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Andrey Boreyko Arrives under the Radar

Mary Ellyn Hutton
Posted: Oct 14, 2006 - 12:00:00 AM in reviews_2006

   There were some huge talents on the Music Hall stage Friday night.
   In addition to the Cincinnati Symphony, weekly tenant of the hall, there was violinist Hilary Hahn, already a household word in classical music circles, as evidenced by the many fans who lined up at intermission for a CD signing.
   Hahn, 26, fulfilled all expectations, and then some, with a stunning performance of Benjamin Britten's Violin Concerto (a CSO premiere).
   Coming in somewhat under the radar was guest conductor Andrey Boreyko in his CSO debut.
   A native of St. Petersburg and currently chief conductor of two European orchestras (Hamburg and Bern) Boreyko, 49, seems destined to rise to the top of the profession on both sides of the Atlantic. The bearded Boreyko bowed in with a handsome performance of selections from Prokofiev's "Romeo and Juliet."
   Heightening the first impression, he opened with a surprise, the CSO premiere of Tchaikovsky's "Voyevoda."
   Based on a ballad by Pushkin, it's about a provincial governor (voyevoda) who returns home to find his wife in a tryst with her lover. He orders a servant to shoot her, but the poor fellow's aim is bad and he shoots the voyevoda instead.
   Boreyko began at a soft, pulse-quickening clip, leading into one of those achingly beautiful Tchaikovskian love themes, complete with harp and celeste. The suspense was broken by a timpani gunshot followed by a big brassy death rattle.
   One wonders why this gripping 10-minute scena isn't heard more often.
   One wonders why Britten's 1939 concerto isn't heard more often either, though I suspect it will, now that it has advocates like Hahn.
   Written in the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War and premiered by a refugee of the Franco regime, it has a heartrending Spanish flavor, especially in the first movement. The opening rhythm in the timpani accompanied a soulful violin melody, which returned in tables-turned fashion later, as the violin accompanied the melody guitar-style. This so-called "spectral flamenco," with Hahn's rhythmic bow tapping and pizzicato chords cast an unforgettable spell.
   The second movement took off like the scherzo of Prokofiev's First Violin Concerto.
   Hahn dazzled in the cadenza, a tour de force including tricky left-hand pizzicato which led into the devastating finale. Complex and moody, it almost grew triumphant, then came crashing down, leaving the violin to pick up the pieces softly and slowly. The plaintive effect of playing the same note on adjacent strings (a stretch of the fingers) and climbing into the violin's highest register sealed the effect, though Hahn's soft final trill left the outcome in doubt.
   For an encore, Hahn paid tribute to former CSO music director Eugene Ysaye (1918-22), also one of history's great violinists, with the second movement of his Sonata No. 2.
   Boreyko's "Romeo and Juliet" was marked by vivid coloration and scrupulous attention to detail. Outstanding movements including the balcony scene, which to these ears has never sounded so giddy and downright cockeyed-in-love, "Death of Tybalt," as chilling and inexorable as an execution, and "Death of Juliet," whose sweetness and sorrow reflected the earlier "Child Juliet." Boreyko rounded it off with a repetition of the angry, bitter "Montagues and Capulets."
   Repeat is 8 p.m. tonight at Music Hall.
(first published in The Cincinnati Post  Oct.  14, 2006)