Excerpt from The Columbus Dispatch By Jennifer Hambrick
Symphony Orchestra Music Director Rossen Milanov led the orchestra and violin soloist Leila Josefowicz in performances of contemporary composer Thomas Adès Violin Concerto “Concentric Paths” and Mahler’s Fifth Symphony that took the spiritual idea of journeying to transcendent heights.
Just as the proverbial journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, the journey of Mahler’s Fifth Symphony begins with a single trumpet. One of the most arresting opening gambits in the symphonic repertoire, the solo trumpet opening of the symphony’s first movement, Funeral March, rang forth brilliantly with assured sound and convincing line. Here and throughout the symphony, the orchestra’s trumpets and horns, in particular, distinguished themselves in a work that requires nothing short of perfection from the brass.
Milanov gave lovely nuance to the more lyrical moments of the first movement’s opening section, setting in relief the powerful outburst when the tempo picked up.
The orchestra delivered a great outpouring of emotion at the beginning of the stormy second movement. Milanov paced the movement’s dramatic peaks and valleys with typical mastery. The pacing through the passage for cellos alone had the haunting feel of an incantation from the spirit world. That passage opened onto a frenzied torrent of emotion, strikingly played. The movement’s triumphant D major section glowed like fire of seraphim.
Milanov’s playful tempos gave the third movement Scherzo the feel of a carousel whirling through ever-changing scenery. Powerful solo horn playing shined throughout the movement, which also showcased some lovely moments of chamber music across the orchestra. The return of the movement’s opening material was unadulterated joy, as was the frenzy to the movement’s end.
Some of the most sublime music ever composed, the symphony’s famous fourth movement Adagietto – supposedly a musical love letter to Mahler’s then-new bride, Alma Schindler – opened from nothing with a hushed, warm viola sound. In the opening section, and in stormier passages, phrases floated along or soared without sentimentality. The return of the opening section was a gossamer veil of sound, and the movement’s climax reached to the depths of emotion in masterful playing.
With the gentle clarion call of a single horn at the beginning of the Rondo-Finale, Mahler breaks the reverie that follows the Adagietto and ushers in a movement of unbridled joy. The orchestra brimmed with jubilation through Mahler’s big-hearted finale, which brought more distinguished playing in the horns and trumpets and an exuberant rush to the symphony’s euphoric end. Before the final chord died down, the audience burst into applause and rose to its feet in a well- deserved standing ovation.