Barber's piece, played here with violinist Pamela Frank, seems all the more determined to abjure the present. Its long lines, its rich, almost elegeic instrumental tone and nostalgic mood makes it a cousin of Bruch's violin music.
The soloist poured an intensity and fervor into the performance to give it eloquence. The colors and the glow that grew from her phrasing and dynamic shadings make questions of modernity almost moot. It was simply searching, deeply felt music.
The coherence of her playing in the first movement seemed to draw the orchestra into playing that reflected her projected belief. Macal had the orchestra closely bent to the solo role, but the closeness went beyond mere direction.
In the second movement, the long oboe song, played by Peter Smith, matched the violinist's finely articulated playing. Those two movements look deep into the heart of romanticism.
It would have been interesting to end the piece there, for the rattly final movement, with its bursitis-inviting rush through scales, is as empty as anything possible from a major composer. Even Frank's super-speed did not conceal the vacuity of the finale, but her aplomb and flashing bow arm won an ovation.
The Rachmaninoff, for a generation or so played with mercifully major cuts, has been restored to an almost hour-long duration. Its romanticism is honest, its coloration and melodic flow unsurpassed. Macal led a lyrical, broadly shaped reading in which every section had prominence, every sigh its full length.
PHILADELPHIA ORCHESTRA Zdenek Macal, conducting; Pamela Frank, violin soloist.
Additional performances: Tonight and Tuesday at 8 p.m. at the Academy of Music, Broad and Locust Streets. Tickets are $12-$85. Information: 215-893-1999.