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Published: Sunday, 3/28/2004

Toth gives nuanced reading of Beethoven

BY STEVEN CORNELIUS
BLADE MUSIC CRITIC

Perhaps no piece more clearly embodies Beethoven's ideals of Promethean heroism than this 1806 violin concerto, in which the soloist, playing melodies of great inner depth, seems to bring completion to the inchoate sounds flowing from the orchestra.

Too often, however, audiences are treated to superficial performances polished brilliant with virtuosity but lacking soulfulness.

Not last night.

It's true that other musicians may play this monumental work with greater facility and richer timbres, but in the most important way, last night's performance by Toledo Symphony concertmaster Kirk Toth was as successful as a listener might hope for.

Toth gave more than notes, he gave of himself in an emotionally nuanced reading that captured all that is best about making music.

The Toledo Symphony performed the final concert of its Mozart and More series at the Franciscan Theatre and Conference Center of Lourdes College. Chelsea Tipton II conducted.

The program balanced two major works, opening with Mendelssohn's 1830 Symphony No. 5 in D Minor (Reformation).

Tipton, who has an engaging and spirited personality, gave a brief music lesson before performing the Mendelssohn, offering a skeletal, but useful, musical road map to help us in the audience catch the important landmarks.

He also had the acoustical shell positioned so as to project the orchestra in it brightest colors.

The latter seemed a good idea, but while sounds shimmered with energy, they also tended to lack warmth.

Melodies emanating from different sections of the orchestra seemed alienated one from the other. At times, the upper strings were tight and shrill.

Part of the problem was that while Tipton shared his strong character when he spoke, too often there was little sense of his musical imagination being imposed across the orchestra. Tipton offered the musicians freedom to explore their own ideas, but in that freedom too many disparate interpretations were floated.

Thus, while there were any number of engaging individual moments, the whole was less than the parts.

The music needed a single guiding hand, but instead Mendelssohn's wonderful thematic ideas bumped along like so much traffic, each making its own way along the road. The joyous principal theme of the second movement never soared; the operatic opening of the third movement had no story to tell.

Contact Steven Cornelius at: scornelius@theblade.com or 419-724-6152.



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