Saturday, March 11, 2006

CONCERT REVIEW: CSO resounds with 'Resurrection'

Janelle Gelfand reports on Friday's concert -- and spied Paavo's papa, Neeme, in the appreciative audience, as well! After reading her account, it breaks my heart that I wasn't able to be there for that performance, too!
CSO resounds with 'Resurrection'
By Janelle Gelfand
Cincinnati Enquirer (3/11/06)

When the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra struck an earth-shattering climax in the final moments of Mahler's Symphony No. 2, "Resurrection," on Friday night, one could feel the floor of Music Hall vibrate. Its sheer sonic power punctuated one of the most electrifying readings by Paavo Järvi in his five-year tenure, a journey that was at once fiercely intense and wonderfully relaxed.

Mahler's Second, in five movements spanning 85 minutes, has not been performed at the symphony since 1980, under Michael Gielen.

The Mahler universe travels through terror-filled marches, light-hearted waltzes, offstage fanfares and emotionally charged hymns. It is the human experience as seen through Mahler's eyes, an intense psychological drama of man's search for meaning. In his "Resurrection" Symphony, Mahler begins in death and ends affirmatively, in life.

In Järvi's hands, it was a revelation. First there was the massive spectacle: The orchestra, with two sets of timpani, two harps, expanded brass and organ, shared the stage with the May Festival Chorus and soloists mezzo-soprano Lilli Paasikivi and soprano Latonia Moore.

The first movement, a funeral march, was vividly portrayed, from the crunch of the basses to the rattle of the cellos' bows in "col legno" passages. Järvi contrasted the tension and attack of its terror-stricken moments against others that pulled back and seemed to radiate deep sadness.

In contrast, the central movements unfolded with irresistible warmth. The second was gently nostalgic, with the serene sound of violins strumming their instruments. The third was an exuberant scherzo, brought to life with wonderful color in the winds and a genuine quality.

The heart of this epic work is the fourth movement, "Urlicht," a serene, hymnlike setting of a "Wunderhorn" poem. In her Cincinnati debut, Finnish mezzo-soprano Paasikivi projected richly hued vocal color and heartfelt expression. It was a radiant moment in which time stood still, enhanced by beautifully shaped orchestral solos.

Järvi attacked the finale with breathtaking, almost brutal force. Pacing was ideally gauged through brass chorales, heaven-rending drumrolls and offstage horn calls. Through it all, the conductor never lost sight of the grand design of Mahler's vision.

The May Festival Chorus, prepared by Robert Porco, performed Klopstock's "Resurrection Ode" with a hushed, incandescent sound. It was a heavenly climax, with lush, glowing strings and soprano Moore soaring through the texture.

The orchestra, which is playing at the height of its powers, responded wonderfully through super-charged build-ups.

At the cutoff, the cheering crowd was on its feet in an instant.
(Too bad cell phones had marred some quiet moments in the performance.)

Spotted in the audience: maestro Neeme Järvi, father of Paavo Järvi.

The concert repeats at 8 p.m. today. Tickets: (513) 381-3300.


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