Friday, April 25, 2008

CONCEART REVIEW: Zukerman soars with symphony

April 25, 2008
Cincinnati Enquirer
By janelle Gelfand

It’s always an event when Pinchas Zukerman is in town.
With the violin legend onstage, a full house and Paavo Järvi and the
Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra just back from an extensive European tour, the sense of occasion was palpable in Music Hall on Thursday night.
A larger-than-life personality both onstage and off (he was formerly married to movie star Tuesday Weld), Zukerman has been absent for a decade from Music Hall’s stage. So what a joy it was to hear this extraordinary musician once again, as he performed Bruch’s Violin Concerto in G Minor.

Järvi and the orchestra, who returned Saturday from a 12-city, five-country tour of Europe, also performed Overture No. 2 by Estonian composer Veljo Tormis and Mozart’s Symphony No. 39. Although the Israeli-born violinist has appeared with the orchestra many times, this was his first collaboration with Järvi conducting. Forget that Max Bruch’s work is one of the most romantic, lyrical concertos ever written. In Zukerman’s hands, it was simply extraordinary. From the first note, the violinist’s sound on his rare Guarneri del Gesu was startlingly big, with a sweet upper register and a dark, soulful lower one. That he is also a virtuoso of the viola was evident in the throaty, almost vocal color he achieved. He moved little as he played, without the flamboyance of many of today’s violinists, but there was something about his presence that was mesmerizing. Even the most difficult fireworks seemed effortless. If there was a moment that impressed the most, it was the adagio, where his phrasing was deeply personal. Järvi and the orchestra provided seamless support. The large audience continued ovations even after the lights were turned on, but there was no encore. The program opened with Tormis’ Overture No. 2 in G Minor, a dramatic curtain-raiser that takes its cue from Shostakovich. Jarvi led his players with momentum, and the strings responded with agitated, intense playing. The piece included an attractive flute melody at its center (Randolph Bowman), but the writing became less interesting near the end. To conclude the evening, Mozart’s Symphony No. 39 in E-flat Major, K. 543, one of Mozart’s last three symphonies, was also full of drama. Järvi’s view clearly looked ahead to Beethoven. Using a full complement of strings, he achieved a sound that was robust and sometimes a bit heavy for my taste. But there was grandeur in the slow introduction, punctuated by pointed timpani, and the finale was a galvanizing combination of light and dark.The musicians, whose ensemble was ragged at first, pulled together a reading of intensity and character. One of the highlights was the minuet, with its charming duet for clarinets. Unfortunately, cell phones interrupted the mood several times this evening.
The concert repeats at 11 a.m. Friday and 8 p.m. Saturday in Music Hall. Tickets: 513-381-3300, http://www.cincinnatisymphony.org/.

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