Saturday, April 28, 2007

Review: Trumpet wows crowd

April 27, 2007

The Cincinnati Enquirer


Trumpeter Alison Balsom is a rare female soloist in the largely male world of trumpet playing. Friday morning, Balsom’s superior technique in the Haydn Trumpet Concerto – and possibly also her glamorous looks – wowed the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra audience.
The twentysomething British virtuoso made her debut with Paavo Järvi on the podium, in a program that included Schumann’s Symphony No. 4 and two attractive tone poems by Sibelius.
Balsom’s star is clearly on the ascent. She already holds a rare record contract on EMI, and her awards include Best Young British Performer in the 2006 Classical Brit Awards.

The Haydn Trumpet Concerto is one of the world’s best-known works for trumpet. Its pitfalls don’t lie in great displays of virtuosity, but in the trumpeter’s control, expressiveness and respect for the classical style.
Backed by a reduced Cincinnati Symphony, Balsom sailed through its fanfares, projecting a silvery tone and persuasive musicianship. The slow movement was beautifully phrased, and the finale sparkled. Her agility, crisp articulation and the ability to color her phrases made this a memorable performance.
Järvi kept the orchestra light, and the collaboration was excellent.
For an encore, Balsom performed a nuanced “Old Swedish Folksong” by Oskar Lindberg, giving us another glimpse of what she can do.The orchestra’s first-ever performance of Sibelius’ “Nightride and Sunrise” opened the program. Nature sounds permeate Sibelius’ music, which in this piece, deals with a lone horseman riding through the forest gloom.The piece was a stunning discovery. Järvi and the orchestra created a majestic, almost visual canvas. The strings were clear and propulsive, and increased in atmosphere as the ride continued. There were beautiful contributions from the horns in the slow section (where the rider pauses to admire the view) and a glowing brass chorale at its finish. Another tone poem, “The Bard,” featured harpist Gillian Benet Sella. (The idea here was of a bard accompanying himself on harp as he wove his tales.) It was static, introspective and haunting, and Järvi made the most of its brass-filled climaxes.The conductor dedicated the performance of Schumann’s Fourth to Mstislav Rostropovich, who died Friday morning. Schumann wrote his symphony for his young wife, Clara, weaving a lyrical “Clara Theme” into the work. Its four movements were led in one unbroken span, with Järvi projecting a clear view of its architecture. Tempos were quick, and Järvi allowed its lyricism to soar, contrasting with moments that were sheer high-voltage. The “Romanze” was sweeping, and included refined solos from concertmaster Tim Lees, oboist Shea Scruggs and cellist Eric Kim. The scherzo was earthy and invigorating, and the finale ended in a breathtaking flourish.Fresh from its highly praised West Coast tour, the orchestra sounded polished and confident. The crowd was on its feet for the third time.The last symphony performance of the Haydn concerto was in 1986 with principal trumpeter Philip Collins, who was honored Friday. Collins is retiring after 31 years, and the trumpet section gave him a standing ovation after a moving tribute from percussionist Richard Jensen. Three other musicians, violinist Michelle Edgar Dugan, cellist Daniel Culnan and violist Steven Rosen, were also honored for 25 years in the orchestra.The concert repeats at 8 p.m. Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday. 513-381-3300 .

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