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Breathtaking transparency

LAWRENCE BUDMEN listens to the
Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra play Slavic music


While Arvo Pärt (born 1935) and Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953) were composers of vastly different eras and styles, both encapsulated their nations' traumatic upheavals and their personal artistic travails in powerful, deeply moving musical scores that transcend the events of their creation to speak in a universal language of artistic humanism. The music of these two creative giants formed the bookends of an outstanding concert by the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and its dynamic music director Paavo Järvi on 28 March 2004 at the Jackie Gleason Theater in Miami Beach, Florida, USA.

Arvo Pärt is a mystic and an Estonian nationalist. Now a resident of Berlin, Pärt responded to Soviet occupation of his country by writing a series of highly personal works that combine minimalism with spirituality. When the great British composer Benjamin Britten died in 1976, Part had just discovered his music and was very impressed by the purity of his scores. Part's Cantus in Memoriam Benjamin Britten (1977) is a moving portrait of grief and artistic reverence. Amid tolling church bells, richly textured strings repeat a broad melodic figure. An emotional climax fades to a single chime. The emotional resonance of this work (in Pärt's signature style) is highly poignant. This is music that holds the listener transfixed! The Estonian born Paavo Järvi, a long time friend of the composer, led a soaring performance of this beautiful score. The transparency of the Cincinnati string sound was breathtaking. A glorious, heartfelt performance of an emotionally riveting work!

Prokofiev penned his Symphony No 5 in B flat Op 100 in 1944 during the dark hours of World War II. (The work's première -- on 13 January 1945 in Moscow -- coincided with the announcement of the Red Army's victory and entry into Germany.) The chaos of the time found full expression in Prokofiev's creative imagination. The music's lyricism, irony, sarcasm, and bittersweet triumph find the composer writing at white heat. Prokofiev's mastery of orchestration is everywhere evident. The score is both emotionally searing and deeply eloquent. Prokofiev's brilliant orchestral writing provides a formidable test of an orchestra's virtuosity. The Cincinnati Symphony is one of America's best ensembles. The lush, glistening strings, bright, sweet toned winds, glowing brass, and super charged percussion of this orchestra seemed born to play this Prokofiev masterpiece.

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Copyright © 22 May 2004 Lawrence Budmen, Miami Beach, USA


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