United States Adams, Beethoven, Holland, Scriabin: Kit Armstrong (piano), Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra / Louis Langrée (Music Director), Cincinnati Music Hall, Cincinnati, OH. 6.10.2017. (RDA)
John Adams – Short Ride in a Fast Machine
Beethoven – Piano Concerto No.1 in C major Op.15
Jonathan Bailey Holland – Stories from Home (world premiere)
Scriabin – Symphony No.4 Op.64 Poem of Ecstasy
Cincinnati’s Music Hall reopened after an extensive renovation with a gala concert that featured the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, led by Louis Langrée. For years, the historic 139-year-old building has been home to arts organizations in addition to the CSO, including the Cincinnati Pops, the Cincinnati May Festival, the Cincinnati Ballet, and the Cincinnati Opera.
For the opening, Louis Langrée and the orchestra gave their new home a joyous send-off, with a program of a world premiere from Jonathan Bailey Holland, plus Scriabin, John Adams, and a Beethoven piano concerto – all designed to give the capacity audience a taste of the excellent acoustics.
As an opener, Adams’ showy Short Ride in a Fast Machine gave the orchestra a lively, enjoyable workout. And in Beethoven’s initial piano concerto – one of Beethoven’s most classic – 25-year-old American pianist Kit Armstrong was the soloist, playing elegantly, while conversing with the CSO in a delicate performance. Langrée’s forces provided supportive, laid-back accompaniment to an early work that shows more of the influence of Haydn than the Sturm und Drang of the mature master of Bonn.
After intermission, Langrée and the ensemble gave commitment to Jonathan Bailey Holland’s Stories from Home, commissioned by the orchestra and given its world premiere. A moody symphonic poem, with constant harmonic changes create pictures of nocturnal urban visions, the work and its composer were greeted by the audience with generous applause.
Scriabin’s Poem of Ecstasy summoned the CSO’s complete forces, augmented by several guest percussionists, a second harp, what looked at a distance like a Wagnerian tuba, and a pipe organ. The composer’s poetic inspiration (“I invite you to life, creative spirits…”), coupled with his unique use of whole-tone scales that defy traditional harmonic rules, give the Russian composer’s work a mystical, exotic flavor. Langrée and his musicians brought the score to vivid life to end the concert.
In a heartfelt curtain speech Langrée announced the finale: Leonard Bernstein’s Overture to Candide. In the same way that Bernstein’s opus closes with a resolution to “build a house and make its garden grow,” the Maestro expressed his hope that this newly-built home will be a similar garden, where great music will thrive and flourish.
Rafael de Acha