Concert Review | Columbus Symphony: Orchestra, soloist dazzle with grace

The Columbus Dispatch

By Jennifer Hambrick

Last night’s concert of the Columbus Symphony was, simply put, a triumph. American conductor Tito Munoz and Finnish-American violin virtuoso Elina Vahala joined the orchestra at the Ohio Theater in dazzling performances of works by Cowell, Sibelius and Rachmaninoff.

American composer Henry Cowell was hailed in his lifetime as an ultra-modernist for writing works that pushed the envelope of musical style. The strikingly original tone palette of Ancient Desert Drone was brought out in full glory last night.

From a single drone D, the orchestra conveyed Cowell’s exotic-sounding score with the fluidity of a river trickling from its source.

Beautiful moments in the winds — including beguiling solos in the flute and English horn — were reinforced by rich sound in the strings.

The result was disappointment when the five-minute work came to an end.

Violinist Elina Vahala filled the soloist’s role in Sibelius’ Violin Concerto with assuredness and elegance. Vahala shaped the solo passages in the first movement, Allegro moderato, with a storyteller’s sense of rhetoric, and in the second movement, Adagio di molto, she unfurled the long-breathed melodies with a singing tone. She dug into the jaunty rhythms of the finale without losing beauty of sound.

Here and elsewhere in the concerto the orchestra glittered in the delicacy it brought to its supporting role, and its passages at fullest sound were ravishing.

One of the war horses of the post-Romantic repertoire, Rachmaninoff’s Second Symphony shows the Columbus Symphony at its very best. Led by the strings, the orchestra produced beautiful sounds at peak dynamics throughout.

A beautifully poignant English horn solo in the first movement was matched in the second by assured playing in the horns and in the third movement by a soaring clarinet solo.

The finale tripped along with the controlled exuberance

Munoz achieves with this orchestra.

The silent player in this — as in every concert — was the conductor. At every turn Munoz’s considered decisions and clear gestures proved him to be a skilled interpreter and a conductor, in every sense, to watch.