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[whitespace] Symphonic Sounds

Despite a cell phone offender, guest conductor Anton Barik displayed his prowess with Bartok, Beethoven and Mendelssohn at the San Jose Symphony

By Scott MacClelland

As if he didn't have his hands full directing Beethoven's Eroica Symphony, guest conductor Anton Marik got a cell-phone call near the end of the second movement. Unfortunately, everyone inside the San Jose Center for the Performing Arts heard the ring. The "secretary" who received the call was somewhere around Row 18, Seat 20.

At first chime, the balding, 60-year-old, Vienna-born maestro spun on the podium--never letting go of the beat--directing his aural/visual laser gaze toward the Monumentally Obtusely Repugnantly Offending Nincompoop (acronym: MORON). Audiences at the CPA are routinely unaware of heavy jetliners passing low over the building. But one stupid cell-phone user can wreck the greatest music ever written.

(If Mayor Ron Gonzales wants to score points with the performing-arts group, he can start by making cell-phone interruptions at concerts a misdemeanor punishable by a fine, time in jail, huge amounts of community service and possibly lethal injections of Pachelbel's Canon in D. The only concert-hall equivalent of road rage I've seen up to the present was in a newspaper review. But as you know, Mr. Mayor, things in Silicon Valley are getting crazier and crazier.)

At the end of the movement. Marik once again turned a damning eye in the direction of the offender, and the audience signaled its mutual indignation with applause.

Marik, a pianist of formidable skills and veteran conductor of numerous concert and opera institutions in Austria and Germany, led the Beethoven with authority. He put the first movement on the high road, choosing to conduct the big picture rather than fuss over those accents, syncopations and dissonances that are well known to the orchestra (even though he did take pains to bring up some overlooked timpani outbursts and contrabass entrances).

Marik proved that the enormous development section (of the first movement) obviates any need to take the extra four minutes required to repeat the exposition. He also raised the climax of the second movement (Funeral March) to the scale of Mahler. In the end, the 45 minute reading sounded with all the brash arrogance of a young man, which, of course, Beethoven was when he wrote it.

Marik opened his program with Bartok's Dance Suite, a kind of poor man's Concerto for Orchestra but emphasizing folk-inspired rhythms and dwelling longer in the ensemble's deep bowels. The smoke of an open fire hung in the reading, as if conceived at a Gypsy encampment. The orchestra began the work with some reticence but quickly warmed to the guest conductor (who is currently music director of the opera and Philharmonic Orchestra at Dortmund).

Trumpeter Sergei Nakariakov gave the program its crowning jewel, a transcription of the adolescent Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto in D Minor (not the E Minor that was detailed in the program book).

Obviously, this young (23 years) Russian virtuoso was never told that you simply can't play so many notes in such a short space. Not only did he exploit every reasonable opportunity to display his prowess, but he did so with the greatest of ease. This was like championship athletics; once underway, you must concentrate on the goal and forget the instant. Otherwise, there would be no way to coordinate tongue, lips and fingers at such blazing speed. On top of that, the boy started with an amazing palette of colors, not something one expects from a trumpet.

A few open passages in the second movement revealed Nakariakov as a young thoroughbred, all nerves and electricity, ready to bolt. Flying through the finale, without slowing down for the blistering cadenza, confirmed the promise and aroused a standing ovation. Looking both grateful and bashful, Nakariakov consented to an encore, some two minutes and 12,000 notes from those notorious old variations on Carnival at Venice.

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Web extra to the April 26-May 2, 2001 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 2001 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

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