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The Boston Globe


Music Review

Zacharias and the BSO sway to a Beethoven ballet

Beethoven and ballet don’t often turn up in the same sentence, but “The Creatures of Prometheus,” from 1801, was actually the composer’s second dance effort, following his “Ballet of the Knights” in 1791. And though the Overture to “The Creatures of Prometheus” is familiar enough, the rest of the score is rarely performed, so I was pleased to see guest conductor and soloist Christian Zacharias program selections from it Friday on a Boston Symphony Orchestra bill that also included a BSO premiere, Haydn’s Symphony No. 76, and Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 18.

The Haydn symphony, from 1782, and the Mozart concerto, from 1784, share a tendency to hop on one note. The symphony opens festively in E-flat before C-minor clouds appear on the horizon, and throughout Haydn dips into unexpected minor keys. Leading an ensemble of about 40 players with no baton (and with first and second violins massed rather than divided), Zacharias was precise and intense in the outer movements, with just the suggestion of a smile. But he gave the shy country dance of a slow movement an almost tragic weight in its minor-key episodes, and the minuet was full-bodied, with a tipsy waltz trio.

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