Wednesday, March 24, 1999
CSO thrills 'Millennium' composer Hoffman
BY JANELLE GELFAND
The Cincinnati Enquirer
NEW YORK CITY Queen City composer Joel Hoffman looked back on Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra's performance of his piece, Millennium Dances, in Carnegie Hall Monday night and was thrilled.
It was the best it could possibly sound, Mr. Hoffman said. The quality of the sound in this place is just so extraordinary.
The CSO strings projected a rich glow in the acoustical gem that is Carnegie Hall, where the orchestra performs annually. This year, though, was different because Carnegie Hall executive director Judith Arron was not presiding over the concert from her box. The concert was dedicated to Ms. Arron, former manager of the CSO and May Festival, who died in December.
In a hall with such a presence and warmth, details that were not heard last weekend in Music Hall projected here. A few minor glitches stood out, too, including some missed entrances.
An eclectic work
With music director Jesus Lopez-Cobos on the podium, the program opened with Millennium Dances by Mr. Hoffman, professor of composition at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music.
The six-movement work is eclectic and engaging; Mr. Hoffman has used the dance theme to create a diverse suite with unexpected twists, its takeoff points ranging from Bach-like counterpoint to rag.
In this third performance by the CSO, (it was played last season as well as last weekend), there were moments that were as good as anything composed in this half of the century: the pulsating, Respighi-like texture of the opening; the wonderful bird-like atmosphere of the winds in the transcendental blues; and the jazzy licks and bluesy colors (including baritone sax) of rap rag red.
The CSO's spirited performance was warmly received by the New York audience of more than 2,000 (the hall seats 2,804).
Du Pre's cello
The Lalo Cello Concerto in D Minor formed the centerpiece, with cellist Lynn Harrell playing the Stradivarius that once belonged to Jacqueline du Pre. He gave it a masterful performance, projecting a big, mellow tone and playing with exquisite control, intensity and emotion.
In such a dark, brooding work, the sunny, spontaneous quality of his playing in the second movement was memorable, and Mr. Lopez-Cobos supported his delicate shadings well.
Mr. Harrell traversed the fiendishly difficult runs of the finale effortlessly and with driving momentum, then, completely involved in his performance, he sang along with the trombones in the concluding orchestral tutti. His performance was the evening's most compelling moment, and it brought the New Yorkers to their feet with bravos.
For an encore, he gave a moving account of Schumann's Traumerei with a beautiful tone and a quick, throbbing vibrato, his softest pianissimo projecting exquisitely. When the audience again responded with bravos, he held his cello aloft, arms outstretched, as if to embrace this magnificent space.
Mr. Lopez-Cobos led Strauss' expansive tone poem, Ein Heldenleben (A Hero's Life) without a score, to conclude the program. The performance had powerful forward momentum and the orchestra played well, particularly in the horn themes and trumpet fanfares. Mr. Lopez-Cobos went for the broad picture rather than dwelling on expressive detail; he led the battle music with a particular fierceness.
Concertmaster Timothy Lees again shined in his solo as the Hero's Wife, with a sweet tone and colorful phrasing.
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