Saturday, September 20, 2008

CONCERT REVIEW: CSO soars with Dvorak

September 19, 2008

The Cincinnati Enquirer

By Janelle Gelfand

No doubt many in Music Hall for the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra’s concert this morning spent a difficult week without power. Paavo Järvi’s all-Dvorak program, grounded in beautiful Bohemian moods, was a gratifying respite. But there was an added bonus: A bright new cellist named Gautier Capucon.
A few in the audience responded to the symphony’s last-minute, two-for-one power outage ticket deal – but more are expected to when the concert repeats today. This was an exciting debut of a 27-year-old artist who possesses the drama, musicianship and assuredness to become a major star.
Järvi explained the pros and cons of a program devoted entirely to one composer – the downside being, “if you don’t like Dvorak, you’re out of luck.” But the rich outpouring of Bohemian folk melodies in Dvorak’s Cello Concerto in B Minor, Symphony No. 8 and even in the quirky “Symphonic Variations” which opened the program, proved to be irresistible.
Capucon, a native of Chambery, France may not be a household name in the United States, but he’s already performed with the Philadelphia and Houston orchestras, is championed by pianist Martha Argerich and has a recording contract with Virgin Classics. (His recording of the Brahms Piano Trios with his violinist brother, Renaud, and Cincinnati native Nicholas Angelich is first rate.)
He projected a big, throaty sound in the vibrant folk themes of Dvorak’s Cello Concerto. It was a magical performance. Capucon is an expressive, involved performer, leaning back and closing his eyes during lyrical phrases, and letting his long dark hair fall into his eyes as he hunched over his cello. His playing was poignant but never overly sentimental. He turned often to communicate with soloists in the orchestra. His first-movement duet with flutist Jasmine Choi was sheer poetry.The slow movement, with its soulful melody borrowed from an earlier song, was beautifully shaped, and the cellist allowed its phrases to breathe. He had something imaginative to say in every note of the dance-like finale.The orchestra provided a red-blooded, romantic canvas, and the collaboration was seamless. Principal horn Elizabeth Freimuth’s solo in the first movement was ravishing.The great tunes continued in Dvorak’s Symphony No. 8 in G Major, a work in pastoral Czech moods, including a waltz movement that recalls Dvorak’s “Slavonic Dances.”Järvi was an energized leader, and the orchestra responded with polished, colorful playing. There was an invigorating freshness about this performance, which had a freedom that made it all sound spontaneous. Järvi emphasized the lyricism as well as Dvorak’s mercurial changes of mood, contrasting heroic horn calls against Czech melodies that were tinged with melancholy. The waltz movement was breathtaking for its lightness, and the finale, a set of variations, was warmly played.The program opened with the rarely played “Symphonic Variations.” The piece built to a full-blown fugue with the full power of the brass, but getting there was a bit rough.The Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra repeats at 8 p.m. Saturday in Music Hall. Tickets are two-for-one for those who have had power outages this week. Mention it when you call 513-381-3300 ,

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