Chicago Symphony Orchestra
“Afkham rocks Orchestra Hall with exciting CSO subscription series debut.
Afkham showed how eloquently and powerfully Shostakovich’s masterpiece can speak to us on its own, purely musical terms. How inexorable was his building of linear and harmonic tension through the long, archlike opening movement. How implacable was the fury Afkham unleashed in the whirlwind Allegro, which generated the kind of driving excitement you associate with the symphony’s greatest early interpreters, Dimitri Mitropoulos and Evgeny Mravinsky. The thunderous reiteration of the “DSCH” monogram at the peak of the finale sealed the triumph, Shostakovich’s as well as Afkham’s”
“From the taut opening statement of cellos and basses, it was clear that Afkham was in full command of this epic, challenging work. Throughout the conductor drew playing of astounding power as well as uncommon subtlety, while keeping strong narrative flow.
The long opening movement was charted with supreme concentration by Afkham with superb solo contributions from clarinetist Stephen Williamson and bassoonist Keith Buncke painting the lonely, desolate atmosphere. The movement’s grinding climax was shattering in its massive sonic impact with Cynthia Yeh’s ballistic snare drum likely heard out on Michigan Avenue.”
“All those in search of pure, unadulterated transcendence are urged to head to Symphony Center on Oct. 22 for the last of the three concerts in which the Chicago Symphony Orchestra performs works by Beethoven and Shostakovich under the leadership of the remarkable young conductor David Afkham, and with Emanuel Ax – that unparalleled master of the piano – in a stellar turn. If “real world” events leave you in a state of despair these days, this astonishing display of artistry is guaranteed to restore your faith in civilization, and in what people can do when they are possessed of the gift of divine fire. Hyperbole? Not at all.”