Saturday, July 29, 2000

Concert review: Brahms Violin Concerto

Violinist caresses Brahms and conquers barge

By Janelle Gelfand
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Cho-Liang Lin's performance of the Brahms Violin Concerto in D Major with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra Friday night made one wish he was a more frequent visitor to Cincinnati.

        Mr. Lin joined Jesus Lopez-Cobos and the CSO in his Riverbend debut for a performance that was exhilarating, effortless and noble. But it was also frustrating — mainly because a noisy barge nearly obliterated the sound of the first movement cadenza.

        Although it was difficult to hear detail at times, Mr. Lin projected a sweet, honeyed tone and a seamless line on his Guarnerius de Gesu violin. He communicates his genuine, easy-going personality and passion for life in his playing.

        The first movement was elegant, and he struck an easy balance between rich lyricism and virtuosity. Mr. Lin is a stunning technician.

        One of the most memorable moments came in the second movement, where Mr. Lin's phrasing matched the affection and warmth of that in the winds (kudos to oboist Lon Bussell). The violinist performed the finale with intensity and swagger.

        The orchestra supported him unevenly; Mr. Lopez-Cobos did not always anticipate the soloist's accelerandos. Still, Mr. Lin's aristocratic performance was warmly applauded by 1,338 listeners.

        The second half of the CSO's “Viennafest” program was devoted to Beethoven's Symphony No. 6, Pastorale. Leading without a score, Mr. Lopez-Cobos perfectly captured the bucolic quality of the first movement with a tempo that was leisurely but not sluggish. Winds and brass were well-man nered, and the strings played with beautiful ensemble.

        The second movement bubbled along, and its charming bird song was attractively played by the flutes. The scherzo was earthy and buoyant. Only the thunderstorm music seemed too understated — it was more of a small cloudburst — and the finale's tempo was lethargic.

        The evening opened with a robust reading of Von Suppe's Overture to Poet and Peasant. Daniel Culnan projected a sweet timbre in the cello solo.


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