Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra



This expert group of musicians usually visits New York at Carnegie Hall, but this time, they came to David Geffen Hall at Lincoln Center for a limited engagement under the baton of Louis Langrée, who is also the conductor of the very familiar summer “Mostly Mozart” concerts at Lincoln Center.

Their choice, the evening we were there, was an all-Tchaikovsky program with one lovely Chopin Etude as an “encore.”

Both the “Piano Concerto #1” and the “Symphony #5” are familiar pieces, but the incredibly athletic, infectiously enthusiastic leadership of Louis Langrée brought both works to a new high of glorious sound, fury (when necessary) and Russian solemnity. Headlining the “Piano Concerto” was pianist Alexander Gavrylyuk, whose youth, power, and in the Chopin Etude, delicacy, amazed and excited us in turn as his hands glided, pounded or caressed the keys. A virtuoso indeed.

The audience that, surely, had dreams of “old chestnuts” in their heads before the orchestra began, applauded wildly, rose to their feet and shouted “Bravo!” at the end of each piece. Not only did Gavrylyuk play the seldom heard Tchaikovsky cadenza, but also the gentle Chopin piece. And not only did the orchestra polish off both major works, but the incessant applause led Langrée to offer Tchaikovsky’s “Waltz of the Flowers” as an encore.

By then, both the audience and the orchestra were exhilarated … and exhausted.

An additional special event of the evening was a ceremony awarding Louis Langrée the Legion d’Honneur. Our friend, who had been Chairman of the Cincinnati Orchestra, invited us for the occasion, which included the usual French champagne, sweets, a touching series of speeches about the talents and longevity of Louis Langrée’s career. Finally, the Award, which was pinned on with great gravity and applause.

Frankly, everyone in attendance would have voted to give Langrée the award, such is his astonishing biography, talent and career.

As we gathered to wait for Langrée to “catch his breath” after the concert, we chatted with members of the orchestra. They were so impressed by the benefits of being in the Lincoln Center orchestral hall, and couldn’t understand why Lincoln Center wanted to renovate, redo and spend millions doing it over. Just mentioning their views at a time when almost every cultural institution in New York wants to raise “half a billion” or more to redo themselves. “Sometimes doing something over doesn’t always improve it” was their view of the Carnegie Hall redo some years ago.

Barbara Tober

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