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The Music Box

At Symphony Hall

By Lawrence R. Casler

The combination of Beethoven, Heifetz, and Charles Munch made the B.S.O.'s concert Saturday night one of its greatest triumphs. The three familiar works on the program received brilliant interpretations which brought out some of the hidden beauties usually overlooked in run-of-the-mill performances.

Mr. Munch began the concert with Beethoven's Eighth Symphony. Possessing neither the grandeur of the Seventh Symphony nor the sublimity of the Ninth, it has a boisterous spontaneity all its own. The orchestra, after a shaky start, played with gusto and precision, and Munch captured all the Viennese high-spirits which this piece requires.

Jascha Heifetz, who has appeared with the Boston Symphony on and off since 1919, played the work for which he is perhaps most famous: the Beethoven D major concerto. This glorious composition, generally regarded as THE Violin Concerto, is a perfect fusion of the Classical and the Romantic in music. The collaboration of Heifetz and Munch resulted in a skillful blending of Classic clarity and Romantic richness. Heifetz performed with even greater fluency than in his definitive recording with Toscanini. He played with great insight, and tossed the many cadenza-like passages with uncanny ease.

Conducting the Beethoven Concerto is no easy task. The accompaniment is more than mere background music; it is of vital thematic importance. In fact, the persistent five-beat pattern provides the basis for the whole first movement. Munch's direction was entirely satisfactory, except for his failure to bring the accompaniment out strongly enough in the finale.

Between these major works was the Leonore Overture No. 3. The famous off-stage trumpet calls, as well as the feverish intensity present throughout, cause one to wonder why it is not played more frequently (the last Boston performance was in 1945). This is dramatic music at its very best, and Munch played it for all he's worth, which is saying quite a lot.

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