I was able to stay for the second half tonight to hear Mozart's "Jupiter" Symphony, and after hearing the orchestra play in the Palace Theater, I have to agree with Barbara Zuck in her review of last night's concert. The Palace doesn't sound all that bad from the audience. It may even sound a bit better than the Ohio Theater, though that's not saying much.
I sat about half way up the upper balcony on the right side. I could hear every section of the Columbus Symphony more vividly than in the Ohio. (I think I heard this same symphony with Alessandro Siciliani conducting it in the Ohio) The woodwinds could have been a bit more present (I am a woodwind player, after all) but individual players could be heard clearly nonetheless. The upper strings were clear and present, and the lower strings did not suffer the dampening effect of the Ohio's acoustics.
The overall sound lacked some blend and sparkle, which would be greatly improved with a shell, and minus the heavy black curtains surrounding the orchestra and it's sound. (There were plans drawn up a few years ago to renovate the Palace: widen the proscenium and bring the stage out, create a shell, and shrink the back of the hall by 1000 seats. Until the Columbus Symphony gets its own deserved hall, this is still the best and most practical option to give the orchestra a sonically resonant performance space and to give the audience a better show)
I felt involved with the sonic availability of the performance from where I sat, a stark contract to the Ohio, where the orchestra's sound is far, far away, no matter where you sit.
Tonight's first half went even better than last night. Jean-Marie Zeitouni seemed more relaxed from the start, and the Rossini showed it.
Rachel Barton Pine was stunning again in the Wieniawski, creating slightly different nuances and style in many spots. She played a different encore tonight, the gypsy music from the movie The Red Violin, which she said she learned last week. Her playing was incredible. One of the joys of being a musician is that I get a front row seat of sorts to hear amazing players like Rachel, who make such difficult music sound so effortless. Not many violin soloists play double stops so in tune. And in extremely fast passages, many violinists tighten up and sound a bit scratchy. Not Rachel. I am awed by her playing.
It's back to the grindstone for me tomorrow.
The CSO's performance of the Jupiter was top notch. The spirit of the music was conveyed with aplomb by Maestro Zeitouni, who never tensed to show excitement, but instilled bounce and vigor into the players with an impressive array of gestures which seemed to come naturally, as if from the music itself.
This kind of conducting flair is rare. Many conductors work very hard to choreograph their gestures. Our last music director, however, did not need such artificial mapping. Junichi Hirokami was able to convey the music with similar natural flamboyance to Zeitouni, though Maestro Junichi had been doing it a lot longer, and to Zeitouni's credit, it seems to be inborn for him. Other conductors, such as Maestro Gunther Herbig, practice the old school technique, using sparse and studied gestures with remarkable focus to convey the music with reliable efficiency.
What a joy to hear my orchestra bringing to life such a masterpiece right before me. Mozart's "modernness" never fails to amaze me. Every movement of this 41st symphony of his, written at age 33, contains "twisted" and "gnarly" harmonic sections, way out for the time and tradition he was living and composing in.
Too bad there are no clarinet parts in the Jupiter. Perhaps I could "unearth" some "lost" clarinet parts to be able to join in with my colleagues to recreate Mozart's genius as it happens. Or maybe not. It's one of the few "big" pieces I get to hear from the audience once in awhil