Young cellist provides the highlight in mixed evening from Illinois Philharmonic

Sun Mar 24, 2013 at 1:51 pm

By Dennis Polkow

Joshua Roman performed Shostakovich’s Cello Concerto No. 1 Saturday night with conductor David Danzmayr and the Illinois Philharmonic Orchestra. Photo: Jeremy Sawatzky

Continuing his first season as the new music director of the Illinois Philharmonic Orchestra, 32-year old Austrian conductor David Danzmayr is creating a considerable amount of excitement as he attempts to take the 35-year old south suburban orchestra to new heights.

The end result of a worldwide search that yielded sixty candidates and seven finalists — each of whom conducted a concert over a two-year period — Danzmayr was the obvious favorite.

Having already conducted most of an impressive inaugural season made up of wide-ranging repertoire, Danzmayr’s familiarity and authority with Austro-Germanic repertoire was on display Saturday night at a packed Lincoln-Way North Center for the Performing Arts in Frankfort.

Weber’s Oberon Overture opened the program with tentative horn playing and some scrappy violin ensemble in the opening, which indicates the orchestra building that Danzmayr has ahead of him. Once the piece took flight, he led a performance of immense spirit and nuance.

The larger canvas of Brahms’ Second Symphony magnified the section problems heard in the Weber, but Danzmayr’s stalwart interpretation and the determination of the orchestra to realize that vision made this anything but a routine performance.

Momentum and a careful eye on larger structure were apparent throughout, with Danzmayr’s considerable attention to carefully sculpted dynamics and getting to the musical heart of each movement. The wind playing in the third movement was particularly poetic, the cellos in the poignant second movement quite introspective.

The clear highlight of the evening was a stellar performance of the Shostakovich First Cello Concerto with Joshua Roman as soloist.

A curious difference between the higher quality of the orchestral playing in the Shostakovich versus the Weber and Brahms were how many players actually kept their eye on Danzmayr: given the sudden shifts of the Shostakovich, players had little choice but to watch him but too many of the musicians were less attentive during the Weber overture and Brahms symphony with that lack of cohesion evident in the playing.

Apart from a hapless principal horn that was left in the dust during a duet, the orchestral playing was truly remarkable, Danzmayr attentive to the slightest nuances and soloists and sections rising to the occasion.

Of course, it helps considerably when you have a vibrant young soloist that can toss off this difficult concerto as if it were children’s play, which 29-year-old Joshua Roman did with aplomb. For those of us fortunate enough to have heard Rostropovich traverse this tour de force that was written for him, Roman provided a fascinating interpretative alternative.

Instead of the brooding, sweeping full-vibratoed Russian approach that Rostropovich and others have employed, Roman played with a full yet even tone with expressive touches of vibrato that were held back until climactic moments. His ability to play in the upper register with virtually flawless intonation was particularly inspiring but he also brought a rock-like energy to some of the piece’s ostinato sections.

A well-deserved standing ovation brought Roman back out to play the Sarabande from Bach’s solo Cello Suite No. 1 in G major with remarkable transparency and maturity for such a young soloist.


At the start of the concert, Chicago Classical Review founder Lawrence A. Johnson was given the 2013 Ruth D. and Ken M. Davee Excellence in the Arts Award. IPO executive director Andrew Bradford presented the award to Johnson, the citation noting that “at a time when important coverage of classical music is waning in cities all across the country, Chicago is one of a handful of major metropolitan areas that benefits from robust coverage of its classical music scene, thanks in large part to the work of Chicago Classical Review. With a staff of multiple writers, CCR’s output — including classical music reviews, news feature stories, and interviews — far outweighs that of any other print or online source in terms of depth or breadth of coverage.”

The program will be repeated 3 p.m. Sunday, March 24. 

Posted in Performances

4 Responses to “Young cellist provides the highlight in mixed evening from Illinois Philharmonic”

  1. Posted Mar 26, 2013 at 10:58 am by dennis brainless

    If the orchestra is not together, blame the conductor. They are musicians, not magicians or mind-readers.
    This was a hard program for the principal horn. Maybe the IPO should spend a buck and hire an assistant.

  2. Posted Mar 26, 2013 at 12:02 pm by Manny Fireman

    I’ve been watching the IPO play under Carmon DeLeone for many years and they played together very well with him. Maybe they need some time to get used to the new guy. David Danzmayr also needs time to get used to the IPO. He is, after all, very young and has years ahead of him to gain experience.

  3. Posted Mar 26, 2013 at 2:48 pm by Manny Fireman

    It’s such an exciting time to be a subscriber to the IPO! David Danmayr is an exciting young conductor.

  4. Posted Mar 26, 2013 at 3:30 pm by Richard Moutvic

    The concert was indeed a wonderful experience with the orchestra following the baton of Maestro Danzmayr with excellent musicality sustained for most of the performance. Soloist Joshua Roman was superb in both the Shostakovich piece as well as his encore.

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