Kalmar ending week at Mann

Posted: July 11, 2002

PHILADELPHIA ORCHESTRA at Mann Center for the Performing Arts, 52nd Street and Parkside Avenue. 8 tonight. Tickets: $10-$68. Info: 215-893-1999.

Conductor Carlos Kalmar finishes up his Mann week with two revered works from the center of the repertory.

He's chosen the Symphony No. 2 by Jan Sibelius, the most familiar of seven by a composer with close ties to this orchestra. Its Finnish heart, full of long-spun melodies that erupt like flowers through wintry ice, and a triumphant finale, has made this symphony an audience favorite for a century.

Florida-born pianist Tzimon Barto, also a conductor, poet and expert in five languages, returns to play the daunting and beloved Third Piano Concerto by Sergei Rachmaninoff. Written in 1909 to display the composer's almost-supernatural gifts at the keyboard, the concerto features an enormously difficult first-movement solo cadenza (with an even more challenging optional version), a magnificent sense of shape and forward thrust.

The heroic nature of this monumental work has spawned classic recordings by Van Cliburn, Vladimir Horowitz, and the composer himself (with this orchestra, but with unfortunate, massive cuts), but Barto is capable of taking on the big pieces in the repertory. Perhaps excepting the Brahms Second Concerto, this masterwork is the most colossal of virtuoso concerto challenges and an exalted, inspiring journey. *

Send e-mail to dinardt@phillynews.com.

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