Saturday, May 06, 2006

CONCERT REVIEW: CSO season climax rich

Janelle Gelfand of the Cincinnati Enquirer writes of a broken string, but unbroken concentration by special guest Henning Kraggerud during last night's Cincinnati Symphony performance!
It happens. Violinist Henning Kraggerud got to the end of a beautifully executed first movement in the Beethoven Violin Concerto Friday night - and snapped a string.

With a sheepish grin, he trotted off stage, traded his violin for another and continued the piece with absolute focus, as if nothing had happened.

That was just a minor glitch in an evening of splendid music making for the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra's season finale Friday in Music Hall. The gifted Norwegian violinist, stepping in for an ill Akiko Suwanai, impressed with his gorgeous, relaxed sound as much as for his unique interpretation of Beethoven.

On the podium, Paavo Järvi opened with an earthy Bartok Dance Suite and closed with an electrifying account of Mendelssohn's Symphony No. 3 in a Minor, "Scottish."

Although he's not yet well known in this country, Kraggerud, 32, has a busy career in Europe, and is championed by his countryman, pianist Leif Ove Andsnes. Tall, lanky and boyish, he seemed immediately at ease, projecting a pure, elegant tone and legato line on his Bergonzi violin (he did not play the "Ole Bull" del Gesu). His was a sweeter interpretation than most, although his tempos moved along. There was refreshing spontaneity to his phrasing - he'd pull back on a lyrical theme and then smile at its effect.

He injected his own personality into his cadenzas, too, which were of his own invention. The first involved virtuosity in a Beethoven vein; the second was freer and seemed as if he was improvising it on the spot.

Most refreshing was that the violinist played with a genuine sense of joy, even when tossing off technical feats. But mainly one noticed his beautiful line. The slow movement, after the violin switch, was a vehicle for his lyrical gift, and his tone glowed in the pianissimo passages. The finale danced, and nothing was glossed over, despite its quicksilver tempo.

Kraggerud's collaboration with the orchestra was superb; he turned, as if playing chamber music. Järvi led the orchestral exposition in one broad arc, and never overpowered the soloist.

Instead of a bon-bon for an encore, Kraggerud played the second movement of Mozart's Violin Concerto No. 5 - transposed to a different key, and adding in the accompaniment, too. Wow!

Järvi's view of Mendelssohn's Third was also unique - infused with that inner energy and intensity we have come to know with his interpretations. He cultivated a rich, full-blooded sound in the strings, who played with refinement and precision of ensemble. The scherzo came off in one big flourish - almost impossibly quick - but the musicians came through with chortling winds and blustery horns.

Järvi found drama in each movement. The Adagio had great noble themes and intensity in its dotted rhythms. The finale was supercharged, with especially polished playing from the winds and horns. Järvi urged on his players with flying arms, turning to galvanize each section.

At intermission, the orchestra honored retiring violist Judith Martin for 34 years of service.

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


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