Friday, April 28, 2006

CONCERT REVIEW: Polusmiak shines with CSO

The Cincinnati Post's Mary Ellyn Hutton found much to like in Anna Polusmiak's debut performance with the CSO Thursday night in this review:
If the metaphor fits wear it. Just back from the Netherlands where a critic dubbed her a "keyboard lioness," pianist Anna Polusmiak was just that Thursday night at Music Hall.

Given her lithe, powerful performance of Rachmaninoff's "Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini" with the Cincinnati Symphony led by Paavo Järvi, it seemed no exaggeration to liken the 23-year-old, Ukrainian born Northern Kentuckian to a pianistic queen of the veldt.

Garbed in glittering turquoise for her CSO Music Hall debut, she put grace and focused energy into the old warhorse, sparking an instantaneous ovation.

But Polusmiak's wasn't the evening's only spontaneous demonstration. There was applause after the Adagio of Rachmaninoff's Symphony No. 2, as well, and not just the inadvertent kind. Järvi recognized it as such and didn't wave it away with his hand, but turned and acknowledged it with a smile.

The all-Rachmaninoff program, which included the CSO premiere of Two Dances from "Aleko," an early, one-act opera about gypsy life, was a crowd-pleaser. The Symphony No. 2 and "Aleko" Dances will be recorded next week by Telarc.

Polusmiak's performance shone from the outset, where her diamond bright touch etched the "Rhapsody" theme, then traced sparkling counterpoint with the trumpet and winds.

There was plenty of heart in her work, too, as the gorgeous "upside down" Variation 18 demonstrated. Preceded by shudders in the strings, it unfolded tenderly, tracing a sonorous arch that floated to earth like a feather (you could tell listeners had been holding their breath because of the rustling heard at the end). The bombastic finale with its witty, understated ending brought the crowd to its feet.
Her encore was a total contrast, Rachmaninoff's soft, touching "Daisies."

Rachmaninoff's Second Symphony was everything we have come to expect of Järvi and the CSO, transparent and full of gesture and emotion.

The energetic finale featured dense undercurrents, echoes of previous movements and an exhilarating and very Russian sounding finish.

Järvi's encore was a treat, Rachmaninoff's earliest extant work, a charming teenage Scherzo modeled after Mendelssohn's music for "A Midsummer Night's Dream."

Repeats are 11 a.m. today, 8 p.m. Saturday at Music Hall. Information (513) 381-3300.

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