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Jinjoo Cho dazzles at ISO

2014 IVCI gold medalist comes closer to her competition worth

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Jinjoo Cho dazzles at ISO

2014 IVCI gold medalist Jinjoo Cho

When I assessed Jinjoo Cho's playing at the ninth

Quadrennial International Violin Competition of Indianapolis, I found her

unworthy to be "crowned" with gold medal status, her playing being exceeded by

two others among the six laureates. Yet in discussing her performance of

the Korngold Violin Concerto in the Romantic Finals, I had stated: "This was

one of Cho's better accounts, with her finger work never straying into adjacent

pitches. Yet

she failed to project Tessa Lark's smoothness, her vibrato sounding more like a

series of interrupted tremolos. Her rapid display passages in the

third movement were occasionally roughly executed."

Well this time Cho tackled the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto

in D, Op. 35, and forced me to arrive at a bit of an altered conclusion. Her sustained notes

in the first two movements still showed somewhat excessively rough opulence. But her

continuously rapid staccato notes in the Finale were cleanly executed

throughout, dazzling the audience in a hall nearly two-thirds filled.

She displayed chops that I didn't quite hear in her

competition performances, raising my estimate of her abilities. Moreover her

projection into the hall constantly drew attention to her at least equally to

that of the orchestra. The standing ovation got for us a solo encore: a violin

arrangement of George Gershwin's "Summertime" from his opera Porgy and Bess. I must say her playing of it seemed a

bit withdrawn after the fireworks she had wrought in the Tchaikovsky. Or was it that I

prefer to hear that great song sung by a great diva?

British conductor

Michael Francis, making his second podium appearance here, struck his own sparks at least

equal to those of Cho. He began with Mendelssohn's Overture to Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage, Op. 27--not among his better concert

opuses. But

Francis, with crisp, exacting baton work, got corresponding playing from his

orchestra: perfect phrasing, excellent dynamic shaping, continuous precision. After experiencing

that opener, I expected and got similar finesse in the Tchaikovsky, and

especially in the big closing work, Edward Elgar's Enigma Variations.

Written at the turn of the 20th century, Elgar's variations

were once again to put British music into the classical spotlight after a

failure of the realm to hatch a major composer since Henry Purcell (1659-1695). Portraying a

psychological study of 14 of his friends, with a theme rather concealed beneath

a larger theme "not heard," Elgar gives us a panoply of nostalgia oriented

music. Many

believe the theme that is heard derives from the second subject in Mozart's

middle movement of his "Prague"

Symphony, and I must agree that there are strong resemblances. But Elgar stated that his theme

sources will remain an "enigma"--hence the title.

Nonetheless, it was a joy to hear the Enigma so well shaped

and spun. Michael

Francis needs to return to the Circle podium.Oct.

16, Hilbert Circle Theatre