Chicago SO - Shostakovich, Prokofieff, Britten

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Heck148
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Location: New England

Chicago SO - Shostakovich, Prokofieff, Britten

Post by Heck148 » Sun Jun 15, 2014 6:48 pm

the first week of June, I ventured out to Chicago to hear the symphony play 2 concerts.. on Tues 6/3, they finished one concert series - Britten Sinfonia da Requiem, and Prokofieff Sym #5.
2 nights later, on 6/5, they opened the new series with Shostakovich Sym #5 and Britten Vln Cto [Simone Lamsma]

This was a terrific pair of concerts, conducted by Jaap VanZweden, who has conducted a whole series of CSO concerts this spring - lots of Shostakovich...I was quite impressed with his conducting - solid tempi, generated alot of power and energy, and got superb balances and clarity from the orchestra [which they do by habit anyway] - but the conducting was very solid. He built each mvt quite convincingly, there was steady "dramatic flow"...
Van Zweden uased a very hefty string section for both concerts -
16-15-12[14]-10-8. this was a good choice, IMO - the CSO has a huge wind and brass sound - the big string section certainly held its own, and played with precision and expression...
It was great to hear the Britten "Sinfonia da Requiem" live - a very powerful piece, which the orchestra put across with conviction and freshness.
The Prokofieff was extremely well played and conducted...Van Zweden achieved good dynamic contrasts, esp in mvts I and II, where the dynamic can sometimes settle into sempre forte/fortissimo...there was plenty of power - the first violins sounded great in mvt III, with its continued high tessitura [this can be painful with a less than first-rate section] - terrific solo work - Clarinet, esp [John Bruce Yeh]. a rousing conclusion brought the audience to its feet in acclamation...

Two nights later, the Shostakovich 5th was the main entree....and this is probably the finest live performance I've ever heard of it...tremendous power and energy in the first movement as it built to its shattering climaxes...great low horns, low brass and trumpets superior throughout. the [in]famous flute/horn duet after the climax was exquisite. The strings were excellent, with the various section soli coming off perfectly...rousing 2nd mvt scherzo, one of DS' best - great work throughout by the bassoon section, led by Assoc Bill Buchman [a wonderful player] -
the third mvt was hynotizingly beautiful - the sparse textures and haunting atmosphere were presented so wonderfully - the touching oboe solo was absolutely magical [E. Izotov] the high notes just 'appearing" - terrific control and phrasing..the lead in to the finale was very effective, and the big brass took over, very exciting...the closing pages were quite overwhelming, the huge climax coming off with power and amazing volume - the timpanist was using 2ble hits [2 mallets] on each drum for the concluding D-A-D barrage. I think I saw plaster dropping from a cracked ceiling, and one of the Loop trains came off the track!! :lol:
The audience went nuts!!
The CSO sounds in great shape at present, I have to say, better than Boston, which is also doing very well - but the CSO plays with better balance, more unanimity of tone within sections, a bit better clarity...stronger section playing....some terrific solo work, not only from principals, but from associate principals as well.

It is a real testament to the greatness, and depth of talent that these major orchestras display - the associate principals are of extremely high quality, obviously they could perform principal anywhere in the world with distinction - this goes for Boston as well as Chicago...in fact, with the BSO, there are a couple of associates who, IMO, play better than the designated principal.

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