The Cincinnati Post
By Mary Ellyn Hutton
And the walls came tumbling down.
Well, not exactly. But with the relative proliferation of female conductors in recent years, the word maestro has undergone a grammatical extension.
This evolution was happily demonstrated Sunday afternoon at Memorial Hall with the debut of maestra Gisèle Ben-Dor with the Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra.
It was not her Cincinnati debut. That came in July when she led the final concert of the American Music Scholarship World Piano Competition at Jarson-Kaplan Theater. But it was the debut that counted.
Music director of the Santa Barbara Symphony and the Boston Pro Arte Chamber Orchestra, Ms. Ben-Dor can excite a crowd. The shout of "brava" that met the conclusion of the CCO season opener was well deserved.
It was not an imaginative program: Tchaikovsky's Serenade for Strings, Beethoven's Piano Concerto No.2, and Haydn's Symphony No. 104. But the way Ms. Ben-Dor conducted transcended routine. She is a demonstrative podium presence, utilizing big, sweeping gestures, sometimes jumpin in the air, even waltzing in the Tchaikovsky. It is not surprising that she was a student of the flamboyant Leonard Bernstein.
Haydn's "London" Symphony - so-called for the thematic resemblance to "Hot Cross Buns" in the final movement - saw some audience defections because of the heat. (Open windows helped, but they invited a bit of cobblestone counterpoint from Elm Street.)
Ms. Ben-Dor's rendition was characterful and lively. She brought out Haydn't irrepressible humor, often giving a touch of sangfroid to a dramatic episode. Cued with a flick of her wrist, the little violin cutoff in the Minuet was hilarious. The CCO played spiritedly throughout.