Tuesday, June 18, 2002

CSO, violinist speak Italian well

By Nicole Hamilton, nhamilton@enquirer.com
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Played well, Antonio Vivaldi's The Four Seasons would sound good anywhere. But hearing the masterpiece al fresco, just as the sun sets in the summer sky, seems the way the composer would have wanted it.

        Sunday evening was the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra's “Italian Night” at Riverbend. Part of the Sundaes with the Symphony series, it featured guest conductor Keri-Lynn Wilson and violinist Corey Cerovsek performing works by Italian composers.

        Ms. Wilson seemed to leap onto her platform to conduct the concert's opener, Gioacchino Rossini's Overture to The Barber of Seville.

        All evening, the young conductor paid thorough attention to each section, working to bring out the subtle melodies and phrasings while allowing the orchestra members room to let go and play their best.

        Rossini's Overture featured stark contrasts in dynamics and a climbing crescendo that gave color to the famous work.

        “Allegro,” the first movement of Vivaldi's “Spring,” was a preview of what was to come from Mr. Cerovsek. He is an extremely gifted musician with great technical and interpretive abilities. His effortless, expressive solos in the “Allegro” never sounded rushed.

        The balance between soloist and orchestra in “Largo e pianissimo sempre” was not as good as in other movements. It calls for quiet, barely there strings, and Mr. Cerovsek, at times, seemed to outplay the orchestra.

        “Summer,” with its telltale flourishing violin parts, was beautifully performed by both soloist and orchestra and received a standing ovation. Mr. Cerovsek, who earned his master's in music at age 16 from Indiana University — played some passages with delicate precision and others with fiery passion — imitating the nature of summer.

        The work of Niccolo Paganini stuns listeners. Playing his work well has come to define what is meant by being a top-notch violinist. If you can play Paganini — you can play anything — at least anything that challenges technical abilities.

        With its difficult bowing, wide shifts on the fingerboard, and double- and triple-stop passages, La Campanella from Paganini's Violin Concerto No. 2 in B minor, Op. 7 is a technical obstacle course.

        Mr. Cerovsek was up to the challenge. He played the witty serenade with a sense of humor and an even better sense of timing. His performance in the finale — which includes a part where he played left-handed pizzicati while playing a melody with his bow, was impressive. What may have been more impressive was the laid-back air he exuded when he played — as if he were riding a bike or playing Frisbee.

        The evening concluded with Felix Mendelssohn's Symphony No. 4 in A Major, Op. 90, Italian.

        Like Vivaldi, Mendelssohn, too, tried to capture nature through music. His Italian symphony is a rhapsody to the Italian countryside — like a postcard sent home that lists all the beauties of the land.

        A true, classical symphony in structure until the finale, which changes its syncopation for a surprise ending, the rest of the work is lush, with ample woodwind and brass section solos.

        Under Ms. Wilson's direction, the orchestra sounded colorful and animated. The setting sun made it a picture-perfect evening.


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