Friday, November 19, 1999
CSO gives premieres good launch
BY JANELLE GELFAND
The Cincinnati Enquirer
The Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra continued its quest to play accessible music of the 20th century Thursday night.
The mood of the program's first half, which opened with Copland's syncopated Danzon cubano (a CSO premiere) may have been lighthearted. But the piano concerto that was also given its CSO premiere under music director Jesus Lopez-Cobos was both substantial and attractive, and a welcome addition to the concerto literature.
An old friend of the orchestra, Alicia de Larrocha, was soloist in Xavier Montsalvatge's Concierto breve, composed for her in 1953. Now in her mid-70s, Ms. de Larrocha appeared with the CSO in its 1997 West Coast tour and also appeared as soloist in the CSO's PBS-TV special the same year.
She is an elegant interpreter, and is widely known for her benchmark recording of Albeniz' Iberia, still considered the best recording of that work available.
Mr. Montsalvatge, who, like Ms. de Larrocha is a native of Barcelona, is a lyrical composer who weaves West Indian rhythms and folk-like melodies into his mix.
His music suited the pianist. At times it was lush; other times, it was witty and lean, recalling Stravinsky or Poulenc in the 1920s. Least successful was a second movement cadenza added later, where the keyboard-spanning arpeggios and octaves were not terribly inventive.
Ms. de Larrocha brought her aristocratic style and ear for color and sonority to this romantic work; her pianism was as natural as breathing. The piano's promenading chords, which opened the work, were beautifully voiced, and her gift for melody was evident throughout.
The second movement, unique for its stringent harmonies and angular melody, would have benefited from a lighter touch in the orchestra, which sometimes covered the soloist. The movement was graced, however, by a warm solo for English horn, played with nuance by Robert Walters.
In the finale, Ms. de Larrocha showed her knack for bringing out inner lines in the midst of virtuosic figurations. Colorful percussion added scintillating touches.
The collaboration between soloist and orchestra was a happy one, and its brilliant conclusion brought the audience of 1,942 to its feet.
Mr. Lopez-Cobos led Sibelius' Symphony No. 2 in the concert's second half. Clearly much of the focus had gone into the premiere, for the playing was not flawless and sometimes entrances were rocky.
In this, one of Sibelius' best known symphonies, the pitfalls include its fragmented writing. Mr. Lopez-Cobos concentrated on detail rather than viewing the work expansively, and in the process, lost continuity and some of Sibelius' magical atmosphere.
Mr. Lopez-Cobos was most successful in the long-breathed, more lyrical moments, with the full-blown power of the strings and brass. The orchestra responded in these moments with fine playing.
The CSO repeats at 8 p.m. Saturday in Music Hall. Tickets: 381-3300.
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CSO gives premieres good launch
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