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"One City, One Symphony" a Singular Event for the CSO

Mary Ellyn Hutton
Posted: Nov 15, 2013 - 2:17:20 PM in reviews_2013

Louis Langrée, the CSO and soloists for Mozart's "Davide penitente" Nov. 14 at Music Hall

    The Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra’s much-anticipated “One City, One Symphony” concert for 2013-14 proved worth the wait Thursday evening at Music Hall.

Prepared via “listening parties” earlier this fall and coincident with the arrival of the orchestra’s new music director Louis Langrée, the concert featured Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 4. Also on the program was Mozart’s cantata “Davide penitente,” K.469. The two made an apt pairing since Mozart was Tchaikovsky’s favorite composer, and both works share a theme of repentance, the biblical David for his sins against God, Tchaikovsky for his ill-fated marriage to Antonina Milyukova.

Not performed on CSO concerts since 1956, Mozart’s “Davide penitente” is a reworking of movements from his Mass in C Minor, K.427. The text, in Italian, is taken from the psalms of David, with new arias by Mozart for tenor and soprano and a cadenza for all three soloists at the end of the final chorus. Joining Langrée, the CSO and the 145-voice May Festival Chorus were soprano Jane Archibald, mezzo-soprano Michèle Losier and tenor Joseph Kaiser.

The opening chorus, “Alzai le flebili voci al Signor” (“I raised my weeping cries to the Lord”) from the “Kyrie” of the Mass, was moving in the extreme. The chorus that followed, “Cantiam le glorie e le lodi” (“Let us sing the glories and praises”) from the “Gloria” of the Mass, raised a sudden shout of joy. The duet, “Sorgi, o Signore” (“Arise, Lord”) for Archibald and Losier (“Domine Deus” in the Mass), was bright and filled with beauty, while Kaiser displayed an attractive lyric voice in his aria “A te, fra tante affani” (“In you, amid such tribulation”).

Langrée drew affecting dynamic extremes from the chorus and orchestra in “Se vuoi puniscimi” (“If you will, punish me,” “Qui tollis” in the Mass), and all three soloists proved adept at the showy coloratura Mozart built into their arias. With its assertion of hope, the final chorus, “Chi in Dio sol spera” (“Who hopes in God alone,” also from the “Gloria” of the Mass), sealed by the soloists’ cadenza, made a thoroughly upbeat conclusion to the first half of the concert.

Langrée’s Tchaikovsky Four following intermission was a revelation. There was a wonderful sense of drama in the first movement, from the brasses’ statement of the “fate” theme at the outset through the many changes in color and texture that followed (which, almost magically, signaled changes in character, too). Interaction among the winds and brasses was superb throughout. Principal oboist Dwight Parry sounded the plaintive theme of the second movement with sensitivity and care (echoed at the end by principal bassoonist William Winstead), and Langrée built the CSO to a great height of emotion on the expansive subordinate theme.

Dynamic shadings (louds and softs) were remarkable in the Scherzo, beginning with pizzicato strings, and continuing into the contrasting Trio (flavored piquantly by Joan Voorhees on piccolo). As for the finale, it opened literally with a bang (bass drum, timpani). Again, there were singularly discrete moments, from majestic to folk-like, to the return of the “fate” motif, which Langrée filled with drama, and the positively overwhelming triple forte conclusion.

The concert (not to miss) repeats at 8 p.m. Saturday at Music Hall. Tickets begin at $12, available at (513) 381-3300, or visit www.cincinnatisymphony.org

For those unable to attend, there will be simulcasts at the following locations:

Mercy Health – Anderson Hospital

Mercy Health – Clermont Hospital

Mercy Health – Fairfield Hospital

Mercy Health – West Hospital

Mercy Health – West Park

The Jewish Hospital - Mercy Health

Mercy Health – West Hospital Auditorium

Carmel Manor

New England Club

Cedar Village

Garden Manor Retirement Community