Sunday, October 01, 2000

Concert Review: CSO


Siberian violinist thrills crowd

By Janelle Gelfand
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        It's hard to imagine Siberia as a training ground for some of the world's astounding musical talents. On Friday, one of the most gifted violinists to come out of Novosibirsk, Russia, 29-year-old virtuoso Vadim Repin, performed with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra in Music Hall.

        Playing his “Ruby” Strad, he gave the kind of dazzling account of Sibelius' D Minor Violin Concerto that was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

        It was easy to admire his phenomenal fireworks, the propulsive energy as he let rip strings of arpeggios, difficult leaps and high harmonics. But his was also deeply emotional playing, as thrilling for its expressive quality as for its showmanship.

        Jesus Lopez-Cobos returned to the podium for this first Friday morning concert of the season. His Finnish and Spanish selections — including Falla's The Three-Cornered Hat Suites Nos. 1 and 2 — were rather odd bedfellows. The program also included CSO premieres of works by Finnish composer Einojuhani Rautavaara and Indiana-born Lawrence Rapchak.

        Rautavaara's Isle of Bliss was a beautifully written — and performed — opener. In a neo-romantic vein, the work began with soaring trumpet over a shimmering canvas, which subsided into a contemplative middle section. It was well-constructed and recalled the cool, windswept atmosphere of fellow Finn Sibelius.

        From the onset of the Sibelius Violin Concerto, Mr. Repin effortlessly captured both its dignity and its intensity. His tone was big, lustrous and precise,his phrasing nuanced and radiant. His intensity never let up, even in the lyrical moments.

        He leaned into every phrase, producing a gorgeous line and warm tone in the second movement. He blazed through the finale with breathtaking ease.

        It was a mesmerizing collaboration. Mr. Repin never took his eyes from Maestro Lopez-Cobos, and the orchestra supported the soloist admirably.

        Mr. Rapchak's Saetas, commissioned by the Chicago Symphony, is a “celebratory” work, inspired by the night-long religious processions during Holy Week in Seville.

        Other than that, there was nothing Spanish about it. It unfolded as a series of disjunct, busy events, drifting from tonality to dissonance. The composer's orchestration was imaginative — including organ, celesta, chimes, bongos, antiphonal percussion and an elegiac cello solo (Eric Kim). But the performance lacked direction and sweep, and its garishness grew tiresome.

        Falla's The Three Cornered Hat Suites Nos. 1 and 2, which concluded the morning, is one of the cornerstones of Mr. Lopez-Cobos' repertoire. He led the colorful ballet music with affection, musicality and flair, bringing out its Spanish rhythms sharply.

        The musicians responded with refined, nuanced playing, and there were many distinguished contributions from orchestral soloists.

       



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