Friday, January 19, 2007

CONCERT REVIEW: Prepare for weeping as tearjerkers lead bill

Prepare for weeping as tearjerkers lead bill
By Mary Ellyn Hutton
Cincinnati Post, January 19, 2007

The Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra's fall 2007 Telarc CD conducted by music director Paavo Järvi may need a warning label.

Not to beware blowing out your speakers - although with Tchaikovsky that can be a risk - but for musically induced hyperactivity of the lacrimal glands (uncontrollable weeping).

Previewed on CSO concerts Thursday night and last weekend at Music Hall, the projected CD will pair Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 6 ("Pathetique") and his "Romeo and Juliet" Overture-Fantasy.

"Romeo and Juliet" is one of the great tearjerkers of all time, and last week's Tchaikovsky filled the bill potently.

The same excitement permeated his valedictory symphony Thursday. There was a long moment of silence as the cellos and basses faded to near inaudibility at the end. Järvi did not move until the clapping began.

The entire concert was romantic repertoire. Also heard were Brahms' Piano Concerto No. 1 with French pianist Helene Grimaud and, to open, the Overture to Verdi's "I Vespri Siciliani."

The Verdi showed off the virtuosity of the Järvi-CSO collaboration, with its soft, quick-as-a-blink rhythms at the beginning, swift changes of mood and blitz of violins at the end.

Grimaud, one of the stars of the piano today, demonstrated considerable power in the Brahms. She crafted a big sound, making liberal use of pedal, and swept her listeners along when the currents were strong. The work's real definition lay in the orchestra, however, which Järvi cast in high relief, from huge and passionate, to soft and serene, as in the beautifully shaped first movement exposition.

The Adagio was the emotional core of the work, with its long-breathed melody, lush piano solos and warm orchestral underpinning. Grimaud dug into the gypsy rondo finale with zest, bringing the lengthy work to an exciting conclusion.

Principal bassoonist William Winstead gave the "Pathetique" Symphony its signature with his dark, expressive solo in the introduction. Järvi enhanced it with emphatic phrasing in the lower strings, making the change of color to soft-tinged violas at the beginning of the Allegro almost magical.

The entire movement was shot through with color. The Andante "love theme" was slow, tender and tapered, and Järvi caught no one dozing with the sudden fortissimo that began the development. The music built to fire-alarm intensity before yielding to the soft, weary, final statement by winds, brass and pizzicato strings.

The famous 5/4 waltz was smooth and graceful, shaped with sweeping gestures by Järvi. The third movement march was persuasive to its last noisy iteration and swirl of violins, earning a smattering of irresistible applause. Järvi plunged immediately into the lamentoso finale, where the music sobbed, quivered and picked itself up again and again, bassoons and then horns hanging on painfully at the top. The final plaint by muted strings stole softly into the night as Järvi relished the silence in the hall.

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