Enter your email address and click subscribe to receive new articles in your email inbox:

Symphony Gives Listeners a "gift"

Mary Ellyn Hutton
Posted: May 5, 2001 - 8:46:42 PM in archives

(first published in The Cincinnati Post May 5, 2001)

Talk about a blaze of glory.

Jesús López-Cobos is saving the sentiment for next week, his last as Cincinnati Symphony music director. Friday night at Music Hall, he chose to pin his listeners' ears to the wall instead.

He also gave them a great gift, the first CSO performance of Olivier Messiaen's 20th-century masterpiece, "Turangalila-Symphonie."

If you missed it, be there for tonight's 8 p.m. repeat at Music Hall. Warning: it's 75 minutes of challenging, but totally exhilarating music. You won't know what hit you.

The opening work, Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 19, elegantly played by guest artist Horacio Gutierrez, was like the calm before the storm.

Gutierrez worked beautifully with López-Cobos and the CSO, crafting transparent textures filled with nuance and good feeling. One couldn't help but smile as Mozart's birdcatcher Papageno ("The Magic Flute") seemed to intrude at the end.

Serendipitously so, for Messiaen was ever inspired by birdsong. He uses it in "Turangalila" in the tinkling piano in the sixth movement, "Garden of Love's Sleep."

He also uses a huge orchestra, including eight percussionists, 10 double basses, solo piano and a rare bird, indeed, the ondes martenot, an electronic instrument that truly sounds "out of this world." It was fun watching guest artist Jean Laurendeau at the keyboard as he made it sing, swoop and peal with joy. As for pianist Michael Chertock, he will surely be in demand for his breathtaking performance of the difficult piano part.

There are huge fortissimo climaxes - from which López-Cobos did not shrink - and shattering dissonances, which drove some people from the hall.

The CSO played lustily and virtuosically, and those who stayed cheered long and loud for an experience that will not soon be matched.