August 13, 2022 – SummermusikHarp Fantastique – Cincinnati, OH. Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra, School for the Creative and Performing Arts, Eckart Preu, conductor, Ina Zdorovetchi, harp.

Moldovan-born, American harpist Ina Zdorovetchi

György Ligeti – Concert Românesc; Arturo Marquez – Máscaras; Hector Berlioz – Symphonie Fantastique

After attending a performance of Hamlet and falling in love with the Irish actress Harriet Smithson, Hector Berlioz sent her numerous love letters, all of which went unanswered by the distant love object whom he had yet to meet.

Driven by his unrequited ardor, and allegedly under the influence of opium, Berlioz penned his Symphonie Fantastique, attaching vivid titles to each of the movements of his tone poem: Reveries and Passions A BallScene in the Fields…  March to the ScaffoldWitches’ Sabbath… 

Berlioz demanded an orchestra of no less than ninety players to flesh out his extraordinary orchestration. The Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra programmed the American premiere of a reduced orchestration in an arrangement by the 35-year-old French composer, Arthur Lavandier.  It was presented after the intermission, following a wonderful first half that should have brought the concert to a close.

Lavandier’s Avant Garde sensibility sadly shortchanges Berlioz’s intentions by adding electric guitar, synthesizer, an alpine horn—here badly in need of either a tuning extension or a more accomplished player—three percussionists, piano, and synthesized sounds of water and woodland.   In addition, a marching band of 25 paraded out to both sides of the auditorium half-way through the performance and, at a deafening level, proceeded to blast its way through the arranger’s version of March to the Scaffold.

The arranger further complicated matters by interjecting Dixieland jazz riffs in the middle of one of the original score’s movements.   Lavandier’s ham-fisted take on Berlioz’s idée fixe masterpiece was deeply disappointing, and its all-but-the-kitchen sink instrumentation did our accomplished Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra no favors, obscuring the virtuoso-level quality of several of its section leaders.

The orchestra itself was the soloist in György Ligeti’s Concert Românesc (Romanian Concerto), a complex composition that opened this second mainstage Summermusik concert. The concerto is joyously melodic, influenced by Romanian folk melodies and rhythms, and one of the few traditionally Romantic compositions of the late Romanian master, whose music gradually departed from the tonally forthcoming, nationalistic sound of the folkloric music that initially inspired him.

Eckart Preu led the Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra in a vibrantly colorful reading of Ligeti’s work, with Concertmaster Celeste Golden Boyer’s stylishly playing her soli in the manner of old-time Romanian fiddlers, and Susan Magg offering brilliant filigree work on the piccolo.

Arturo Marquez is one of the most important creators of Mexican national concert music.  His Concerto for Harp, Máscaras, provided the ideal vehicle for the gifted Moldovan-born, American harpist Ina Zdorovetchi, whose impeccable technique and elegant musicality made Marquez’ balanced blend of the Mexican waltz, the 19th century danzón, and the 20th century son, a perfect closer for the first half of the concert.

After enthusiastic applause and a well-deserved standing ovation, Ina Zdorovetchi returned to play a hauntingly beautiful encore in the company of two fellow harpists from Cincinnati’s Riley School of Irish Music. 

The upcoming concert by the Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra on Saturday August 13, at 7:30 p.m. is titled The Power of the Muse. Pianist Vijay Vinkatesh will be the featured soloist.

Tickets and information: 513.723.1182 x2

Rafael de Acha © 2022

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