Sunday, February 2, 2003

Flamboyant trombonist takes CSO for fun ride

Concert review

By Janelle Gelfand
The Cincinnati Enquirer

The normally reserved atmosphere at the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra was shattered when trombonist Christian Lindberg took the stage Friday morning in Music Hall.

Sort of a Doc Severinsen of the trombone, Lindberg was an effortless, exuberant and flamboyant player (this last an apt description of his purple-shirted attire, too). By the time he finished two solos plus an encore - "My Funny Valentine"- one got the feeling there was nothing the Swedish virtuoso could not do on his instrument.

The concert - all CSO premieres in the first half - could only be characterized as fun. Conductor Paavo Jarvi captured the thrill of each piece, from the opening Slalom, a bright tone picture about barreling down a ski slope, to a truly magical performance of Mozart's Symphony No. 41 in C Major, K. 551, Jupiter.

Lindberg, who claims to be the first fulltime trombone soloist in history, edited the score to Michael Haydn's Concerto for Alto Trombone, a rarely-heard instrument dating to the 15th century. (Michael Haydn was the brother of Franz Joseph Haydn.)

He cleanly navigated the work's classical runs, leaps and trills with stunning control, carrying a rapt look on his face as the orchestra performed its tutti passages. The tone of his alto trombone (smaller than a tenor) was focused and pure. Lindberg phrased beautifully in the slow movement, and his cadenzas, which he penned himself, were feats of fearless wizardry.

But it was Lapland composer Jan Sandstrom's Motorbike Odyssey that had the teens in the crowd leaning over the railings. The piece, originally written for Lindberg in a concerto version, stretches the technique and the imagination of the performer. The trombonist imitated the growl and hum of a Harley as the witty score traveled from the Florida Everglades to Provence (France) and finally, the land of the Aborigines in Australia.

Sound effects included fluttertonguing, glissandos and simultaneous singing, while the "biker" accelerated or floated by in slow motion. Lindberg performed it all with phenomenal control. As part of the score, he made circular motions with his instrument - air-drawing shapes of the continents - and once whipped himself and his trombone around in a circle. There were no speed bumps: Mr. Jarvi and the CSO were superb partners through the adventurous, edgy ride, and the crowd was on its feet.

His bluesy, improvised encore was another chance to hear Lindberg's "multi-phonics" - the extraordinary ability to play and sing simultaneously.

Concluding the day, Mr. Jarvi captured the majesty of Mozart's last symphony, the Jupiter, while projecting an incredible lightness of being. Each phrase had character (one could hear opera at times) and tempos breathed. He wonderfully contrasted light and dark in the Andante; the finale, a fleet, brilliant fugue, was simply electrifying.

Carter Pann's opening Slalom was bright and imaginative, with snippets of classical tunes woven between swooping scale passages.


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