Excerpt from The Columbus Dispatch By Jennifer Hambrick
In a program titled “The Romantic Cello,” cello soloist Pablo Ferrandez, the Columbus Symphony Orchestra and CSO music director Rossen Milanov traversed the spectrum of emotion and color Elgar’s Cello Concerto and Brahms’ Symphony No. 3 alongside contemporary composer Jesus Torres’ Three Velazquez Paintings.
The orchestra brought forth Jesus Torres’ impressionistic Three Velazquez Paintings in stunning orchestral color. The harmonic language of the first movement, inspired by Velazquez’s Venus at Her Mirror, suggests the ravishing danger of passion, the soul-consuming peril of love. Milanov gave splendid shape to the score’s surging phrases. The orchestra’s nuances in dynamics exquisitely articulated the movement’s coloristic shadings.
In the second movement, Christ Crucified, the orchestra painted pangs of agony and the anguished wailing of the suffering Christ over a repeating motive that marched in measured steps with resignation. Torres’ dark score and the musicians’ restrained performance of it mirrored the uncanny contrast of immense suffering and an eerie sense of calm in Velazquez’s painting.
There’s a dark side also to the Bacchus in Velazquez’s The Triumph of Bacchus, the subject of Torres’ third movement. Bacchus is a bad influence, effortlessly luring men who should know better in over their heads with the pleasures of the grape. A weighted dissonance hangs over the dancelike ostinato in Torres’ score, and the orchestra grabbed onto it and delivered a polished performance of the movement, cresting higher and higher through each phrase of the movement to its unsettling end.
Spanish cellist Pablo Ferrandez sat into the full weight of the austere and iconic opening of Elgar’s Cello Concerto and courageously took time with the recitative of his second entrance, lingering on each phrase like a storyteller gathering strength for all the words to come.
Ferrandez sang Elgar’s soul-bearing melodies with unrestrained honesty. The freedom of his timing through the cadenza at the end of the first movement was the perfect set-up for the second movement’s perpetual motion opening. The soloist’s flawless technique brought phenomenal clarity to Elgar’s quicksilver passagework.
In Ferrandez’s hands, the third movement took on the weight of a soliloquy, one person’s moment to bare his soul, one never-ending melody after another.
Milanov created a masterful balance between soloist and orchestra in the rhythmically active fourth movement, where Ferrandez’s technique sparkled through technical passages and stretched through moments of lyrical introspection. The waves of unfinished melody in the concerto’s final few minutes were a beautifully shaped dialogue between soloist and orchestra. Ferrandez’s return to the fanfare that opened the concerto was marked with the weary wisdom of a lost world.
The exuberant opening of Brahms’ Third Symphony led to a lovely rippling clarinet solo and to beautiful interplay among the winds. A gorgeous passage for horns prefigured the horns’ warm, bold glow at the recapitulation. Milanov moved the orchestra brilliantly through a frenzy of measured passion to the movement’s restful end.
Beautiful wind playing began the second movement. Across the orchestra, the musicians traded notes with perfect balance through a passage of breathtaking timelessness before the orchestra opened like a flower full-throated to the sun. The return of the opening melody brought beautifully shaped lines in the winds, shimmering strings and, at the final chord, the peaceful glow of evening.
At the beginning of the third movement, the cellos sighed one of Brahms’ most exquisite melodies. Milanov’s masterful gestural language sublimely sculpted the web of interconnecting lines in the movement’s first section. A silky horn solo prefigured the repose of the movement’s end.
There might have been more mystery and intensity at the beginning of the symphony’s finale. What followed throughout the movement, however, was an assured and energetic performance, rooted in the profundity of Brahms’ music and ringing with joy.