by Tom Wachunas
At one early point on the blustery evening of November 19, the opening lines of the holiday classic Let It Snow crossed my mind a few times while driving: “Oh, the weather outside is frightful, but the fire is so delightful…” We did indeed have a place to go — Umstattd Hall — and a fire to gather ‘round, provided by the Canton Symphony Orchestra.
One of the many facets that makes the CSO so consistently exciting, and one that was abundantly evident on this evening, is the palpable warmth and expressivity that the string section is able to generate. Here the ensemble, conducted by music director Gerhardt Zimmermann and featuring four soloists with a CSO history, injected the often stale familiarity of Vivaldi’s violin concertos, The Four Seasons, with remarkably fresh, exhilarating color.
Solomon Liang, CSO Principal Second Violin, was the picture of spritely panache as he seemed to prance through “Spring,” replete with the trills of birdsong, the placid sounds of a flowing brook, or a brooding sky in an approaching storm. For “Summer,” first violinist Emily Cornelius deftly conjured the weight of heated air thick with sweetly cooing doves and chirping finches, and the swirling of fierce winds.
CSO alumna Rachel Sandman’s rendering of “Autumn” was a swaggering romp through what Vivaldi described as the sleep of drunkards along with the stampeding of horses and barking hounds during a hunt. And finally, Vivek Jayaraman, the current CSO concertmaster, masterfully delivered a wintery scene that included evocations of chattering teeth, the stamping of cold feet, or the lilting patter of icy rain.
Each of these eminently gifted artists surely met, indeed exceeded, the technical demands of their respective concertos. Additionally, beyond their impressive virtuosity, it was their uncanny ability to paint, as it were, the pictorial and emotional subtleties in Vivaldi’s landscapes that made this performance so impactful.
Even more electrifying was the ensemble’s performance of Four Seasons of Buenos Aires, by Astor Piazzolla, creator of the “Tango Nuevo” musical style. Unlike the Vivaldi concertos, which assign three short movements to a season, each of Piazzolla’s seasons transpire in a single movement. While he was certainly nodding towards Vivaldi’s charming paean to Mediterranean weather changes, keep in mind that now we’ve been transported to the southern hemisphere, where meteorological differences between seasons aren’t so sharply delineated. Piazzolla’s focus wasn’t so much on pictorial description as it was mood-painting on a profoundly engaging level.
So it is that the ensemble’s emotive power was in full force as it became a gripping personification of tango sensuality. Jayaraman returned, and along with an equally impassioned Brian Klickman, CSO principal cello, articulated ravishing melodies, alternately witty, sexy, and melancholy, that soared throughout the work amidst relentlessly rumbling bass lines and shifting tempos.
Talk about breaking a sweat at the onset of winter. We in the audience had in effect just become grateful partners in a torrid romance. Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.
Published on ClevelandClassical.com November 22, 2016.
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