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MUSIC REVIEW : Jarvi, Detroit Symphony Offer Russian Works at Bowl


Variety and versatility are important facets in an orchestra's credentials. Wednesday night at the Hollywood Bowl, the Detroit Symphony expanded the strong profile it had projected Tuesday, sounding like an even more accomplished ensemble. Part of the reason lay in repertory.

Music Director Neeme Jarvi had led an elegant, unhackneyed pops program at the ensemble's first concert.

The next night, his Russian program, offering first the novelty of a suite from Tchaikovsky's incidental music to the play "The Snow Maiden," then Rachmaninoff's ubiquitous Third Piano Concerto and finally Shostakovich's Sixth Symphony, focused on different virtues of his orchestra. It also revealed some of the conductor's own, serious aspects.

Shostakovich's Sixth may remain a work of emotional enigmas, but Jarvi's performance had strong and definite ideas, compellingly presented. Moreover, for all the aural satisfaction the Detroit Symphony had provided at its first performance, this one showed the orchestra off to even better advantage. Balances became reliable, and singlemindedness was achieved with some consistency.

A genuinely integrated symphonic sound, plus measurable contrasts of color and dynamics, characterized the long opening movement in the Sixth; Jarvi held tight reins over continuity throughout the piece, letting it speak and neither pushing nor impeding its natural pace. The work emerged effectively emotional and at the same time restrained.

For an extended opener, six excerpts from the "Snow Maiden" score became a welcome alternative to more usual Tchaikovsky fare. The competent mezzo-soprano soloist was Russian opera singer Irina Lekhtman; she sounded pleasant enough, but lit no fires.

As the soloist in the D-minor Concerto, British pianist Peter Donohoe again showed himself a charmless and prosaic Rachmaninovian, one who plays lots of notes efficiently, but colors this music seldom.

Donohoe produces a tone that combines dullness with stridency, and remains constantly monochromatic. As a result, the work on this occasion seemed longer than we know it is. Even so, a crowd of 8,971 gave him a standing ovation.

At the end of both evenings, encores capped the proceedings.

Tuesday, Jarvi and his Detroit orchestra played the Romance from Shostakovich's score to the film "The Gadfly." Wednesday, that piece was again offered after the program proper, along with Prokofiev's March from the opera "The Love for Three Oranges."

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