Columbus Symphony Orchestra: Guest conductor, violinist team brilliantly

JoAnn Falletta, Alexi Kenney
Columbus Dispatch

One of today’s most prominent conductors, a rising-star violin soloist and the Columbus Symphony Orchestra shone in intense and beautiful performances of works by Lili Boulanger, Mozart and Brahms Friday night at the Ohio Theatre.

From the hushed dissonance of the first chord of Boulanger’s D’un soir triste, guest conductor JoannFalletta paced the orchestra with unflagging intensity through the work’s opening section. The middle section was darkly foreboding while also lush with vibrant colors.

In Boulanger’s D’un matin de printemps, the work’s fluid stream of modal sonorities and coloristic effects were once rich and brilliant. In Falletta’s hands, the orchestra glowed and sparkled through a tableau of morning freshness as vivid as any sunrise.

Violin soloist Alexi Kenney was a brilliantly understated soloist in Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 3, K. 216, his interpretation unmarred by any pretense or artifice. His flawless technique and the masterful tempo and feel of Falletta’s beat brought light and air to the concerto’s first movement, where Kenney’s cadenza eschewed pyrotechnics in favor of impeccable clarity of expression.

The orchestra rolled along gracefully in the second movement as the backdrop to Kenney’s long-breathed melodies. The musicians made sheer poetry of the movement’s final phrase.

After the lilting finale, some audience members acknowledged Kenney’s gracious playing with a well-earned standing ovation.

Experiencing Falletta’s interpretation of Brahms’ First Symphony was like hearing the piece for the first time: Every tempo choice, every point of rest revealing a fresh, clear vision of large-scale architecture. In the symphony’s first movement, Falletta’s sustained drive through the retransition into the recapitulation was riveting, and her pacing of the coda enabled the orchestra to find its richest, warmest sound.
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