Thursday, June 19, 2003

Symphony delivers Bach's 'hits'

Concert review

By Janelle Gelfand
The Cincinnati Enquirer

The Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra's Bach and Beyond Series didn't go beyond Bach for its second installment Tuesday in Corbett Auditorium on the University of Cincinnati campus.

The all-Bach program was sort of the greatest hits of 1720, anchored by gems such as Bach's Brandenburg Concerto No. 1, and led by the series' distinguished artist, violinist Jaime Laredo.

Hearing such wonderful music, long neglected in the symphonic setting, was like greeting an old friend, and it brought the capacity crowd to its feet three times. Although the musicians' playing was uneven at first, it became lighter, more precise and more in the Baroque style as the evening progressed.

The most irresistible performances were the two concertos at the program's center. Laredo, a consummate musician who led with his violin most of the evening, was soloist in the first half for Bach's Violin Concerto No. 1 in D Minor, BWV 1052.

Laredo's playing was warmly expressive, as he soared out of the orchestral texture for his solo episodes and led with vigor in the tutti passages. The Allegro movements were full of rhythmic energy, and the violinist took the first movement's brief cadenza in three sweeping flourishes. He injected a bit of romantic expression in the Adagio, projecting an almost vocal tone on his violin.

After intermission, Cincinnati pianist Michael Chertock was soloist in Bach's Clavier Concerto in G Minor, BWV 1058 (an arrangement of Bach's A Minor Violin Concerto). With Laredo on the podium, it was the most satisfying collaboration, with spirited, transparent playing from orchestra and soloist.

Playing a Steinway grand, Chertock remained stylistically true, using light, pointed articulation and tasteful ornaments and carefully controlling color and dynamic. His playing was lyrical, poetic and delicate; his judicial pedal added atmosphere in the slow movement.

The program closed with a genial reading of Bach's Suite No. 3 in D Major. Although the suite's "Air" is overplayed, Laredo gave it new life, emphasizing lightness and bringing out its inner, often overlooked counterpoint.

The evening opened with the Brandenburg Concerto No. 1 in F Major, which seemed less well prepared and lacked the buoyancy and clarity that the piece needs.


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