April 9, 2008
The Cincinnati Enquirer
The Cincinnati Enquirer
By Janelle Gelfand
AMSTERDAM - The Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra's performance in Amsterdam's Concertgebouw on Wednesday night was the biggest triumph of its European tour, and an unforgettable debut in the venue for the orchestra.
Repeated standing ovations and cheering from the sold-out house greeted Paavo Jarvi and the orchestra's program of Arvo Part, Britten and Shostakovich in this, the most enthusiastic reception on the tour. And despite travelling half the day to get to Amsterdam from Stuttgart on Wednesday, the musicians sounded fresh and delivered a near-flawless performance.
The Concertgebouw is one of the great halls of the world, and its orchestra, the Royal Concertgebouw, is one of the top three European orchestras. Playing here means one has reached the pinnacle. But nothing prepared you for the velvety sound achieved by the strings, the glow of the brass, or the radiant sound of the solo winds.
From the first note of Part's "Cantus in Memory of Benjamin Britten," the sound was as close to heaven as it gets in this, the Stradivarius of halls.
"It's magic is how it blends the sound of the orchestra as it reaches the public," explained Alex Kerr, former concertmaster of the Cincinnati Symphony and the Royal Concertgebouw. The orchestra responded to this setting with stunning playing. With the orchestra seated on tiered risers, Jarvi and violin soloist Janine Jansen made their entrances down a grand stairway behind the orchestra to the stage. Jansen, a native of a small town near Utrecht, who has become an international star, again turned in an inspiring performance of Britten's Violin Concerto No. 1, a work that is both poetic and moody.This was the finest collaboration of the tour. The orchestra and soloist communicated together as if playing chamber music, and the orchestra supported her with tremendous color and emotion.After intermission, Jarvi led Shostakovich's Symphony No. 10, a scathing portrait of Stalin, in the orchestra's most authoritative performance to date. It was a journey of wide-ranging, raw emotion, and every accent and dynamic was richly illuminated. The scherzo had brutal power and the fearless horn calls of the third movement (Liz Freimuth) soared beautifully. Jarvi's tempos were more settled than usual and the finale erupted from its solemn mood into an irresistible finish.The crowd was on its feet in an instant. The encore, Sibelius' Valse Triste followed, and all you could do was revel in the sound."It’s unbelievable, really excellent," remarked Dr. Sten Drop, of Rotterdam, who trained at Cincinnati Children's Hospital."It doesn't get any better than this," Jarvi said after the concert. "This hall makes you look good and everyone wants to play better in it."The Concertgebouw has undergone recent renovations and the crowd poured into its bars and a trendy atrium café at intermission, an asset to this historic 1888 building.Enjoying the concert were a number of Cincinnati Symphony trustees and a delegation from the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber, hosting local businesses in a separate mission. The party of more than 40 people included Cincinnati city manager Milton Dohoney.The orchestra departs early Thursday for Paris, where it will play in the famous Salle Pleyel on Thursday night.