Wednesday, April 2, 2003

CSO earns bravos at Carnegie Hall

Concert review

By Janelle Gelfand
The Cincinnati Enquirer

NEW YORK - Cheers, bravos and a lengthy standing ovation were the end result of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra's performance in Carnegie Hall Monday night, its first there with music director Paavo Jarvi.

Carnegie Hall, which seats 2,804, was nearly filled, and the CSO sound had extraordinary presence in this gem-like hall with its glorious acoustics, the ultimate destination for all serious musicians.

Jarvi's program, previewed in Cincinnati last weekend, was an ambitious one that crescendoed to its searing finale: Estonian composer Erkki-Sven Tuur's Exodus in its New York premiere, the Sibelius Violin concerto with violinist Vadim Repin and Shostakovich's Symphony No. 10.

True to Jarvi's style - that no two performances are alike - this one was even more adrenalin-filled than that given in Music Hall on Friday. In particular, the Shostakovich was more powerful, more visceral, and took more risks. The musicians gave it their all, and the effect was absolutely gripping.

Shostakovich wrote his 10th Symphony in 1953, the year of Stalin's death, as a portrait of the dictator. Jarvi led the first movement with urgency and inexhaustible fervor, expertly balancing dynamic buildups against the quieter, more nuanced passages.

The winds captured the Russian character, especially in the clarinet duet; the audience barely breathed during the haunting piccolo solo that concluded (Joan Voorhees).

The scherzo was a ruthless picture of Stalin, all bite and brutal power. Jarvi punched the air and grimaced through crashing drum rolls and trombones that cut great swaths of sound.

In the second scherzo, it was the spikiness of the winds and the sweep of the strings that lingered, as well as the unearthly horn call at the movement's conclusion. Jarvi surged without pausing into the finale, where he pushed the envelope in tempo and dynamic, and swept up the orchestra in a fiercely brilliant conclusion.

The CSO earned bravos for its other works, as well. The New Yorkers enthusiastically endorsed Tuur's Exodus, composed for Jarvi in 1999, which is receiving its first American performances during this tour.

The eclectic score, which evokes a journey into the afterlife, is anchored in minimalism, and its more interesting events include jazz drumming and sections of ethereal calm.

After an enormous cacophony, it ends spiritually, with a hymn-like theme that evaporates into the tintinnabulation of a bell. Jarvi led athletically, and the musicians responded with vigorous playing. The composer, who had flown in from Estonia, shared bows with the orchestra.

In Repin's hands, the Sibelius Concerto in D Minor was fire and passion. Technically, the Siberian-born violinist is a force to be reckoned with; his playing was spectacularly charged, and his big-boned sound was red-blooded and powerful.

He played it as a virtuoso showpiece, always pushing ahead, and I sometimes wished for more breadth of expression. Jarvi stayed with him expertly, but the orchestral passages lacked some of the cool, Nordic sound that they had in Cincinnati.


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