Saturday, October 23, 1999

CONCERT REVIEW


Conductor Eddins wows CSO crowd

BY JANELLE GELFAND
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        “If we are going to entertain people, we have to be able to connect with an audience,” says 34-year-old conductor William Eddins.

        In his Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra debut Friday morning, Mr. Eddins proved that he knows how to make that connection.

        His dynamic presence on the podium and crowd-pleasing programming are reasons he is being noticed by many of the country's great orchestras.

        Whether or not Mr. Eddins is a candidate for the top job at the CSO is unknown; the process to find a successor to Jesus Lopez-Cobos is so secret. (One assumes that every guest conductor this season will be scrutinized by the search committee.) Whatever the outcome, he definitely made a case for a return engagement.

        Part of the electricity in the program's first half was supplied by pianist Alexander Toradze, a native of Tbilisi, Georgia.

        Mr. Toradze, who wowed last season in Prokofiev's Second, again brought Prokofiev as his calling card, this time Piano Concerto No. 3. Again, sparks flew, and the work ended with Mr. Toradze flying into the conductor's arms for a Russian-style bear-hug.

        Mr. Toradze, who is professor of piano at Indiana University, South Bend, performs on a piano with a lower lid — it looks like a huge black clam — invented by Daniell Revenaugh. The idea is to reflect bigger, cleaner sound, especially in the bass.

        Although his atmospheric passages were somewhat covered by the orchestra (one of the few miscalculations by Mr. Eddins), the pianist masterfully balanced the fire and romanticism of this massive work.

        Rising in his seat to gain power, Mr. Toradze summoned glorious sonorities. His percussive passages exploded with power, and his runs rippled up and down the keyboard with stunning clarity. He brought a range of color to his playing, particularly in the second movement's variations.

        Mr. Eddins was a superb partner, almost never taking his eyes off the pianist. The audience of 1,999 couldn't help but applaud after the brilliant conclusion to the first movement, which ended with both men's arms flying.

        There was no shortage of exhilaration in the final movement, either, which had the audience on its feet. Mr. Toradze dazzled with a propulsive finish, and Mr. Eddins was with him every inch of the way.

        Mr. Eddins led an engaging performance of Rachmaninoff's Symphonic Dances after intermission. Energetic and fun to watch, he leads without a baton. His gestures are broad; he crouches and leaps, but always with a sense of line and direction of the music.

        The strings were warm and cleanly articulated, and the winds performed with admirable phrasing and personality. Most impressive was the range of expression he inspired in the central movement, an elegant waltz.

        The first CSO performance of Nino Rota's Concerto for Strings opened the program. The neo-romantic work uses themes from some of Mr. Rota's 80 movie scores (he is most famous for The Godfather). Although Mr. Eddins' direction was exuberant, the playing was oddly lacking in color.

       



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