Tuesday, September 19, 2000

CCO debut of Santora displays 'good combination'

By Janelle Gelfand
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        A new era has begun at the Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra.

        Mischa Santora took the podium of the CCO on Sunday for the first time as music director. By the end of the all-Mozart program, which included Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 24 and the Jupiter Symphony, the verdict was in. Mr. Santora was an inspiring leader who conducted as if he felt every note. At 28, he has potential for a significant conducting career.

        The CCO, which normally performs in Memorial Hall, opened its season in Corbett Auditorium at the University of Cincinnati. (The change was because Memorial Hall is not air-conditioned.)

        For the musicians, who had only one rehearsal there, it meant adjusting to an unfamiliar acoustic, most evident in the opening Overture to The Marriage of Figaro.

        Balance improved as they progressed; in the end, it was excellent music making, which bodes well for the CCO's future.

        It didn't hurt that Mr. Santora had the pianist Vladimir Feltsman as his first guest artist. While many pianists tend to romanticize Mozart's dramatic C Minor Concert, K. 491, his was clean, crisp and controlled.

        Mr. Feltsman's touch had vigor and color but was never harsh. His phrasing was imaginative, and he slipped in more than a few of his own ornaments. The first movement's cadenza, by Alfred Schnittke, was Beethovenian in feeling, with powerful octaves, chromaticism and tumultuous chordal passages.

        The pianist spun a beautiful line in the Larghetto, carrying on a dialogue with the winds. The finale was brilliantly executed; he made the most of the contrast between the stormy, minor-moded variation and the lighthearted one that followed.

        Mr. Santora was with him every inch of the way, and the orchestra performed admirably.

        Mr. Santora drew a rich sound in Mozart's majestic Symphony No. 41 in C Major, Jupiter. He is already cultivating his own style: seamless phrasing, a buoyant sound and clear textures.

        Alternately crouching and turning to each section, the lanky maestro rarely consulted the score. He communicated a sense of the work's architecture, while bringing out its detail. Tempos were well-judged: the Andante Cantabile had momentum, and the Menuetto was elegant and varied.

        The finale was exhilarating, and the audience of 506 gave it a warm reception.

        Later, Mr. Feltsman described Mr. Santora as “easy” to work with. “He's young, he still retains a certain innocence in music and in life,” he said. “He genuinely loves music, and is passionate about it. This is a good combination.”


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- CCO debut of Santora displays 'good combination'
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