Monday, November 10, 2003

Yokohama greets CSO enthusiastically

Concert review

By Janelle Gelfand
The Cincinnati Enquirer

YOKOHAMA, Japan - When Paavo Järvi and the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra cut off the last notes of their high-octane Sibelius Symphony No. 2 in Minato Mirai Hall, cheers went up. After the second encore, the crowd wouldn't stop applauding, even after the lights went on, and Järvi, waving, led his players off the stage.

It's rare to see so much enthusiasm from the usually reserved Japanese audience, says former Cincinnatian Kenji Uenishi, president and general manager of GE Aircraft Engines, who spent $500 on three concert tickets. Afterwards, about 75 fans patiently lined up in the lobby as Järvi signed CDs and shook hands with each admirer.

Although there were a few empty seats in the 2,020-seat hall (many attribute that to Japan's recession), the good-sized crowd didn't want the orchestra to go. The CSO glowed in this gem, part of a futuristic shopping complex built in 1998. In a shoebox shape with boxes down the sides and seats behind the orchestra, the hall has acoustics comparable to Vienna's Musikverein.

Sibelius' Finlandia, which opened the concert, was extraordinarily bright; the brass chorales reverberated through the hall.

Part of the joy of Brahms' Violin Concerto, featuring Japanese violinist Akiko Suwanai, was the rich, clear sound of the orchestra in this space. Suwanai's interpretation was freer than it was in Cincinnati last month; her "Dolphin" Strad, on loan from the Nippon Music Foundation projected a stunning tone, and the audience didn't move a muscle as she played.

But it was the CSO's Sibelius that really filled the hall with sonic splendor. Järvi's gripping reading had richness, power and spontaneity, and the orchestra played with breathtaking precision. (Kudos to oboist Lon Bussell, who stepped in for an ill Richard Johnson.)

For encores, Järvi led an exquisitely nostalgic Valse triste by Sibelius and a flamboyant Hungarian Dance No. 5 by Brahms.



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