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Reunion in Madrid

Mary Ellyn Hutton
Posted: Nov 11, 2004 - 10:43:26 PM in news_2004

(first published in The Cincinnati Post Nov. 10, 2004)

MADRID, Spain -- For members of the Cincinnati Symphony, there was a reunion Tuesday night in Madrid.

At the hall to greet them before a pre-concert rehearsal at the Auditorio Nacional del Musica was CSO music director emeritus Jesus Lopez-Cobos.

Lopez-Cobos, now music director of the Teatro Real in Madrid, had been unable to attend Monday's CSO concert at the Auditorio Nacional because of a date with Verdi (he's conducting Verdi's "Macbeth" at the Teatro Real this month).

"I was very, very happy when I knew they were coming and exactly the time I was in Madrid," he said. "It worked out very well because sometimes I have five, six days in a row and I can't move from the opera house."

Players milled around Lopez-Cobos exchanging greetings and hugs as he joked about forgetting his English (he hadn't).  CSO music director Paavo Järvi added a warm personal welcome and yielded a moment of podium time so Lopez-Cobos could address the players briefly.

During the concert, from his seat in the rows behind the orchestra, Lopez-Cobos could observe Järvi and relish the fruits of his 15 years at the helm of the CSO (1986-2001).

"It's a wonderful feeling to see how the orchestra is so healthy and having a wonderful tour in Europe - wonderful because today is not so easy to go on tour for many orchestras."

Program for the concert was Sibelius' Fifth Symphony, "Dances of Galanta" by Zoltan Kodaly and Estonian composer Erkki-Sven Tüür's "Aditus."

Lopez-Cobos, who as music director of the National Orchestra of Spain was prime mover of the hall's reconstruction, must have smiled at the wonder expressed by the CSO visitors at the acoustical brilliance of the Auditorio Nacional (seating capacity 2,300).

For this listener, it was a revelation, not just of a hall I would count superior to any of the famous halls the CSO has performed in on this tour - including the Konzerthaus in Vienna and the Cologne Philharmonie - but of the music itself.

Though I have heard it countless times, live and on disc, I had never really heard Sibelius' Fifth Symphony until Tuesday's performance by Järvi and the CSO.

Of course halls, like violins, do not play themselves. The wealth of gesture and detail in the CSO performance is attributable to Järvi and his musicians. For example, the delicious blend of winds echoing the strings in the Andante and the way Järvi almost let the pizzicato disappear, the snarl of double bass cutting through the plateauing strings in the finale. The apex of feeling occurred at the end in a soaring, heart-stopping climax underlined by syncopation in the strings. In the Auditorio Nacional, all emerged in vivid, illuminating detail,

Equally colorful but not as surprising were Tüür's "Aditus," a splashy intervallic essay with a belligerent cast ("explosions" recur) and Kodaly's tasty "Dances of Galanta." The Madrid audience demanded two encores, Brahms' Hungarian Dance No. 6 and Sibelius' "Valse Triste," which seemed only to fuel their applause.

Lopez-Cobos, absent from the CSO schedule this season, returns in October, 2005 to conduct Bruckner's Symphony No. 8 at Music Hall. He will lead Massenet's "Manon" at the Metropolitan Opera in New York in September and Verdi's "Rigoletto" for Chicago Lyric Opera in the spring of 2006.

"Because of my commitment here (in Madrid), I didn't have the time even to come to do concerts (this year). So next season I come three months to America," he said.

The CSO travels to Barcelona today for a concert at the Palau de la Musica Catalana, last stop on their two-week European tour. They return to Cincinnati tomorrow.