Friday, February 08, 2002

CSO offers variations on classics

Concert review

By Nicole Hamilton
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        It was clear from the program, from before the first notes were played, that this wasn't going to be the typical Mendelssohn-inspired repertoire.

        Sure, his famed violin concerto would be played — as would selections from A Midsummer's Night's Dream. But Thursday night's Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra concert, conducted by Jesus Lopez-Cobos, offered variations of the Mendelssohn classics. Featured soloists brought a uniqueness to each work. It was like a night of premieres by a very familiar composer.

        The concert's out-of-this world opener, Alfred Schnittke's (Not) A Midsummer Night's Dream was another cue that the night would offer something out of the ordinary.

        The common theme repeated in this composition is one of happy, lighthearted disposition. The theme is woven around contrasting themes in the style of composers such as Mahler and Beethoven. The result is more a poke at Mozart than it is Mendelssohn.

        The orchestra played this difficult piece with great stamina, the brass section moved through sections with fury and passion, playing off the dainty violin and piano passages well.

        As guest violinist Chee-Yun walked on stage to play Mendel- ssohn's Concerto in E minor for Violin and Orchestra, Opus 64, she was greeted with thunderous applause. The young violinist has won worldwide praise for her playing.

        Although some of her phrasing seemed too mechanical to be emotive in the first movement, the impassioned “Allegro molto appassionato,” it was evident Ms. Chee-Yun is a musician with great technical abilities. Her version of the “Andante” was beautiful. She lingered in passages, playing with tenderness.

        The orchestra kept up with Ms. Chee-Yun as she blazed through the concerto's finale, “Allegro molto vivace,” following Mr. Lopez-Cobos as he followed Ms. Chee-Yun through meter changes.

        Mendelssohn's Incidental Music to A Midsummer Night's Dream was composed 17 years after he wrote the original overture and was a commission for Ludwig Tieck, who wrote German translations of Shakespeare.

        Actress Dale Hodges delivered spoken passages, and sopranos Audrey Luna and Esther Hyun-Nam were also featured soloists. Also joining the orchestra were the Women of the May Festival Chorus, directed by Robert Porco.

        Some of the incidental music, such as the “Overture” and “Scherzo,” with their flourishing violin parts, and the “Wedding March,” were familiar favorites, but several others were refreshingly not.

        Ms. Hodges' spoken-word parts — delivered as she stood from a back section of the orchestra, were a welcome diversion from the typical orchestral set-up.

        Hearing and seeing the Women of the May Festival Chorus made for an even more impressive night of old favorites done a little differently.


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- CSO offers variations on classics
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