Friday, April 4, 2003

CSO soars in superb Boston music hall

Concert review

By Janelle Gelfand
The Cincinnati Enquirer

BOSTON - On day four of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra's first tour with music director Paavo Jarvi, the usually reserved Boston audience responded with cheers, bravos and two standing ovations. Wednesday was another cold, rainy night on the East Coast, but more than 2,200 came out to hear the CSO play for the first time in Symphony Hall since Max Rudolf brought his orchestra here twice in the '60s.

Playing its tour program of Erkki-Sven Tuur, Sibelius and Shostakovich in the stunning acoustics of Symphony Hall, the CSO could compete with any orchestra in the world. Carnegie Hall may have warmth, but the 2,600-seat Symphony Hall, which resembles Vienna's Musikverein, has spectacular clarity and brightness. Add the tremendous precision and musicality of the CSO under Jarvi, and it was an unbeatable combination.

Despite a grueling day, the musicians played their hearts out. After performing as the Cincinnati Pops on Tuesday in Carnegie Hall, they spent more than five hours on a bus Wednesday, to arrive in time to play in Boston.

Every detail clear

Every detail was clear in Tuur's Exodus, a complex mini-tone poem, which the Estonian composer conceived as evoking "a spirit which exists outside the borders of our perception."

There was urgency to the opening thrusts of the basses and the diving trombones, but Jarvi was careful not to overpower the hall in the work's immense, agitated moments. The conclusion, with its mystical bell, dissolved exquisitely into thin air.

With the pressure of Carnegie Hall behind him, violinist Vadim Repin delivered a more relaxed, ravishing performance of Sibelius' D Minor Violin Concerto. His opening phrase was infused with both sweetness and pathos; his high notes gleamed with stunning purity. The cadenza was a tour de force - both powerful and soulful.

Repin's slow movement was deeply felt. The finale was an electrifying show of jaw-dropping technique, and he seemed to enjoy tossing off the concerto's diabolical difficulties. The serious Siberian even cracked a smile once, when someone yelled "bravo!" after the slow movement.

Jarvi seamless

Jarvi's support was seamless, with every nuance calculated to aid the violinist. The tutti passages soared magnificently, and in this space, perfectly captured that spacious Nordic coolness.

But again, it was Shostakovich's 10th that showed off the orchestra's virtuosity, as well as its conductor's interpretive powers.

The buildups had terrifying power, and at the other end of the spectrum were exquisite pianissimos. The second movement, a scherzo that evokes Stalin, was gripping and exciting as timpanist Eugene Espino punched through the texture with visceral power.

Jarvi unflaggingly galvanized his players, leading with great circular gestures, or leaning over to sweep the strings urgently along. The orchestral solos emerged with a spontaneous quality; special kudos go to acting principal French hornist Thomas Sherwood for his glorious playing in the treacherous third movement.

Jarvi's finale surged with controlled electricity until its firecracker finish. As the crowd cheered, Jarvi had his soloists stand, before turning around himself to acknowledge the ovations.

On Thursday, the CSO performed in Mechanics Hall, Worcester, Mass. The tour concludes Saturday at Washington's Kennedy Center.


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