Sunday, April 13, 2008

CONCERT REVIEW: Paris checks out Järvi

April 11, 2008
The Cincinnati Enquirer
By Janelle Gelfand

PARIS - What a difference a day makes. The Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra's debut in Paris' Salle Pleyel on Thursday night was a striking contrast to the performance it gave in Amsterdam's Concertgebouw on Wednesday. It had everything to do with the hall - and partly, the French audience.
Going from the revered sound of the Concertgebouw to Paris' modern Salle Pleyel, which underwent an extreme renovation two years ago, resulted in a much different, brighter dynamic. The orchestra's Shostakovich Symphony No. 10 worked brilliantly here, but Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 3 was more problematic - perhaps due to acoustics that exposed even the slightest glitch or ensemble issue.
That didn't bother the French listeners, whose enthusiastic cheers for Paavo Järvi, the orchestra and tour soloist Nikolai Lugansky were deafening, and whose rhythmic clapping seemed to go on forever.
Part of the interest here may be that Järvi will take over the Orchestre de Paris in 2010, succeeding maestros such as Herbert von Karajan, Sir Georg Solti and Daniel Barenboim. A sold-out crowd thronged into the lobby, and jammed it afterward to wait for Järvi to sign CDs.
The orchestra was surrounded by audience on all sides, in the stark white and light wood auditorium. A copious number of microphones were planted among the music stands, inside the piano and above the stage. The concert was being recorded by Radio France for future broadcast.
It had been a grueling three days for the musicians, who dragged luggage through three airports in three cities, followed by performances each night. They opened with Mozart's Overture to "The Marriage of Figaro," which was witty and energized, but with uncharacteristic problems in ensemble between sections. (It was perhaps hard to hear onstage.)
• Enquirer reporter Janelle Gelfand is following the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra on its 12-city tour of Europe. Stories, an interactive graphic and more
The 1,913-seat hall has had three previous renovations to correct a bad echo which, from my vantage point, was still somewhat present. (Paris is building a new $260 million concert hall for its orchestra, to open in 2012.)
Lugansky's warm, elegant pianism in Rachmaninoff's Third sounded more brilliant than is typical of his style. At times he seemed to be fighting the piano to achieve the massive sonorities called for in the piece. The orchestra, too, was sometimes out of synch, but by the second movement, the players adjusted.
Nevertheless, Lugansky illustrated that he is a master of control, beautiful tone and lyricism. As he climbed the final summit, the effect was sensational, and Järvi knew just how to sweep up the orchestra.
For an encore, the pianist played Rachmaninoff's G-sharp Minor Prelude.
Shostakovich's Tenth turned out to be ideal for this space, and Järvi and the orchestra delivered a blistering performance of it. One advantage was that it was easier to produce the brutal, ugly character of the second movement, a portrait of Stalin. The conductor drove his players forcefully, in the most hair-raising performance of this movement these forces have given. It was exciting, adrenalin-filled and dramatic, and the orchestra performed it spectacularly.
The roar at the finish and the raucous cheers for the orchestral soloists was fun to behold. Järvi delighted them again with two encores.

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