AN INTERPLANETARY MUSICAL JOURNEY WITH THE CINCINNATI CHAMBER ORCHESTRA

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With all the excitement and anticipation of the upcoming solar eclipse, Celestial Voyage, the second concert of the Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra’s 2017 Summermusik, could not have been more fitting, taking the audience on an inter-planetary musical journey that began in the 17th century and ended in ours, with “Captain” Eckart Preu guiding the spaceship.

The evening opened with Le Chaos, an excerpt from Jean-Féry Rebel’s ballet Les Elements.  The composer, a favorite of Louis XIV—the Sun King—depicts the random disorganization of the four primordial elements, water, fire, air and earth, at the time of the creation of the world.

The massive cluster chord that begins the composition, and the tonally ambiguous section that follows, might just be the first instance of cacophony in the history of European music.  After that initial stunner, the music gradually moves into a consonant section in which the strings and woodwinds vie for the task of amicably settling their harmonic dispute.  The CCO performed this elegant piece with Eckart Preu conducting at the harpsichord.

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Johannes Kepler, a German 16th century astronomer investigated the movement of five of the then-known planets in their journey around the Sun.  In Kepler’s Cosmos, composer Hans-Peter Preu vividly portrays the comings and goings of his discovery, by assigning five section leaders to play various solos. The solo violin that supposedly represents us anchors the planetary activity with its music.

Concertmaster Amy Kiradjieff, oboist Chris Philpotts, clarinetist John Kurokawa, bassoonist Hugh Michie, hornist Tom Sherwood, and trumpeter Ashley Hall gamely rotated around the audience and stage, as they embodied Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, and Jupiter.  The inherent theatricality of this world premiere was aided by pre-recorded electronic sounds and projections, giving this unusual work an eloquent performance.

Up in Elysium, Camille Saint-Saëns must have been delighted with pianist Ran Dank’s bravura playing of his Piano Concerto No. 2 in G Minor.  The snarky old quip, “It starts like Bach and ends like Offenbach,” has failed to mar the reputation of this formidable masterpiece.

The concerto is structured in three movements: an opening andante, a delicate scherzo, and a finale which is often played at warp speed, in order to show off technical virtuosity, even at the expense of risking a speeding ticket for lack of musicality.

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Pianist Ran Dank gave a masterful performance of this Leviathan of a work, mining every note for clarity, not speed, and for quality, not quantity of sound, supported by Maestro Preu’s deft conducting, and exciting ensemble work from the CCO, which ended the first portion of the evening.

Whatever narrative one may attach to Mozart’s Jupiter Symphony must be consonant with the actual sound of its joyous music. The composer was having his share of financial and familial vicissitudes when he wrote this composition, but the music, mostly in the “happy” key of C Major, travels through four movements without a trace of disquiet. Eckart Preu and the CCO were surely born to conduct and play Mozart, giving the Jupiter a crisp and elegant performance, with particularly fine filigreed playing from the woodwinds and horns.

Up in Musicians’ Paradise, David Bowie, was keeping Jean-Féry Rebel, Mozart and good old Camille Saint-Saëns entertained. From his cloud on high, he must have gotten a kick out of hearing Scot Woolley’s nifty arrangement of his Space Oddity.

Preu, seated at an electric keyboard, led his players in a cool, idiomatic reading.

And, to round out our musical visit to outer space, Star Gazer’s co-host, Dean Regas, from the Cincinnati Observatory, took us on an insightful journey, giving us enthusiastic insights into the planets, and whetting our appetites for the upcoming solar event–even bringing along two telescopes, to allow everyone leaving the hall to take a close look at Saturn, which was clearly visible in all its glory.

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It is also worth noting that the Cincinnati Observatory, housing one of the world’s oldest working telescopes, was the first observatory in the western hemisphere.

It was an upbeat ending to the second of four Summermusik concerts by the Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra and Music Director, Eckart Preu.

Next week, we’ll be taking a trip to Venice.  Please hop on board.

Rafael de Acha                           http://www.RafaelMusicNotes.com              All About the Arts

Portions of this review, in addition to two other upcoming ones will be included in an end-of-season overview of the Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra’s 2017 Summermusik to be published on http://www.seenandheard-international.com

The details:

Cincinnati: August 12, 2017 SCPA Mayerson Theatre Cincinnati Chamber Orhestra.  Summermusik 2017 Eckart Preu, Music Director

Jean-Fery Rebel – Le Chaos (from Les Elements)

Hans-Peter Preu – Kepler’s Cosmos (World Premiere)

Camille Saint-Saëns – Piano Concerto No. 2 in G Minor, Op. 22

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart – Symphony N. 41 in C Major. K 551 (Jupiter)

David Bowie/arr. Scot Wooley – Space Oddity

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