Review: ‘The National Symphony Orchestra with Cellist Kian Soltani’ at the Kennedy Center

The National Symphony Orchestra delighted with a superb program on Thursday night at the Kennedy Center Concert Hall. Acclaimed cellist Kian Soltani performed with panache as he joined forces with Conductor Christoph Eschenbach and the National Symphony Orchestra to perform Franz Joseph Haydn’s Cello Concerto in D Major.

Cellist Kian Soltani. Photo by Juventino Mateo.
Cellist Kian Soltani. Photo by Juventino Mateo.

Mr. Soltani is soon to perform at Carnegie Hall, and this comes as no surprise based on his superlative and charismatic mastery of the cello. Soltani’s cello mastery was combined with deft precision and concurrent passion. Soltani was highly expressive throughout the Haydn piece as the strings of his cello glided ever so smoothly and lovingly to thrill the audience members.

Soltani played with very sweet, soothing tones alternating with more impassioned, fiery tones. Interludes of the Orchestra throughout the Haydn piece alternated in a fascinating way with Soltani’s individual playing.

Throughout the Haydn piece, Soltani was totally at one with his cello and the music became an immersive experience that lifted the concert performance to the level of the transcendent and the celestial. Very complex layered control of the cello alternated between passion and the sublime.

Soltani took control of the cello again in a lyrical passage of sound. The Orchestra played softly while Soltani played his cello while it was cradled in his arms.

Soltani continued on with mesmerizing intensity and a beautiful, rich fullness of sound from his cello as the Orchestra accompanied him primarily with strings for a very synergizing effect. The number ended with an engulfing fervor as Soltani took an encore bow to a standing ovation.

Another encore ensued and Soltani performed his own composition entitled Persian Fire Dance. The composition had a Middle Eastern feel with a mystical and fiery tone.

Soltani performed this number with an appropriately obvious and unabashed love of the material. The lush romanticism of the composition fit well with Soltani’s charismatic and dramatic style of performing. Bravo!

Conductor Christoph Eschenbach conducted the Symphony No. 2 in C Minor by composer Anton Bruckner. It is a long Symphony and it is was beautifully played by the National Symphony Orchestra.

The four differing movements of this Symphony have their special moments but the overall impact of the Symphony may depend on your taste for Bruckner. I especially liked the opening of the third movement, which began with a plethora of strings and proceeded to remind me a bit of the music of Richard Wagner.

Certainly, the contrast between the long, leisurely paces that would suddenly erupt into a frenzy of instrumentation was thrilling to hear and it was clear that this was a singular achievement. Conductor Eschenbach appeared especially comfortable and at ease with the music of Bruckner.

The entire Orchestra played with the utmost discipline and enthusiasm but I particularly liked the crisp gliding of the strings with their rushing rhythms.

Kudos to the National Symphony Orchestra and Music Director Gianandrea Noseda.

Running Time: One hour and 40 minutes, with a 20-minute intermission.

The National Symphony Orchestra performed with cellist Kian Soltani Thursday, March 7, 2019, at 7 PM and Saturday, March 9, 2019, at 8 PM at the Kennedy Center Concert Hall, 2700 F St. NW, Washington, DC. For more information on upcoming NSO events at the Kennedy Center, go online.

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David Friscic
David has always had a passionate interest in the arts from acting in professional dinner theatre and community theatre to reviewing film and local theatre in college to making numerous treks to New York City to indulge his interest in live theatre. An enthusiastic interest in writing has shown itself in a BA in English/Education and an MA in English Literature. Taken together, these two interests have culminated in the logical conclusion of writing for an arts blog. David moved up and down the East Coast due to his father's job at General Electric and this has helped him to perceive the world in a very open way. After his schooling, David taught in Catholic school systems for awhile and, then, spent three years in the seminary with two years at Catholic University studying Theology and one year in a practicuum working at a church in New York State. David currently works at the National Science Foundation as a Technical Information Specialist for the Office of Polar Programs and has had the great opportunity to go to Antarctica twice and Greenland once in support of the research community. He enjoys living in Bethesda and has taken courses at the Writer's Center. David enjoys swimming, traveling, reading, and working on committees at his condo. His major interest, however, is the arts and all it encompasses---from symphony, to film, to museum treks to live theatre. He counts having lunch with Lillian Gish and meeting Lily Tomlin, Geraldine Page, Maureen Stapleton, Liza Minnelli and Sandy Dennis as some of the more exciting encounters of his life.