Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Midori Shines with CSO

From the Cincinnati Enquirer on Saturday, April 26 2009
By Kyle Werner

Friday's CSO concert featured a satisfying blend of lyrical elegance and raw, drumhead-smashing power. World-renowned violinist Midori joined the orchestra and Music Director Paavo Järvi to perform Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto in E Minor. The program also included Messiaen's Les Offrandes Oubliées, and Saint-Saëns' "Organ Symphony." A large, enthusiastic audience gave the performance a warm reception.

The concert opened with Olivier Messiaen's Les Offrandes Oubliées ("The Forgotten Offerings"). Written when Messiaen was just 22 years old, this heartfelt work is a meditation on Christ's crucifixion. Drawing from his deeply held Catholic faith, Messiaen created a work in three sections, focusing on the Cross, Sin, and the Eucharist, respectively. He was also a church organist through most of his life, and his orchestration is often built in colorful layers, much like the different stops on a pipe organ. Maestro Järvi and the CSO brought out these layers with beautiful sensitivity.

Next, Midori took the stage for the Mendelssohn Concerto. She performed the work with an intimate, chamber music quality, often leaning in close to the orchestra to explore subtle musical interactions. Her sound was extremely light and pure, projecting through the enormous hall even at soft dynamic levels. The orchestra supported her with passionate, lyrical playing; at no time did they merely become a colorless backdrop. Maestro Järvi sculpted the orchestra's phrasing with wonderful expressiveness.

The program closed with Camille Saint-Saëns' Symphony No. 3 "Organ." The work got off to a slightly rocky start, with the intricate staccato passages performed with varying degrees of precision. However, the ensemble played with a richly lyrical quality in the slow movement, blending smoothly with the organ. Overall, the triumphant Maestoso was powerful and solid. The blasting organ chords were rather disappointing; they left this listener wishing Music Hall still had a real pipe organ, rather than a bland-sounding electronic instrument.
However, the final moments of the work were certainly no disappointment. As timpanist Patrick Schlecker was blasting out his closing passage, one of his drumheads broke with a loud crack. He continued playing, improvising a slightly different ending to avoid using the damaged instrument.

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