Thursday, April 24, 2008

CONCERT REVIEW: CSO shines in capital of music

April 7, 2008

The Cincinnati Enquirer
By Janelle Gelfand

VIENNA – Vienna is every musician’s destination, the capital of music where Beethoven, Mozart, Haydn, Mahler, Schubert, Brahms and many more famous music-makers have lived and worked.
So whenever the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra performs in Vienna, it is an auspicious occasion, as it was Sunday night in Vienna’s famous Konzerthaus. One doesn’t have to walk far before bumping into other monuments to music, such as the State Opera House, the Musikverein (seen on televised New Year’s Eve concerts) and the bronze statue of waltz king Johann Strauss, Jr., in the nearby Stadtpark.
For this, the third concert in three nights in three different cities, the orchestra put on an endurance test that included Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 10 and Benjamin Britten’s Violin Concerto No. 1 with Dutch violinist Janine Jansen.


Photos: CSO in Frankfurt, Vienna

You wouldn’t expect a cell phone to go off in a place that worships music so much as Vienna, but it did – in a quiet passage of the first movement of the Shostakovich. Otherwise, the concert was received with extended, enthusiastic ovations resulting in two encores by the orchestra.
The elegant hall, with its gilded décor, was packed for this concert, which was part of the Konzerthaus’ “Vienna Spring Festival.” The auditorium’s acoustics are excellent and bright, and were ideal for the opening piece, Arvo Pärt’s “Cantus in Memory of Benjamin Britten.” In this space, the opening bell-strike lingered beautifully and the string sound was rich. The effect was quite moving.The night before in Munich, Jansen had played Tchaikovsky. On Sunday, she switched gears admirably for Britten’s Concerto, a very different work that calls for a great deal of playing in the violin’s upper stratosphere. It was a gripping performance, from her rhapsodic, bitter-sweet opening phrases to the driving scherzo that called for an arsenal of special effects. Jansen communicated it all with tremendous intensity, emotion and absolute control.The intense mood continued in Shostakovich’s Tenth, a searing portrait of Stalin composed in 1953. Under Järvi’s direction, it was a performance of devastating power and extremes of tempo. The musicians rose to the occasion with stunning playing. The first movement conveyed both beauty and sadness, and its shattering climaxes were massive in this hall. The scherzo was a spectacular show of force in the brass, and the famous horn calls of the third movement rang wonderfully in this space (Elizabeth Freimuth). Järvi’s tempo in the finale was so quick it left you breathless, but the orchestra tossed it off with virtuosity.For the first encore, Järvi gave his Viennese audience a waltz, not Strauss, but Sibelius’ “Valse Triste.” Tina Breckwoldt, archivist for the Vienna Boys’ Choir, was impressed at the large turnout.“The orchestra is getting a name here now, because it is invited back again and again,” she said.Afterward, Järvi signed CDs and greeted the Ambassador to Estonia, Katrin Saarsalu-Layachi. Also in the crowd were his brother, Kristjan Järvi, principal conductor of Vienna’s Tonkünstler Orchestra, and his sister Maarika Järvi, a flutist.Today the orchestra has a day off. It flies to Stuttgart on Tuesday.

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