Saturday, October 13, 2007

CONCERT REVIEW: Violinist brings Beethoven to life

October 12, 2007

Cincinnati Enquirer

You've heard the Beethoven Violin Concerto before, but this one was as close to heaven as it gets.
In an unusual Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra program that brought the soloist out last,Vadim Repin's performance of Beethoven on Thursday was a blend of profound inspiration and sheer beauty of sound.
It was worth the wait. Paavo Järvi's program of three symphonic movements by Mahler, combined with the concerto, was a lengthy undertaking for one evening. That said, the symphonic splendor of the "Adagio" from Mahler's Symphony No. 10 will not soon be forgotten.
Mahler's symphonies encompass the composer's struggles with mortality and the meaning of life, while delighting in nature and mundane marches. Järvi opened with two Mahler movements from opposite spectrums: "Todtenfeier" (Funeral rites), an early version of the first movement of Symphony No. 2; and the "Adagio," the only complete movement of his last symphony.
It was a fascinating juxtaposition of two universes. The "Todtenfeier" pitted the anguished against the serene, opening fiercely in low strings against pounding timpani. Järvi wonderfully contrasted the terror-filled death march against moments of glowing themes in the strings, and the orchestra responded with pristine playing. (This early version is more transparent but also lacks momentum at times, a problem Mahler corrected later.)
Järvi's view of the "Adagio," on the other hand, was reflective and autumnal in character. The sweeping power of the strings against soaring themes in the horns, the moments of bittersweet irony, the brilliant chirping for the wind players - it beautifully summed up all that is Mahler. The conductor led with affection and tremendous attention to detail, and the musicians played it superbly.
After intermission, Järvi introduced the orchestra's first performance of Mahler's "What the Wild Flowers Tell Me," from Mahler's Third, as arranged by Benjamin Britten. It was a brief, lighthearted gem, and allowed orchestral soloists, including oboist Dwight Parry, to shine.
So, after this three-course meal, Beethoven's Violin Concerto in D Major arrived. Born in 1971, Repin is one of a generation of spectacular violinists to come out of Siberia, and his glorious sound and relaxed technique hark back to the golden age of violin playing.
From the first note, Repin's sound on his 1736 Guarneri del Gesu violin was arresting - pure, fluid and amazingly plush. He took his time and seemed to revel in each stroke of the bow, allowing his golden, enveloping sound to linger just a bit longer.
The violinist took a genial pace in the first two movements. Phrases were poetic, beautifully shaded and nothing was glossed over. His cadenzas, by Fritz Kreisler, were feats of effortless fireworks and mesmerizing control.
He smiled through the finale, and Järvi and the orchestra made excellent partners.
8 p.m. Saturday. 513-381-3300.

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