Mark Satola
“(…) Given his affinity for new music, it’s no surprise that his reading of Stravinsky’s 1938 “Dumbarton Oaks” Concerto in E-flat (which, though hardly new, was the newest work on the program) was a model of rhythmic precision, exquisite balances and satisfying shape.

Denève, who eschewed the baton for this work, conducted with an unusual technique that might be described as diagrammatic, an effective approach for this music, which can be seen as something of an ingenious mechanism, devoid of expressive emotion but rich with contrapuntal felicities and wit. (…)

Paul Lewis made his Cleveland Orchestra debut at this concert, playing Schumann’s A-minor piano concerto. (…) Under Denève’s baton (he used one here, and for the Tchaikovsky as well), the orchestra was more than accompanist; Denève’s alert shaping made the players collaborators with the soloist to a more than usual degree. (…)

Denève sought to bring new life to another well-known work, the Symphony No. 4 by Tchaikovsky (…) The opening movement promised much, with Denève’s masterful control of tempo and pulse, bringing a welcome structural unity to a movement that can often be discursive, while paying close attention to phrase-shaping that allowed the drama to breathe without the hyperventilation that is always a risk with Tchaikovsky. (…) Denève’s take on the final Allegro con fuoco, which he drove at an impossibly fast pace that accelerated even more in the coda, bringing the astonished audience to its feet and the conductor back for several curtain calls. After the fourth one, Denève had to wave an unmistakable goodbye, lest the crowd keep him there all night.”

click to see a pdf of the full review