A superb opening concert of the Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra’s 2017 Summermusik.
Felix Mendelssohn’s Symphony No.3 in A minor is a superb vehicle for any orchestra, and last night it became the perfect opener for the inaugural concert of the CCO’s new era under Maestro Eckart Preu, the first of twelve concerts to be given in the orchestra’s August 2017 lineup.
What makes Mendelssohn’s Op.56 “Scottish” has to do mostly with an entry in the composer’s diary, in which he wrote after a visit to Scotland in 1829, “In the deep twilight we went today to the palace were Queen Mary lived and loved…The chapel below is now roofless. Grass and ivy thrive there and at the broken altar where Mary was crowned Queen of Scotland. Everything is ruined, decayed, and the clear heavens pour in. I think I have found there the beginning of my ‘Scottish’ Symphony.”
The Andante/Allegro opening is followed by a spirited Vivace, which in turn segues to a stately Adagio in which the strings are first given a march-like melody that is then passed on to the woodwinds and brass, and finally shared by the entire ensemble. It is a movingly evocative section that constitutes the heart and soul of the composition. The final movement begins restlessly, but, in an unusual musical turn of events, it is unpredictably brought to a serenely majestic finish by the composer.
Mendelssohn’s symphony was also a perfect calling card for Music Director Preu, who passionately led the orchestra’s three dozen regular members, mining for subtlety and color, and eliciting great playing from his formidable ensemble.
With Concertmaster Celeste Golden Boyer leading the CCO’s strings, this listener has never heard the CCO sound more cohesive and assured. The woodwinds’ principal flute, Rebecca Tyon Andres, Connie Ignatiou, oboe, Miriam Culley, clarinet, and Amy Pollard, bassoon excelled in soli throughout the program. And, the brass section did superb work in the Mendelssohn, and later in the Peter Maxwell Davies piece that brought the evening to a close.
Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 3 in G Major, Köchel 216, opened the second half of the concert. It is amazing that the composer wrote such an unceasingly joyous and mature work during his dismally unhappy years as an indentured servant-musician in the service of Salzburg’s Archbishop Colloredo, especially considering that he was nineteen years old, and still finding his way in the world of 18th century music.
Maestro Preu obtained perfect balance between orchestra and soloist, offering a clear and elegant performance of this concerto that featured, violinist Angelo Xiang Yu, who played with the Mozartian grace and technical maturity of a much older artist. After his second bow to a standing ovation, Yu returned the compliment with a rapturous rendition of the Meditation from Massenet’s Thais.
An Orkney Wedding, with Sunrise is a musical depiction of a wedding in one of Scotland’s Orkney Islands—a wedding gone awry. The consumption of a few pints of Scotch fuels the revelry with dancing and carousing that is reflected in Peter Maxwell-Davies composition, and in the tongue-in-cheek playing of the CCO and the conducting of Maestro Preu.
The entrance from off stage of the superb bagpiper Karen May provided the first of two showy coups de théâtre that ended the concert. The second involved the entire Cincinnati Caledonian Pipes and Drums Band, marching on stage in full regalia to the tune of Scotland, the Brave.
As the evening’s encore, Maestro Preu, in a casual and charming manner, invited the audience to join in a singalong version of Auld Lang Syne. It was a light-hearted finish to a superb opening concert of the Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra’s 2017 Summernusik.
Rafael de Acha
All About the Arts
Portions of this review, in addition to four other upcoming ones will be included in an end-of-season overview of the Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra’s 2017 Summermusik that will be published on http://www.seenandheard-international.com
Cincinnati: August 5, 2017 SCPA Mayerson Theatre
Cincinnati Chamber Orhestra. Summermusik 2017
Eckart Preu, Music Director
Felix Mendelssohn Symphony No. 3 in A Minor, Op. 56 (“Scottish”)
W.A. Mozart Violin Concerto No. 3 in G Major, K. 216
Angelo Xiang Yu, violin
Peter Maxwell Davies An Orkney Wedding, with Sunrise
Karen May, bagpipes