Summermusik Finale Shows Versatility of Conductor Kelly Kuo

United StatesUnited States Rameau, Mozart, Lutoslawski, Bottesini: Cho-Liang Lin (violin), Daxun Zhang (double bass), Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra, Kelly Kuo (conductor), SCPA Meyerson Auditorium, Cincinnati, OH. 3.9.2015 (RDA)

Rameau: Suite from Les Boréades
Mozart: Concerto for Violin and Orchestra, No. 4, in D Major, K. 218
Lutoslawski: Mala suita (“Little Suite”) (1950)
Bottesini: Gran Duo Concertante

In many chamber orchestra concerts, the woodwinds or the occasional brass most often get the conductor’s nod for solo or group bows at the end. And so it was last night, the final one in Summermusik’s inaugural mini-season. I have been among the first to jump up and cheer for the exquisite playing of the Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra’s woodwinds: Rebecca Tryon Andres and Susan Magg (flutes and piccolo), Christopher Philpotts and Lorraine Dorsey (oboes), John Kurokawa and Miriam Culley (clarinets), Hugh Michie and Amy Pollard (bassoons) and Aaron Brant and Randy Gardner (French horns). These ten first-class musicians boast formidable playing, transparently revealed, especially in the Baroque and Classical repertoire that is the backbone of this series.

That said, credit must be given to the fifteen or so CCO string players who deserved a solo bow at the end of Rameau’s Suite from Les Boreades and Mozart’s Concerto for Violin and Orchestra No. 4. Especially in the Rameau—a collection of 18th-century dance tunes—the CCO strings played their modern instruments without vibrato, which the French master himself would have asked of his violons at the Académie Royale de Musique. The results were splendid, with attention paid to the right appoggiaturas, appropriate phrasing, lightness of touch, and the dotted rhythms that give Rameau bounce and elegance.

And bravo to conductor Kelly Kuo, whose candidacy for Music Director of the CCO should be beyond question after last night’s music making. The young maestro’s casual, self-effacing manner (on and off the podium) belies rock solid musicianship, not to mention a total dedication to eliciting the best sound from what should be his orchestra. Kuo was at his most eloquent in the Mozart concerto, helped by the patrician playing of Cho-Liang Lin, with both artists engaging in dialogue that happens all too rarely in these days of quick-and-dirty musical preparation with guest soloists. Lin sure-footedly navigated the intricacies of the first movement, and then spun out endless legato in the second, using his own cadenzas at the end of each. In the final Rondo, the tempi shifts back and forth were seamless.

After intermission, a nod to the 20th century was paid with Lutoslawski’s 1950 Mala suita, a suite of four Polish folk dances: “Fujanka,” “Hurra Polka,” “Piosenka” and “Taniec.” The brief composition showcased fine filigree by Susan Magg on the piccolo, mercurial work by principal percussionist Scott K. Lang, and crackerjack playing from the rest of the ensemble.

The evening ended with a grand pseudo-operatic battle of the strings, with two virtuosos in the melodramatic and ponderously titled Gran Duo Concertante, by the 19th-century Italian composer Giovanni Bottesini, a contemporary of Verdi who was chosen by the composer of Aida to conduct the Milan premiere. The phenomenal double-bassist Daxun Zhang provided an impeccable musical foundation, and violinist Lin fiddled around with great fun.

Summermusik’s final concert marked a new beginning for the Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra—in the words of the Bard, “…a consummation devoutly to be wished.”

Rafael de Acha

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