"Alain Altinoglu made an impressive Lyric Opera bow last season leading performances of Bizet’s Carmen. In his CSO debut Thursday night, the French conductor sparked equally dynamic performances in a program of compatriot composers, pairing populist works by Bizet and Chabrier with a decided curio, La tragedie de Salome by Florent Schmitt.
a tragedie de Salome is clearly a score that Altinoglu believes in and the conductor inspired the CSO to their finest efforts in a rousing and luxuriant performance. Schmitt’s work hasn’t been played by the CSO since Desire Defauw conducted it in 1945, and the galvanic performance heard Thursday night had all the freshness of discovery.
The opening Prelude was notably atmospheric with evocative solos by English hornist Scott Hostetler and clarinetist John Bruce Yeh. The ensuing “Dance of the Pearls” segued fluently from hazy languor to a massive orchestral climax. The concluding “Dance of Terror” ratcheted up the intensity even more, closing in a resoundingly forceful peroration, with Altinoglu’s acute balancing ensuring striking transparency even in Schmitt’s most untrammeled moments. Kudos to Altinoglu for reviving this historically significant work and providing such confident and idiomatic direction.
Just as he had shown a clear sympathy with Bizet in last season’s Carmen at the Lyric, Altinoglu showed a similarly deft hand with the composer’s Symphony in C. Written at age 17 and lost for eighty years, this astonishingly confident work has all the youthful verve and lyric freshness of Bizet’s operas to come.
Altinoglu took a somewhat weightier approach than one might expect from a French conductor in this music, yet with no lack of graceful charm or effervescent spirit. Eugene Izotov floated a lovely rounded oboe solo in the Adagio and Altinoglu’s fluent direction and textural clarity brought out the galumphing charm of the scherzo as well as the fleet vivacity of the closing movement in an airy and delightful performance.
The concert led off with Chabrier’s greatest hit—actually, his only hit—Espana. Altinoglu led a fizzing, brightly colored yet dynamically nuanced account of this thrice-familiar showpiece that elegantly skirted bombast." Lawrence A. Johnson about the CSO concert on february 23rd 2012
French touch deftly applied in CSO podium debut
The program (which was due to be repeated Friday evening) was interesting both for what Altinoglu did with it and because French music turns up so infrequently on the subscription series – and when it does, it's usually the same old Gallic warhorses.
Altinoglu devoted the concert's second half to a fascinating rarity, the 1911 symphonic poem "La Tragedie de Salome" by Florent Schmitt. Although "The Tragedy of Salome" is the French composer's best-known orchestral work, the CSO hasn't touched it for nearly seven decades.
Altinoglu brought out the voluptuous colors and sensuous atmosphere of Schmitt's rich orchestration, building the sinuous melodic lines to orgiastic intensity in the final "Dance of Terror." To judge from their shapely and committed performance, Altinoglu made true believers of the orchestra players.
Occupying the front portion of his program was lighter, better-known French fare from the mid to late 19th century.
Chabrier's "Espana" may not have been the most imaginative curtain raiser, but the conductor whipped the CSO through this Spanish-flavored pops staple with great gusto. " Chicago Tribune , John von Rhein