January 26, 2008
The Cincinnati Enqierer
By Janelle Gelfand
Bruckner's Symphony No. 9 in D Minor lies somewhere between heaven and earth, with pure and simple moments that contrast against great cathedrals of sound.
On Friday, Paavo Järvi and the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra explored Bruckner's Ninth for the first time together. It was an hour-long journey that couldn't be hurried, a climb up Mount Everest that, in the end, took you to an unexpectedly spiritual place.
Bruckner's most transcendent symphony was unfinished at his death, and may have been his own farewell to life. A deeply religious man, the composer was not searching for meaning but expressing his faith. It exudes a kind of mystical radiance.
Hearing the sonic splendor of the expanded brass choir in Music Hall's acoustical space seemed to emphasize the grandeur of this music. There was the ringing chord at the end of the first movement, , and the extraordinary timbre of the four Wagnerian tubas that colored the finale.
The journey traveled seamlessly through towering summits and sunny, Austrian valleys.
The string sound was plush and the brass choirs were immaculate and beautifully shaped. Softer moments had a sweetness and poignancy; massive buildups had shattering power.
Järvi allowed his soloists freedom of expression, yet one always felt a sense of architecture. The third movement was a glowing summation, unhurried and warmly played.
A brass-lover's evening, the first half was devoted to the sound of the trumpet. Swedish virtuoso Hakan Hardenberger, a professor at the Malmo Conservatory, was soloist in works by Arvo Part and Eino Tamberg.
Part wrote his "Little Concerto on B-A-C-H" for Hardenberger by adding a trumpet line to his atonal canvas, "Collage on B-A-C-H" of 1964. In the second movement, Hardenberger's sound on the piccolo trumpet was striking in the quotation of a Bach Sarabande, which was answered in the orchestra by slow-moving tone clusters.
Tamberg's Concerto was a vibrant showpiece for the trumpeter's superb control, tonal color and stunning phrasing. The finale was a staccato perpetual motion, played with relentless bursts of energy.
The concert repeats at 8 p.m. today in Music Hall. Tickets: 513-381-3300, http://www.cincinnatisymphony.org/.