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Flashy, fun and French: Thibaudet at the CSO | Arts in Focus

Flashy, fun and French: Thibaudet at the CSO

04/13/12 at 5:13pm Written by jgelfand 1 Comments Recommend 18

Whenever Jean-Yves Thibaudet is in town, its an occasion. The charismatic French pianist put on an impressive show in Saint-Sans rarely heard Piano Concerto No. 5 with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra Thursday night. A gifted, 40-year-old French conductor, Stphane Denve, led the all-French program in Music Hall, for what turned out to be an engaging evening. Saint-Sans Concerto No. 5 is not as well known to audiences as his Second Concerto. It hasnt been performed by the Cincinnati Symphony since 1969, when Erich Kunzel conducted and Lorin Hollander tackled its virtuosities. It is nicknamed the Egyptian because the French composer visited Egypt and captured the local color in his final piano concerto of 1896.

Jean-Yves Thibaudet played SaintSaens

Thibaudet is an artist of enormous technical prowess and more than a little showmanship both assets in this flamboyant piece. Its slow movement evokes a trip down the Nile, but even the outer movements have the quality of an exotic voyage. For the pianist, the writing is of a bygone era, when virtuosos impressed their fans with cascades of runs, arpeggios and flourishes. Thibaudet handled the endless strings of treacherous passages with a refined, sparkling touch, and he made it all look easy. He balanced dazzle with poetic phrasing in the works lyrical, cinematic melodies. The slow movement was memorable for a simple, Nubian love song at its center, and, with the help from the cello section, it unfolded like a tone painting. Thibaudet caught its mystery wonderfully. The finale dazzled from beginning to end, and the pianists hands were a blur as he tackled its virtuosities up and down the keyboard. Denve and the orchestra made fine partners, and the strings provided atmospheric sonorities. Thibaudet, a matinee idol who has also appeared in movies, matched the flashy music with rhinestones in his outfit by Vivienne Westwood. Perhaps spurred by the pink bouquet he received from a fan, he treated the crowd with an encore: Mompous charming piano solo, Young Girls in the Garden. Denve, chief conductor of the Stuttgart Radio Symphony and the Royal Scottish National Symphony, is a rising star who is also noted for opera (he has performed with Cincinnati Opera several times). Recently, he has been making a splash in Boston, and last month took the Boston Symphony which is also searching for a music director to Carnegie Hall. He opened with a sensitive reading of Ravels neoclassical Le tombeau de Couperin. Its four dance movements recall a baroque suite, and it was originally written for piano. The musicians gave it a fresh and refined performance, with subtle expression, clarity and glowing timbres. After intermission, Denve led Albert Roussels Symphony No. 3 in G Minor, which the composer wrote in 1929 for the Boston Symphony. Roussels lifespan paralleled Ravels, but his style is much more extroverted recalling Stravinsky or even Prokofiev, with quirky, angular themes. 1/2


Flashy, fun and French: Thibaudet at the CSO | Arts in Focus

It was a supercharged performance. Denve led convincingly from memory and imaginatively brought out its various moods, from witty to intense. An undercurrent of electricity ran through this music. Concertmaster Timothy Lees performed two violin solos with great beauty. The evening concluded with Ravels La valse, a work that violently distorts the Viennese waltz, as Ravel tried to evoke the end of an era following World War I. Im not sure how Denve achieved such a fantastic effect in this phantom-like waltz, but it unfolded in a dramatic, dizzying whirl. The audience cheered in approval. The Cincinnati Symphony repeats at 8 p.m. Saturday; 2 p.m. Sunday in Music Hall. Tickets: 513-381-3300, Posted in: CSO, Local Music Groups, Updates Tags: Cincinnati arts, Cincinnati entertainment, CSO, Erich Kunzel, Music Hall

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