Friday, March 19, 2004

Jarvi leads dramatic preview of CSO tour

Concert review

By Janelle Gelfand
The Cincinnati Enquirer

With Paavo Jarvi back in town, Thursday was another spectacular evening at the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra.

Jarvi conducted a preview of music by Mozart and Prokofiev that the orchestra will take on tour to Florida next week, and it was as full of contrast, wit and imagination as I have ever heard. Add to that Emmanuel Pahud - who is quite possibly the best flutist on the planet - and you have one of the most thrilling evenings in Music Hall this season.

If one could choose a highlight, it was Prokofiev's Symphony No. 5, which concluded the program. Written in 1944, it's a piece the composer called a hymn to freedom of the human spirit. Jarvi's reading had a palpable human quality about it, and it seemed to travel through every emotion humanly possible.

Crescendos grew with cinematic power in the first movement, and Jarvi led its angular melodies warmly. The strings played with eloquence and intensity; the brass added punch, and Jarvi drove to a spectacular, well-calculated climax.

The central movements were riveting for their contrasts. The scherzo was full of sarcasm, played with bite and quirky humor; the slow movement built to a dissonant crash, followed by a deeply moving, serene theme in the violins.

There was no end to the detail, and it was all displayed for maximum dramatic effect. The winds and horns played as if in conversation, and orchestral soloists shone. At the start of the finale, Jarvi put his hand over his heart to inspire a tender sound; by the end, he had built such intensity that the audience was on its feet, cheering.

The centerpiece was Carl Nielsen's Flute Concerto, an arresting work that is full of subtle Scandinavian humor. Pahud, whose day job is principal flute of the Berlin Philharmonic, is an astonishing virtuoso who played with purity, charisma and impressive musicianship.

He was in command from the first note, swaying to Nielsen's whimsical phrases, and projecting a big, gorgeous tone on his 14K gold flute. The lyrical themes were songful, and Pahud phrased them with a natural musicality. He tackled the trills, cascades and flourishes of the cadenzas effortlessly.

Jarvi was an ideal partner in this unusual concerto, which features timpani and bass trombone. Peter Norton handled the trombone "yawns" well.

The program opened with Mozart's Symphony No. 35 in D Major (Haffner) - a symphony that began life as a serenade. This symphony didn't merely begin - it announced itself with a real sense of occasion. The playing was crisp and bright, and the winds phrased with color.

Jarvi had a way of illuminating inner lines of the texture - a string bass passage here; a horn theme there. The Minuetto mixed pomp with humor, and in the finale, sparks flew.

The concert repeats at 11 a.m. today and 8 p.m. Saturday in Music Hall. Tickets: 381-3300. E-mail

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