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

Soprano Coburn Shines in Chamber Orchestra's "From Russia with Love"

Mary Ellyn Hutton
Posted: Aug 23, 2015 - 3:56:51 PM in reviews_2015

Sarah Coburn
The Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra's second concert of Summermusik 2015 was distinguished by diversity of programming. That and the splendid singing of soprano Sarah Coburn.

Coburn showed off her instrument in Rachmaninoff’s Vocalise and Reinhold Glière’s Concerto for Coloratura Soprano, both (unusually) scored for wordless voice. According to the CCO, Glière’s work may in fact have been a Cincinnati premiere (although a search at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music might prove otherwise).

Receiving its world premiere was an attractive medley from the film “From Russia with Love,” arranged by Scot Woolley. Furthering the program’s Russian theme was the Suite No. 4, “Mozartiana,” by Tchaikovsky.

On the podium was Kelly Kuo, CCO interim music director.

The concert opened with a spry performance of Stravinsky’s neoclassic “Dumbarton Oaks” Concerto. Scored for an ensemble of 15 players, the Bachian work made a fine curtain raiser.

Coburn’s voice – lustrous from top to bottom – gave keen expression to Rachmaninoff’s familiar Vocalise. This carried over into Glière’s Concerto. Here she conveyed great seriousness in the first movement (Andante). By contrast, the final Allegro was marked by unabashed playfulness.

 In his Prelude Talk before the concert, Kuo compared the vocal style of this agile, waltz-like Allegro to Snow White’s singing in the Walt Disney film. The comparison was not all that far-fetched. Coburn (a blonde beauty who was also visibly pregnant) delighted her listeners with her nimble trills (including a charming exchange with the flute at one point), rapid staccato passages and gleaming high notes.  Her return to Cincinnati (she has also performed with Cincinnati Opera) cannot come too soon.

 Kuo opened the second half of the program with Tchaikovsky’s tribute to Mozart (the composer’s idol).  There was much to relish here: the brief, propulsive Gigue; the lovely Minuet; the tender, smooth-textured Prayer (inspired by Mozart’s Ave Verum Corpus as transcribed for piano by Franz Liszt); and a wonderful set of variations to conclude the work.  The variations included a nice solo turn for acting concertmistress Amy Kiradjiev and an impressive cadenza by clarinetist John Kurokawa to introduce the final variation.

James Bond entered the picture with “From Russia with Love,” which Kuo, utilizing a food analogy maintained throughout the concert, compared to “four different vodkas.” Scot Woolley’s arrangement called up vivid Bondian images: 007 himself in the Opening Titles with its familiar rhythms, a bright, jazzy Golden Horn, romance in “Bond Meets Tania” and some very Turkish color in “Leila Dances,” which grew sweeping and lush before ending with a bang.

In short, Woolley’s work has legs and presents a highly enjoyable addition to the repertoire.

The CCO’s Summermusik concerts continue with the Faux Frenchmen – acoustic guitarists Brian Lovely and George Cunningham, acoustic bassist Don Aren and violinist Paul Patterson – at 8 p.m. August 29 in Corbett Theater at SCPA. Guest conductor Karina Canellakis leads the CCO in Mozart’s Symphony No. 38 (“Prague”) and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 1.

For information and tickets, call (513) 723-1182, or visit www.ccocincinnati.org