By Lawrence Budmen

Charles Dutoit is our modern day Eugene Ormandy. Like that legendary maestro, he conducts a wide ranging repertoire with style and flair. Dutoit returned to South Florida on Monday night at the Jackie Gleason Theater with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, presented by the Concert Association. The combination of this powerhouse conductor and first rate British ensemble produced some highly intense music making. 

From the first soft rumblings of the double basses, Dutoit made Sibelius’s Karelia Suite come alive with palpable excitement. The heroic lyricism of the second movement was deeply felt and marked by string playing of exceptional warmth and beauty. With crisp wind articulation and stunning brass fanfares Dutoit turned the blazing Alla Marcia into a real barnburner. 

Pianist Barry Douglas has often been more satisfying on recordings than in live concert appearances. Douglas is a top prize winner of Moscow’s Tchaikovsky Competition who excels in romantic repertoire. In the delicately sculpted classicism of Mozart’s Piano Concerto No.22 in E-flat Major, Douglas seemed to be searching for the monumentality of Beethoven. His interpretive approach was overly heavy and severe. In the central Andante Douglas played with an anguished sensitivity that mirrored the music’s serene pathos. The concluding Allegro needed greater lightness of touch. Despite much technically accomplished, finely shaded pianism, the music failed to dance. Douglas chose Benjamin Britten’s cadenzas for the outer movements. These anachronistic, almost romantic roulades seemed to bring the pianist to life. He essayed them with fiery brilliance. Dutoit’s muscular, carefully gauged accompaniment served Douglas at every turn. 

In Tchaikovsky”s Symphony No.6 (Pathetique) Dutoit did not indulge in the superficial hysteria many Russian conductors bring to the music. His classically sculpted interpretation built to a shattering emotional conclusion. The opening Adagio was richly shaped and replete with intensity of utterance. An imperial waltz in the second movement was gracefully stated. Dutoit’s brisk, tightly controlled direction made the third movement’s march bristle with repressed energy. The concluding Adagio lamentoso was rendered with passionate expressivity. Dutoit made this thrice familiar music sound arrestingly new again. 

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