Saturday, March 29, 2003

Jarvi's CSO on edge of greatness

Concert review

By Janelle Gelfand
The Cincinnati Enquirer

On the eve of his first United States tour with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, and possessing a new, four-year contract renewal, Paavo Jarvi seems poised to bring the CSO to greatness.

That was the feeling one had at the conclusion of Friday's high-voltage program of Erkki-Sven Tuur, Sibelius and Shostakovich in Music Hall, a preview of the music Jarvi will lead in Carnegie Hall on Monday. The concert was intense and inspired, and the CSO musicians performed with impressive precision and virtuosity. But it was Jarvi's unflagging leadership that made the evening crescendo so thrillingly up to the shattering climax of Shostakovich's massive Symphony No. 10, and twice brought the audience to its feet.

The centerpiece was Sibelius' Violin Concerto, performed by Vadim Repin, 31, who is simply one of the world's most exciting violinists. The Siberian-born violinist is something of a throwback to the fire and romanticism of the old Russian school, wielding a big, glossy tone, glistening high notes and flawless virtuosity.

His opening sonorities were haunting yet full of inner warmth; and he easily handled the hair-raising difficulties of the cadenzas. The violinist projected a big, glowing tone on his 1736 Guarnerius del Gesu in the slow movement; his phrasing was beautifully felt. The finale danced with demonic vigor.

Jarvi was a superb partner, capturing Sibelius' grandeur, power and breadth in rich waves of orchestral color.

Shostakovich's Tenth came after intermission. It was written in 1953, the year of Stalin's death, and its second movement is a portrait of the dictator.

The first movement was unremitting in tension, and phrased with absolute clarity in each line of the texture.

Jarvi's view of the scherzo was searing - a brutal and utterly gripping picture that ended like a shout. The third was mesmerizing for its sweeping strings and the echoing horn theme (Thomas Sherwood).

The conductor felt every note and rhythm, and the musicians responded with extraordinary playing. The finale was bright but biting, with tongue-in-cheek humor in the winds (kudos to clarinetist Richard Hawley and bassoonist William Winstead) and straight-ahead brilliance.

The program opened with the CSO premiere of Estonian-born Tuur's Exodus, an absorbing journey into the afterlife with musical illusions of falling and swirling.

It began with primeval grating in the basses and built to a chaos that gradually dissipated. Frenzied ostinatos in the strings gave it a nervous energy, and repeating motives anchored the listener. The well-charted journey included jazz riffs, a Mahler-like chorale and the final tintinnabulation of bells.


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