Cincinnati Rides Tchaikovsky Warhorses to the Big Apple

Dan Davis

[January 2016.]


The Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra’s January 6th concert in New York’s Lincoln Center spotlighted two major works by Russia’s pre-eminent Romantic composer in an all-Tchaikovsky program featuring his Piano Concerto No. 1 and his Fifth Symphony. The concert made two points very clear – that the Orchestra itself is in grand shape, and that Tchaikovsky’s music earns its “warhorse” label by its breadth and power.  A third point could well be added – that under the baton of Music Director Louis Langrée, the French approach to Russian Romanticism can convey its force, power and lyricism despite eschewing the Russian bass-oriented style.  The Ohioans preserved the power of Tchaikovsky’s fortissimos and conveyed its intense lyricism.

The Fifth Symphony was beautifully done, the quiet, grim opening and transition to the faster tempos and the soaring beauty of its folk-based melodies done with aplomb.  Solo and section contributions such as the ghostly horn melody early on and the clarinet and flute variations of the oft-repeated “Fate” theme helped make this a performance to remember, as did the luscious swing of the Waltz movement and the fiery finale with its blazing brass, which brought the audience to a standing ovation.  They, in turn, were rewarded with an encore – Waltz of the Flowers from The Nutcracker which exuded charm and lightness.

Maestro Langrée, well known to New York audiences for his tenure as director of the Mostly Mozart summer concerts, demonstrated his prowess as an interpreter of Tchaikovsky’s music, both in the Symphony and as partner to Alexander Gavrylyuk in the popular First Piano Concerto, which opened the program.  The pianist is yet another of the seemingly endless parade of young Russian virtuosos who have made their American debuts in recent years.  Holder of numerous awards in major international piano competitions, Gavrylyuk brought power to the opening measures of the work and flourished in the lyrical, quieter passages. He rewarded the audience for its enthusiastic standing ovation with a beautiful rendering of Chopin’s D-flat major Nocturne, Opus 27 No. 2.

It was a cold winter night in New York, but in Geffen Hall Tchaikovsky’s masterpieces created emotional warmth and musical satisfaction.

The photo of Louis Langrée is by Richard Termine. 


[More Dan Davis]