Friday, November 16, 2001

Jarvi's pairing of new, old electrifies audience

Concert review

By Janelle Gelfand
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Paavo Jarvi's program Thursday night at the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra explored two opposite poles. But the energy created by pairing the avant-garde Violin Concerto by Estonian composer Erkki-Sven Tuur with Beethoven's Symphony No. 4 resulted in a buzz after the concert such as has not been heard here in years.

        Mr. Jarvi's compatriot, Mr. Tuur, has eclectic musical roots that began with his '70s rock band. His Violin Concerto, given its U.S. premiere by Isabelle van Keulen on Thursday, is a work of expressive power and originality, that pitted tonal against atonal, delicate against massive and simple rhythms against complex.

        Ms. van Keulen, 34, who will record the concerto with Maestro Jarvi and the City of Birmingham Orchestra, was in absolute command of the work's brilliant figurations. Her supercharged ostinatos in the outer movements — a nod to minimalism — were a perpetual motion of fire and tension. She projected a cool intensity in the slow movement, which began with low, primeval sounds in the orchestra. The finale had enormous rhythmic energy, aided by a counterpoint of percussion.

        The orchestra was an admirable partner, taking its impulse from the soloist and going in diverse directions, which included a spectacular jazzy climax in the first movement. Urgent and bright, the concerto held the audience's attention and inspired a standing ovation. The composer took a bow.

        There was a different kind of expressive power in Maestro Jarvi's reading of Beethoven's Fourth. The playing was pointed and alive — and as inspired as you'll hear anywhere. Mr. Jarvi led with high spirits and quick tempos, giving thrust to each accent, and “bowing” along with phrases.

        It was as gripping for its robust vigor as for the beautiful phrasing in the slow moments. (Kudos to clarinetist Richard Hawley.)

        The program opened with another U.S. premiere: Carl Orff's Tanzende Faune, an impressionistic piece of his youth.


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