Concert review | Theofanidis’ Muse: Moody leads orchestra in stellar performance

03.19.16
Robert Moody
The Columbus Dispatch

With its baroque palace opulence and renown as the concert home of the Columbus Symphony Orchestra, the Ohio Theatre was a fitting venue for last night's performance of music that spanned the spectrum between royal court and concert hall. Conductor Robert Moody, cello soloist Mark Kosower and the orchestra delivered virtuoso performances of works by Christopher Theofanidis, Haydn and Dvorak.

In his Columbus Symphony debut, Moody led the orchestra in its first performance of Theofaidis' Muse, a work composed for the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra's "New Brandenburg" project and based on the strings-and-harpsichord instrumentation of Bach's Third Brandenburg Concerto. Though Bach is viewed now as a composer of a bygone era, his music is replete with outlandish harmonic gestures and modally inflected melodies that were quite ahead of their time. All of these elements make appearances in Theofanidis' score.

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Kosower, Moody and the orchestra ambled comfortably through the concerto's first movement, Moderato, Kosower sailing through Haydn's melodies and technical passages with noble vibrancy over the orchestra, which Moody balanced adeptly beneath the solo cello.

Moody established a freely rolling feel with plenty of light and air in the orchestra opening of the second movement, Adagio. Kosower's nearly imperceptible entrance blossomed in its own time into an aria-like melody with tasteful nuances of time and color. The cadenza took us gently outside the movement's harmonic comfort zone, then brought us back home in graceful repose.

With astonishing technical assurance, Kosower beamed through the quicksilver passagework of Haydn's finale. Here, too, Moody balanced the orchestra beautifully beneath the soloist, creating a bed of support that never flagged in energy. If there were moments of technical uncertainty in Kosower's playing last night, they appeared only in his encore, Carlo Piatti's Caprice No. 7 for solo cello.

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In the second movement, Poco adagio, Moody and the orchestra created a kaleidoscope of sound with a lovely opening wind chorale, a beautiful flute solo, sensitive string playing, melodious horn playing and other special moments of chamber music shifted around lush highpoints for full orchestra.

The orchestra hit just the right Beethovenian vein in the third movement Scherzo. While the opening and closing sections created a profound sort of levity out of the effect of shifting meters, the contrasting middle section didn't quite settle into its distinctive identity.

The symphony's final movement seemed the most settled in Moody's hands. Its dramatic opening was played with flawless timing and in flawless balance. From there, it coursed along with bold playing throughout the orchestra leading to one of Dvorak's grandest finales.

Read the full review here