Sunday, January 30, 2000

Cincinnati Orchestra dazzles New Yorkers




BY JANNELLE GELFAND
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        NEW YORK — The Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra was one of the first orchestras in the country to perform in Carnegie Hall in the new millennium when it returned for its annual appearance Friday night.

        With the news on Monday that it had chosen its next music director, Paavo Jarvi, to succeed Jesus Lopez-Cobos when he steps down next year, there is a general feeling among the musicians here that the orchestra is embarking upon a new and exciting era.

        Despite a winter storm, the CSO's concert in Wilmington, Del., on Wednesday went off without a hitch, and the audience turned out. In New York, although the city was coping with frigid temperatures and curbside slush, almost all of Carnegie Hall's 2,800 seats were filled on Friday.

        If the CSO's 20th-century program was a bit lengthy, in the end it dazzled the New Yorkers for its sheer sonic glory in the acoustical gem that is Carnegie Hall. Maestro Lopez-Cobos and the orchestra were warmly cheered and awarded a standing ovation following works by Strauss and Ravel.

        From the beginning, the brass had an unusually round, rich presence in Copland's “Fanfare for the Common Man,” which was dispatched with stunning precision. The CSO has a particular ownership of this work, a wartime commission of former music director Eugene Goossens.

        Cincinnati also lays claim to clarinetist Richard Stoltzman, who took center stage with his hometown orchestra at Carnegie Hall for the first time in works by Copland and Bernstein.

        Mr. Stoltzman's performance was both superbly controlled and spontaneous in Copland's “Clarinet Concerto,” which was written for Benny Goodman. The clarinetist played elegantly in the serene opening, with phrases so seamless he never appeared to take a breath. The second movement, with its spiky Brazilian folk tunes, was a spirited contrast, and the CSO was more relaxed with this jazzy material than it had been at Music Hall last week.

        Bernstein's exuberant “Prelude, Fugue and Riffs,” which also meshes classical and jazz worlds, brought down the house.

        The orchestra performed a richly expressive “Adagio for Strings” by Barber in the first half. Strauss' “Suite from Der Rosenkavalier” and Ravel's “Daphnis et Chloe Suites Nos. 1 and 2” comprised the second.

        The orchestra displayed committed playing in the Strauss, although one would have liked more subtlety of phrasing and dynamics. But it was Ravel's “Suite No. 2” that made the biggest splash, its atmospheric textures shimmering in Carnegie Hall.

        The orchestra is basking in the national spotlight, as one of the earliest of eight major orchestras to fill its music director post in this race of the century. “We're excited to have Paavo Jarvi,” said principle clarinetist Richard Hawley during a rehearsal Friday afternoon. “Playing with him was as exciting as with some of the great conductors I've played with, like Bernstein and Riccardo Muti.”

        “Not only did we get a great conductor,” added principle percussionist William Platt, “but if I need a back-up percussionist, we've got one.”

        The CSO continues its East Coast tour with concerts in Lansdale, Pa., and Montclair, N.J.

       



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