My Friday April 29 Chicago Sun-Times review of the Wednesday April 27, 2011 Chicago Symphony Orchestra/Hubbard Street Dance Chicago program with guest conductor Nicholas McGegan, principal oboe Eugene Izotov, choreography by Alejandro Cerrudo, and pianist Amy Briggs.
Hubbard Street Dance Chicago’s Jesse Bechard and Ana Lopez and the CSO perform Alejandro Cerrudo’s “As few as 3000” to Martinu’s “Toccata e Due Canzoni.”
Embarrassment of riches
CSO going Baroque, Hubbard Street, oboe master Izotov, and more
BY ANDREW PATNER
Repeats Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, and Tuesday, May 3
A review of this week’s Chicago Symphony Orchestra concerts almost writes itself: a chamber-sized ensemble and focus, a brilliant principal player as soloist, works -- ancient and modern -- new to the CSO repertoire, a collaboration with Hubbard Street Dance Chicago and recent works from its gifted young resident choreographer, including a world premiere. Even in a somewhat slenderized, intermissionless “Afterwork Masterworks” edition Wednesday evening, it was hard not to be enchanted by each work in this potpourri.
Since 1954, there have been just three first chairs of the CSO oboe section, and each of them -- Ray Still, Alex Klein, and Eugene Izotov -- has been among the top players of his time. The Moscow-born Izotov was a late and key appointment by former music director Daniel Barenboim in 2005. His astonishing technique allows him to offer long lines both seamless and filled with color and accent.
In the early 18th century Venetian Alessandro Marcello C minor concerto, which Still introduced to the CSO a half century ago, Izotov had the dancing outer movements and the emotionally dark Adagio fully in hand, his improvisations fresh and even surprising. For the remaining concerts, Izotov adds the first CSO performances of another 10-minute gem, Vivaldi’s F Major concerto from the same era.
A similarly brief D Major concerto grosso by Corelli opened the program, daily bread for English, California-based guest conductor Nicholas McGegan but also new to the CSO. Concertmaster Robert Chen led the small forces with appropriate energy. An even more condensed Vivaldi work will open the subscription concerts.
The always-anticipated CSO/Hubbard Street partnership is in its seventh year. The chamber size of this week’s orchestra made a briefer work set to piano alone by this edition’s choreographer, Alejandro Cerrudo, 30, a sensible prelude to the main work. His 2010 Blanco for four women -- five if one counts the essential Chicago pianist Amy Briggs -- sets sculptural moves against misty Romantic-era piano pieces by Mendelssohn and Charles-Valentin Alkan.
Cerrudo’s new piece, As few as 3000, is set to -- or, more accurately, on -- Bohuslav Martinů’s half-hour 1946 Toccata e Due Canzoni, itself something of a response to Baroque musical forms and sound by the Czech modernist and another CSO first performance. The Madrid-born and -trained Cerrudo, whose career has moved from quirky strength to strength since arriving here six years ago, neither slavishly follows a score in his works nor ignores it, Merce Cunnigham-style. Rather he takes ideas, riffs, and little stories from the music, bypassing Martinů’s occasional bombast and finding a kind of comic circus tale, complete with levitation and a caped magician in the opening toccata and poignant pairs of pas de deux in the second canzon. (The middle movement first canzon is tantalizingly left to the orchestra and Brigg's piano only.)
Earlier injuries required some substitutions in the two works and reducing the number of dancers in As few as 3000, but all participants, especially couples Kellie Epperheimer and Benjamin Wardell and Ana Lopez and Jesse Bechard in As few . . . , showed Hubbard Street under artistic director Glenn Edgerton to be in top form.