Daily Camera
Boulder, Colorado
Friday, July 18, 1997

Music Festival program features the richness of the Romantics

By WES BLOMSTER, Camera Music Critic

Let the young be just and generous; with age comes the privilege of prejudice.

Ask me, for example, to name the greatest of music of Romanticism and I will eschew a reasoned response and reply rather with a stern statement of my favorite scores from that epoch.

For there are two of them:  the Overture that Schumann composed as part of his incidental music for Byron's "Manfred" and the B Flat Piano Concerto by Brahms.

I would not want to live long without either, and thus (if I didn't know better) I might flatter myself by feeling that Giora Bernstein paired them on the first half of the week's program by the Colorado Music Festival Orchestra as a personal favor to me.

It's clear, however, that I'm not the only one in Boulder who views these scores with affection, for the Chautauqua Auditorium was packed to the last seat for Thursday's Colorado Music Festival performance.

Bernstein, a man well-founded in literature, has a special understanding of Schumann's interpretation of Manfred, this late Faustian figure seen through the blue-flowered filter of Romanticism.

His reading of the score was heartfelt and heroic, but with close attention to that undertow of WELTSCHMERZ that is so markedly Byronic.

(It's a pity that the rest of Schumann's music for Byron's text falls so miserably beneath the quality of the Overture; otherwise one might hope some day for a performance of the entire work from Bernstein.  If you're curious, there are recording of it.)

Through their close personal relationship, and the 23 years that separated them, Brahms and Schumann are in a sense the father and son of the Romantic Movement.

It was thus a special pleasure to hear the massive, 45-minute Second Concerto by Brahms on the heels of "Manfred."

And enhancing that pleasure was the stellar pianism of Indonesian-born Eduardus Halim back in Boulder for his second season at the Colorado Music Festival.

Halim, whose heart obviously beats in sync with that of Brahms, is an engaging presence at the keyboard, serving not only as a sensitive interpreter, but also as something of a listener's guide as well.

To the vast opening Allegro of Op. 83, for example, Halim brought a focus that Brahms himself sometimes failed to define.

His playing is beautifully articulated; his technique a reason for awe.

Halim displayed on Thursday a master's sense of the epic sweep of this score, a fully orchestral concerto if there ever was one, and the young artist worked hand-in-hand with Bernstein, long established as a Brahmsian of the first order, to make this so satisfactory a performance.

Brahms was never more mellow than he was in the gentle Andante of the B Flat, music closely akin to the composer's song "Immer leiser wird mein Schlummer."

The cello introduction to the Andante was touchingly played by principal Pegsoon Whang, and Halim, in his major solo minutes in the vast score, picked up on this mood and sustained it throughout the movement.

Following intermission Bernstein returned to the literary thread that opened the evening and performed the Second Suite that Prokofiev arranged from his ballet music for "Romeo and Juliet," making this rewarding evening a complement to the Shakespeare Festival down below on the University of Colorado campus.