THE CLEVELAND ORCHESTRA
CONCERT ASSOCIATION (1-29-06)

By Lawrence Budmen

South Florida audiences got a preview of The Cleveland Orchestra’s annual residency at the Miami Performing Arts Center when Dutch violinist Janine Jansen set off fireworks in a brilliant South Florida debut. 

With guest conductor Vladimir Ashkenazy providing fiery leadership, Jansen infused new life into the often performed Violin Concerto in D Major by Tchaikovsky during the performance at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts.

On her 1727 Stradivarius violin, Jansen can produce the most penetrating of sounds; yet she can thin her tone down to the quietist of threads. She makes liberal use of rubato – very much in the Russian violinistic tradition. 

Jansen brought fierce passion to the concerto’s opening Allegro moderato. In the nostalgic yearning of the Canzonetta, she played with white heated intensity. The Finale was a dazzling pyrotechnical display. Jansen dispensed the double stops as if they were child’s play. Ashkenazy was a deft accompanist and adroitly pointed up Tchaikovsky’s elegant woodwind writing. 

Ashkenazy has exhibited tremendous artistic growth in his two decades on the world’s orchestral podiums. He had the perfect light touch for Sir William Walton’s Scapino, a lively commedia dell’arte overture. The orchestra’s snappy brass captured the music’s biting irony while the exquisite solos by the ensemble’s peerless first chair string players (William Preucil, violin; Robert Vernon, viola; and Desmond Hoebig, cello) were a model of instrumental delicacy and refinement. 

Ashkenazy drew big boned orchestral playing in Sir Edward Elgar’s Symphony No.1 in A flat Major. The conductor brought a winning combination of structural clarity and restraint to this sprawling opus. In the Pomp and Circumstance infused Allegro molto, the Clevelanders’ strings produced crystalline transparency of texture and rich tonal sheen. The final Allegro was a brilliant display of orchestral virtuosity. Ashkenazy perfectly gauged the triumphant return of the symphony’s opening martial theme for a brilliant conclusion. 

As an encore Ashkenazy led the lyrical Slavonic Dance in E Minor by Dvorak with unsentimental exactitude. The crisp wind playing and luminous string tone were the artistic essence of this most classical of American orchestras.

Copyright Miami Herald


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