Review: Cellist Edward Arron gives spot-on performance with RPO

03:04 PM, Nov 22, 2013

Cellist Edward Arron performs with the RPO this week. (Provided by RPO)/


Written By Daniel J. Kushner

After a slow start on Thursday, the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra — under the direction of guest conductor Nir Kabaretti — delivered a nuanced performance that prominently featured the music and legacy of Ludwig van Beethoven. The concert repeats Saturday.

Beethoven’s Leonore Overture No. 3 (Op. 72a) began with a portentous, deliberate tempo that exuded gravitas. Through the rest of the composition, Kabaretti proceeded to guide the orchestra at a stately pace that often felt staid, lacking in the unabashed exuberance that is a Beethoven trademark.

In the more openly ecstatic passages, the balance within the orchestra was off. The higher tessituras of the instruments in the ensemble somehow obscured the rapid melodic motive in the cellos and basses, and what should have been deftly articulated was rendered blurry at best and inaudible at worst. In short, it was a less than auspicious beginning.

Fortunately, the rest of the concert was far more successful. Kevin Puts’ Inspiring Beethoven was decidedly more sobering than much of Beethoven’s most somber music. Puts’ composition serves as a kind of prequel to Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7 in that it depicts the moments in which the legendary composer conceives of the first movement’s “Vivace” section in spite of — or perhaps in light of — his life’s particular challenges.

Inspiring Beethoven was strikingly beautiful and visceral. Ultimately, it was the composer’s innate ability to craft perfectly idiomatic music for each instrument —from the foreboding fanfares of the brass section and the tender sustain of the violins to the emphatic lilt of the flutes and the bleeding tone of the chimes.

The RPO took a brief respite from the theme of Beethoven to perform Camille Saint-Saëns’ Cello Concerto No. 1. As an introduction to the inspired playing of cellist Edward Arron that was to follow, the orchestra’s opening chord could have been much more impactful. From the outset, Arron demonstrated his deep connection to work. He sang each phrase rather than merely playing it, while his dexterity on the cello’s fingerboard evidenced consummate control. The tone of the cello was rich yet bright; the intonation was nothing short of spot-on.

Arron is an immensely lyrical musician. The second movement’s cadenza and the third movement’s melancholic themes were straight-forward and beautifully evocative of Saint-Saëns’s sumptuous melodies. The ease and familiarity with which the cellist performed made the concerto the most personal work of the evening by far. The RPO was a more than sufficient partner to Arron, under Kabaretti’s solid direction in this piece.

With a delightful hint of rubato, the very first phrase of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 6 in F Major “Pastoral” gave clear indication that this was to be the highlight of Kabaretti’s performance. His vibrant leadership here was a boon to the skillful orchestra, particularly when drawing out the charming melodies from the score.

Kabaretti’s airy approach always felt grounded to the folk-like spirit of the piece. Additionally, the conductor’s excellent control of the dynamics made the work sound particularly fresh. With impeccable intonation, the RPO set Beethoven’s idyllic scene with a fittingly subdued majesty to close the performance.

Kushner is a Rochester-based freelance writer and opera librettist.

If you go

If you go

What: Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra’s “Beethoven’s Sixth Symphony” with guest conductor Nir Kabaretti and cellist Edward Arron.

When: 8 p.m. Saturday.

Where: Eastman Theatre, 60 Gibbs St.

Cost: $15 to $92 ($10 for students).

For tickets: (585) 454-2100 or rpo.org.