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Pianist Gavrylyuk Thrills CSO Audience

Mary Ellyn Hutton
Posted: Nov 29, 2014 - 12:23:24 PM in reviews_2014

Alexander Gavrylyuk (left) and Louis Langrée
A phenomenal pianist made his debut with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra Friday night at Music Hall, Alexander Gavrylyuk.

Ukrainian-born Gavrylyuk, 30, riveted the hall with his performance of Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1 on an all-Tchaikovsky program that also included the Symphony No. 5, given a stellar reading by music director Louis Langrée and the CSO.

In short, it was a splendid way to escape Black Friday and the holiday rush.

The dramatic chords and stirring melody with which the Concerto begins set the tone for a performance that was precise and well defined, without losing any of its emotional impact. Gavrylyuk, winner of a number of important international competitions, produced a tone that was closely in tune with the work’s vast range of expression, whether full, lush and ringing, or pearly and gentle. As for virtuosity, all one could saw was “Wow.”

The second movement began with soft pizzicato and a lovely solo by flutist Henrick Heide. There were melting solos by cellist Ilya Finkelshteyn and oboist Lon Bussell, while Gavrylyuk scampered nimbly over the keys during the scherzo-like Prestissimo.

The finale, Allegro con fuoco, began with dance rhythms, given lusty expression by Gavrylyuk, and built excitedly to the movement’s rhapsodic, “big” theme. Again, Gavrylyuk, the owner of a fabulous technique, played with precise definition in the service of full expression. Joined by Langrée and the CSO in a full-bore final statement of the rhapsodic theme, the Concerto filled every crevice of Music Hall.

Gavrylyuk, who inspired a huge ovation, obliged with an encore, the wedding march from Mendelssohn’s “Midsummer Night’s Dream,” transcribed into a virtuoso showpiece by Vladimir Horowitz. There were more “Wows” throughout the hall.

Langrée and the CSO recalled last summer’s “Lumenocity” light show in Washington Park in the finale of Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 5. One almost expected to see images of the façade of Music Hall dancing with light as it began. This time the audience got the whole thing and it was grand. Langrée is able to get the very best from the CSO and they played their hearts out for him.

Leading without a score, he brought every detail to light, fine-grained or bold, with astonishing transparency. The Andante Cantabile, which featured a beautifully burnished solo by French hornist Elizabeth Freimuth, became an extravagant melodic outpouring, with lustrous strings and fine work by the woodwind soloists. Langrée’s attention to detail was such that trumpeter Matthew Ernst’s elaboration of the theme during the movement’s big climax could be clearly heard.

The Valse moved elegantly along (kudos to the strings for their agility in rapid passages), again with compliments to the winds, including bassoonist William Winstead.

The majestic opening of the finale (read Lumenocity) caught listeners up in the excitement of the piece. The brass had their turn here, and it was pulse quickening. Timpanist Patrick Schleker punctuated the great victory march near the end, and after a great, giddy rush, the Symphony came to a thrilling conclusion.

If you “like Tchaik,” go to this one. Repeat is at 8 p.m. tonight at Music Hall. Tickets begin at $12. Call (513) 381-3300, or visit www.cincinnatisymphony.org