Fittingly enough, music director Paavo Järvi and the Cincinnati Symphony started the New Year with Dawn Friday morning at Music Hall.
And not just any dawn, but Benjamin Britten's superbly evocative Dawn, first of the Four Sea-Interludes from his opera "Peter Grimes."
The first ray of "light," emanating from flutes and violins perched high above the staff, augured well for 2006, as did the program in general, a colorful one featuring the CSO debut of French pianist Pierre-Laurent Aimard in Ravel's Concerto for the Left Hand and the symphony Mathis der Mahler ("Matthias the Painter") by Paul Hindemith.
Britten's Interludes - to be recorded by Järvi and the CSO as part of an all-British album for Telarc - comprise tone and mood-painting of the highest order. Järvi extracted every rainbow tinge and every hint of meaning from the score.
Aimard, a brilliant artist whose career has been closely intertwined with contemporary music, displayed stunning virtuosity in the Ravel, an ingenious, single-movement work written for Austrian pianist Paul Wittgenstein, who lost his right arm in World War I. You had to see Aimard to believe only one hand was playing, the illusion Ravel sought to create, largely by use of the piano's sustaining pedal.
Contra-bassoonist Jennifer Monroe had a rare moment to shine in the opening bars, which rumbled up from ponderous depths to Aimard's stately fortissimo entrance and bravura cadenza. His touch in slower, more lyrical moments was refined and exacting.
The scherzo portion (Allegro) was bright, taut and bluesy. Järvi let the CSO wax full and rowdy here, with occasional smears in the brass and a perky tune by the E-flat clarinet (Jonathan Gunn). Aimard capped the work with a lengthy cadenza, where he wreathed his own melody in a halo of cascading figures. Järvi brought the Concerto to a big, bumptious end, adding the exclamation point to a riveting performance.
Hindemith's triptych symphony based on his opera about Matthias Grunewald, painter of the famed Isenheim altarpiece, suffered somewhat by contrast. Though well played, it lacked the last measure of energy and commitment needed to equal the excitement of the first half. There were many fine moments: the dynamic shading of "The Entombment," the creepy, crawly sounds of "The Temptation of St. Anthony," with its menacing introduction - jaws snapping, cymbal hissing - its high, spine-tingling trills and slow, anguished interlude for strings. Still, the buildup to the final brass chorale seemed to flicker rather than burn, and the chorale itself, while full and dignified, seemed a bit staid.
Repeat is 8 tonight at Music Hall.
Saturday, January 14, 2006
CONCERT REVIEW: CSO, pianist present colorful opener for New Year
[yawn] I really should be painting my fingernails in some shocking hue at this late hour, in preparation for attending Saturday evening's concert (surely this can be claimed as an aerobic activity, non? raise those arms up!), but, instead, here I am, impatiently mousing around with Google News, trolling for the reviews of Friday morning's concert! And what to my wandering eyes should appear--but this review by my peep, Mary Ellyn Hutton, in today's edition of the Cincinnati Post! Check it out: