Saturday, November 13, 1999

Jarvi, CSO still dazzling crowds; His 3rd appearance puts him in running for director's job

Jarvi, CSO still dazzling crowds
His 3rd appearance puts him in running for director's job

By Janelle Gelfand
The Cincinnati Enquirer, November 13, 1999

Will Paavo Jarvi be the next music director of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra? The search process is secret, but Mr. Jarvi's CSO concert on Friday morning in Music Hall was a perfect example of why this young maestro is making a big impression here and around the world.

What we do know is this: Mr. Jarvi's program of Faure, Sibelius, Dvorak and Debussy galvanized the players, who responded with rare energy and precision. Debussy's La Mer, which concluded the program, was nothing short of a dazzling aural experience.

At its conclusion, the audience of 1,847 stood in a lengthy ovation and the musicians afforded him their greatest honor -- refusing to stand while he took a bow alone.

Friday's was Mr. Jarvi's third guest appearance in nine months on the CSO podium -- a sure sign that he is high on the list to succeed Jesus Lopez-Cobos, who leaves in 2001. From the buzz backstage and the number of board members and players who lined up to greet him after Friday's concert, Mr. Jarvi is creating excitement -- something the CSO needs to boost its attendance.

Mr. Jarvi's gestures on the podium are expansive and every motion makes musical sense. He opened with Faure's Pelleas et Melisande Suite, incidental music to Maeterlinck's enigmatic play about a love triangle. String textures were luminous, and the detail of phrasing was memorable.

Orchestral soloists shone, particularly in the familiar Sicilienne, where harpist Gillian Benet Sella and flutist Randolph Bowman performed a sublime duo. The resulting quality was lush, transparent and very French.

CSO principal second violinist Yumi Hwang made her solo debut in the Dvorak Violin Concerto, which followed. Ms. Hwang, who leaves next season to become concertmaster of the Colorado Symphony, is a confident performer with a pure, beautiful tone.

Her unflagging concentration and engaging expression gave the work a fresh quality. Her virtuosic passages were impressive, but above all, she communicated with a natural ease. The slow movement had a genuine warmth, and she sparkled through the dance rhythms of the finale.

Mr. Jarvi was a superb collaborator, careful never to cover the soloist.

In an interesting juxtaposition, Mr. Jarvi programmed Sibelius' Pelleas and Melisande Suite after intermission. The contrast of these nine scenes with Faure's suite was immediately evident: its darkly rich atmosphere make it some of the most searching music Sibelius wrote for the theater.

Mr. Jarvi balanced the more delicate, poetic moments against the dramatic ones, and the orchestra responded with pristine playing.

One of the work's pleasures is the solo writing for English horn, performed exquisitely by Robert Walters. The suite ended poignantly, with the orchestra achieving a wonderful pianissimo.

That sublime range of color and dynamic continued in Debussy's sonorous La Mer, where the first movement had a beautiful ebb and flow, and Mr. Jarvi allowed orchestral soloists to shine.

The "Games of the Waves" was both fleet and eloquent, and Mr. Jarvi brought out its play of light and dark. The atmospheric finale was brought to a glorious, brass-filled climax.