accessible to large numbers if the sound is barely audible in a sizeable portion of the hall.