Slatkin, Detroit Symphony deliver a sumptuous performance at Kravis Center

By David Fleshler

Leonard Slatkin led the Detroit Symphony Orchestra Wednesday night at the Kravis Center in West Palm Beach.

In programming Rachmaninoff’s Symphony No. 2 for the Detroit Symphony Orchestra’s Florida tour, music director Leonard Slatkin clearly knew how to show off his orchestra.

This was as sumptuous a performance of this high-calorie symphony as you’re likely to hear, with the orchestra’s warm, clear string playing carrying the day Wednesday night at the Kravis Center for the Performing Arts in West Palm Beach.

Some look down on the Rachmaninoff symphony, a disdain hardly diminished by pop singer Eric Carmen’s appropriation of the third movement theme for his 1975 hit Never Gonna Fall in Love Again. And any conductor can draw big, throbbing string playing from an orchestra, but Slatkin’s performance provided much more (although the big throbbing string sound was, appropriately, there when required).

There was an extraordinary clarity to the string playing, allowing Rachmaninoff’s often complex and contrapuntal music to be heard. And some of the most effective moments were the quiet ones, like the long, yearning melody in the woodwinds after the initial statement of the slow movement melody, played with natural, unforced pathos in the orchestra. Few conductors will keep the brass on as tight a leash as Slatkin did Wednesday, and it paid off in a warm, burnished orchestral sound in which the brass were present as part of the ensemble without overpowering it.

The concert opened with the rousing, rapid-fire blast of Berlioz’s Le Corsaire Overture.  After that, the young Argentine cellist Sol Gabetta took the stage for an incisive and intelligent account of Barber’s Cello Concerto.

Cellist Sol Gabetta perform Barbers Cello Concerto with the Detroit Symphony on its Florida tour.

Cellist Sol Gabetta performed Barber's Cello Concerto Wednesday night at the Kravis Center.

Barber’s concerto is an astringent, rarely heard work that offers the soloist fewer opportunities for blazing virtuosity or heart-on-sleeve emoting than many of the big cello warhorses. Gabetta played with a restless urgency, always technically assured but willing to make a rough sound when the work required it. The second movement was a highlight in which the solo cello plays a long duet with the oboe, allowing her tone to broaden into the rich, plush sound that she had been holding back.

It’s rare for a touring concerto soloist to play an encore, and even rarer for the encore to require an instrumental soloist to sing. But both took place Wednesday. After performing the Barber concerto, Gabetta sat down again and performed Dolcissimo by the contemporary Latvian composer Peteris Vasks, a wispy, dissonant work that required her to engage in wordless—and surprisingly polished—vocalizing.

The Detroit Symphony Orchestra will repeat the program 4 p.m. Sunday at the Arsht Center in Miami. Call 305-949-6722 or go to

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One Response to “Slatkin, Detroit Symphony deliver a sumptuous performance at Kravis Center”

  1. Posted Feb 14, 2010 at 12:23 pm by Priscilla Hawkins

    Thanks for the review. As a string player, I got a kick out of “few conductors will keep as tight a lease on the brass as Slatkin did last night. That is a keeper.

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Thu Feb 11, 2010
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