Chicago Symphony Orchestra at Apostolic Church of God-A Special Community Concert

Fri, Feb 16, 2024 -- Chicago Symphony Orchestra Paavo Järvi, Conductor Sheku Kanneh-Mason, Cello Beethoven Leonore Overture No. 3 Elgar Cello Concerto Smetana The Moldau, No. 2 from Ma vlast at The Apostolic Church of God, Chicago © Todd Rosenberg Photography 2024
Spread the love

On February 16, 2024, Estonian Conductor Paavo Järvi led the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and British guest cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason in a special program of 3 intensely personal works at The Apostolic Church of God, 6320 S. Dorchester Ave., Chicago. The venue, an important presence in Woodlawn for almost 100 years, was packed to the rafters, the tripartite altar banked with multiple levels of bright-red floral offerings, miniature fir trees and green succulents. Pastor Dr. Byron T. Brazier welcomed back the CSO on its 4th appearance at the Church, and he emphasized their collaboration and the unifying force and power of music.

Pastor Byron T. Brazier at The Apostolic Church of God, Chicago, welcomes The Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the audience © Todd Rosenberg Photography

The Leonore Overture No. 3, Op. 72b, 1804-06, by Ludwig Van Beethoven, revised repeatedly for what became the opera Fidelio, said to be the composers “philosophy set to music”, is rightly considered magnificent. The acoustics at the Church framed this micro-version of the dramatic progression of the opera itself into pure music. One is moved by the transition from darkness and captivity into light and spiritual freedom. Järvi deftly- almost casually- led the Orchestra from the broadly based slow introduction- sometimes prosaic, sometimes filled with threat-into the main theme, in which the violins rise to a stunning climax. The secondary theme of quiet, lyrical grace transitions into stacatto drama and harmony. Suddenly, in a marvelous theatrical moment, off-stage trumpet calls (plaintively/hauntingly delivered by assistant principal trumpet Mark Ridenour) commanded the attention of Järvi and audience, followed by a joyous thematic recapitulation and coda.

Edward Elgar’s Cello Concerto in E Minor, Op. 85, 1918-1919, was the centerpiece of the concert, a triumphant presentation by a rapt, impassioned young Kanneh-Mason making his debut with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra this week. This was a multi-faceted slow-soft/rapid-dynamic/plucked-bowed piece of rhythmic accompaniment, a strongly nostalgic account of melancholy and loss. Kanneh-Mason extracts a gorgeous mellow tone from his Matteo-Golfrillo made in 1700, his fingers impossibly light and swift. The award-winning Järvi, artistic director of the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonic Bremen (among other prominent posts), led the exceptionally fine Orchestra and impressive soloist with an assured hand, bringing forth balanced texture in a deliberately direct interpretation- yet leaving room for the sentimental swell of the soloist.

Fri, Feb 16, 2024 — Chicago Symphony Orchestra Paavo Järvi, Conductor Sheku Kanneh-Mason, Cello Beethoven Leonore Overture No. 3 Elgar Cello Concerto Smetana The Moldau, No. 2 from Ma vlast © Todd Rosenberg Photography

After repeated calls of “Bravo!” on standing ovation, Kanneh-Mason presented in encore J.S. Bach’s Sarabande from Cello Suite No. 2 in D Minor, BMV 1008, 1720, a thoughtful, serious- almost severe- piece. Played here with a grave elegance, it provided a showpiece of dissonance and intensity.

The evening concluded with Bedrich Smetana’s beloved popular concert piece, The Moldau, from his immortal Má vlast, 1874, a boat ride down the great river in the Czech Republic. The motif of running trills begins with twinkling flutes, continues with added instrumental color, returning again and again to introduce other thematic material. It’s a story in sound; fanfares of blithe rhythms segue into rollicking bohemian folk melody. Järvi jauntily navigated the detailed running passages, weaving the instrumental sections into a cohesive message. Muted tones are followed by punchy chords, are carried off with striking clarity by the agile strings, nimble woodwinds and with impressive panache by the renowned CSO brass.

All photos by Todd Rosenberg

For information and tickets to all the fine programming of The Chicago Symphony Orchestra, go to


Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.