The New Year offers us a moment to reflect on the rich musical offerings we have in our city. This year, I feel privileged to have observed the strides made by the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra under Paavo Järvi, one of the most exciting conductors on the international music scene. I traveled to China with the Cincinnati Pops, an unforgettable experience that showed a country just beginning to emerge as a huge force in the classical music industry, as well as a daunting world power. And I was lucky enough to see three opera premieres in an impressive season of new operas, nationwide....
Symphony: It would be difficult to choose just one performance under the baton of Paavo Järvi. How many times have you heard Dvorak's New World Symphony? It could have been a ho-hum evening last March, but it was a voyage of discovery, as Järvi found something new to say in every measure. Where many performances are full of tension, his view was warmer, more spontaneous and often slower than one usually hears. That pulling back in the lyrical themes brought to the fore the nostalgic, folk-like quality.
In January, getting the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra to Carnegie Hall involved more than "practice, practice practice" - in the wake of a record-setting East Coast snowstorm that dumped nearly 14 inches of snow on New York. But Monday morning, a day after the symphony's flight had been canceled, Delta found a plane to get the orchestra to the Big Apple in time for its 45th concert in the fabled hall.
The big question remained: Would anyone come? New Yorkers were still digging out from "The Blizzard of 2005."
Come they did – along with no fewer than 15 music writers -- for a memorable performance of Sibelius' Fifth. The great climactic buildups in the Sibelius had visceral power; the opening had a compelling sense of mystery as it unfolded with tremolos in the strings and mournful calls in the bassoon (William Winstead). Järvi, who led without a score, gauged the work's power in steady increments, urging his players to the finale's craggy theme with whole-body, sweeping gestures. As they reached their goal, the arresting sound of cracking, "ricochet" effects by the string basses added power to the moment.
For the encore, Sibelius' "Valse triste," Carnegie Hall was as quiet as I’ve ever heard it.
Happy New Year!
Saturday, December 31, 2005
Janelle's Top Concerts of 2005
From Cincinnati Enquirer Classical Music critic Janelle Gelfand's blog (12/30/05):