Saturday, February 28, 2015

Cleveland Classical Guitar Society: Gaelle Solal

Bach: Partita No. 2 BWV 1004
Traditional Turkish: Drama Koprusu 
Traditional Turkish: For the yellow flowers (added)
Albieniz: Piezas Caracteristicas, Op. 92, No 12: Torre Bermeja, Serenata
Gismonti: Palhaco
Nazareth: Brejeiro
Gismonti: Agua E Vinho
Sadinha: Lamentos Do Moro
Two encores, titles unannounced.
Gaelle Solal, guitar.
At the Plymouth Church, UCC

Before tonight's concert began, Rachel thought she spotted an idol in the audience -- and she may be sitting next to me  rereading one of his collections next to me as I'm writing this -- but she was too respectful to see if she was correct -- but I had the distinct honor of seeing her (normally ultra reserved) go uber fan girl -- hitting some octaves I didn't think she was physically capable of before this evening.

Anyway, getting on to the main event, the guitar has a wonderful ability to bring immediate warmth to a room -- and on yet another chilly Cleveland evening, where it was 17 degrees when we left the house -- spiritual warmth is always appreciated. Ms. Solal also gave particularly informative and elucidatiory introductions to the pieces she so adeptly played.

The first half of the program consisted entirely of the five movements of Bach's Partita No. 2 -- which through their different tones (warm and sedated then sprinting, a Sarabanda that seemed to capture the loss of a close friend, to the lighter Giga and 64 variations in a Ciccona) made me think of this as a musical answer to the stages of grief.

Following intermission, two traditional turkish pieces (one on the program, one added) brought a distinctly Eastern European tone to the hall, and was one of my favorites from the program.

Albeniz's Torre Bermeja was more mellow, and Girmonti's Palhaco was moe metitative. Nazareth's Brejeiro brought more energy and was a bit of chirpy, jaunting fun -- also one of my favorites from tonight's program. For as light and happy as Brejeiro was, Gismonti's Agua E Vinho was almost depressingly sad. As a counterpoint, Sardinha's Lamentos Do Morro had more (at the beginning, pulsing) energy than any other lamentation I can recall hearing.

Ms. Solal presented two encores, titles unannounced but with wonderful dedications -- the first to the musical outreach program, and the second to her Cleveland hosts.


Sunday, February 15, 2015

Heights Arts Close Encounters : Bach, Bartok, Beatles

Bach; Air from Orchestral Suite #3, BWW 1068
Poetry Reading: Kathleen Cerveny: Mended Dreams, a pantoum
The Beatles: Blackbird (arr. Steven Laven)
Bartok: String Quartet #6 (1939) Mvt. 3 Mesto
Bach: Oh Sacred Head Now Wounded Chorale from St. Matthew Passion, BVW 244
The Beatles: Yesterday (arr. Larry More)
Bach: Brandenburg Concerto #5 in D, BVW 1050, Mvt. 1 (arr. Merle Isaac)
Bartok: String Quartet #6 (1939) Mvt. 3 Burletta 
Bach: Sonata in C-Major for Violin Solo, VBW 1005, Mvt. 3 and 4 (Isabel Trautwein, solo violin)
Bach: Art of Fugue, Contrapunctus I
Poetry Reading: Cerveny: Fire and Frost, a villanelle
The Beatles: And I Love Her (arr. Laven)
Bach: From Depths of Woe I Cry to Thee Chorale from cantata BVW 38
Bartok: Dance from Maramos (#32)
Poetry Reading: Stafford: You Reading This Be Ready
Lennon: Imagine (arr. Laven)
Kathrine Bormann and Isabel Trautwein, violin; Sonia Bratten Molloy, viola; Tanya Ell, cello (all members of The Cleveland Orchestra)
At Kalman and Pabst Photo Group's Studio, Midtown Cleveland.

I've been in love with Kalman and Pabst Photo Group's midtown studio space since the first time I wandered in several years ago and I've always wondered how it would sound as a live music space. This season stars aligned in a major way -- not only did the talented crew from KP generously donate their talents to produce the beautiful imagery used to promote this season's concerts but they also graciously hosted us in their studio this afternoon for the second concert of this season.

Today's sold out concert was a unique journey matching three eras of music -- starting with J.S. Bach, skipping forward to Bela Bartok and finishing with the music of The Beatles arranged for string quartet grouped intelligently as musical tastings and with poetry readings interspersed.

Aside from highlighting the versatility of these fantastic musicians through the diverse musical selections, with insightful commentary linking each set of pieces and musical theory and execution -- particularly humorous was when Ms. Bormann related her experience digging behind the music while learning Debussy under the direction of a Russian instructor.

Though the music was as delightful as a whole -- and I don't really consider myself a fan of the Beatles -- I did particularly enjoy this group's performance those pieces reminding me, conceptually of Vitamin String Quartet, a rotating quartet that records string arrangements of popular music.


Saturday, January 31, 2015

Cleveland Orchestra: Tchaiovsy's Fifth Symphony

Sibelius: Pohjola's Daughter, Op. 49
Prokofiev: Violin Concerto No. 2 in G minor, Op. 63 (Vadim Gluzman, violin)
Unannounced encore for solo violin (Vadim Gluzman, violin)
Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 5 in E minor, Op. 64.
Hannu Lintu, conductor.

Approaching the box office this evening -- a full 90 minutes prior to the concert start time -- I was a little surprised to find a completely full house -- not even a single standing room ticket to spare. Luckily, I already had a ticket though far from my "usual" (low-numbered) boxes. I was in Box 22, Seat F for tonight's concert, on the right side of the house, practically on stage [only one box sits closer].

I was a little apprehensive because the sound in Severance Hall changes dramatically based on where you are in the hall and while I've never been in Box 22, I'm not fond of the way the orchestra sounds when heard from boxes 16 or 18 and I feared the effect would be worse. That was most certainly not the case with tonight's concert where the orchestra sparkled with a resonance I can't recall from recent performances.

With the extreme intimacy -- being practically on stage -- I found myself with a view of the conductor's face and facial expressions (in profile) while shaping the sound of the orchestra that I've not been able to see from the more traditional seating locations, and honing in on the movements and indeed sounds of individual musicians. My only problem with tonight's concert was entirely my fault, to borrow a cliche "I couldn't hear the orchestra for the musicians".

To that end, the resplendent pizzicato of the second movement of the violin concerto and the delicious entirety of the unannounced encore played by Mr. Gluzman were certainly highlights.


Saturday, January 10, 2015

Cleveland Orchestra: Franz Welser-Most Conducts Mozart and Ravel

Mozart: Symphony No. 41 ("Jupiter") in C major, K.551
Ravel; Daphnis and Chloe: Choreographic Symphony In Three Parts (with the Cleveland Orchestra Chorus, Robert Porco, director)
Franz Welser-Most, conductor.


2015 will be the year where I become far more opportunistic regarding which Cleveland Orchestra concerts I choose to attend, primarily due to a number of unfortunate changes artistically and administratively -- the most unfortunate of which being the extension of Franz Welser-Most's contract with the Orchestra -- as well as a number of resignations and retirements from within the artistic and administrative staffs, and a increasingly demanding professional workload -- I no longer feel the level of engagement with the orchestra that I once did.

Tonight's performance of Mozart's Symphony No. 41 left me sitting thinking of all of the things that I could have been doing with the time I had set aside to attend the concert, not to mention the money used to purchase the ticket. Running down I think any of them -- including changing the oil on my car -- would have been a better use of my time. Mr. Welser-Most's rendition was un-engaging and dispassionate that rather than taking me to a different world, as a great concert will do, I had to struggle to keep my attention on the piece rather than, say, the laundry I could be doing.

I've often said that the reason I enjoy live classical and detest listening to recorded classical is the dynamic range and exchange of energy that you get from the live orchestra -- I got neither of those tonight.

During intermission I pondered my predicament -- I generally like Ravel whereas I tend to lean indifferent to Mozart -- I decided with how miserable I was feeling toward the first piece and despite the investment in the ticket, I would be far better off just heading home to do laundry. And I feel good about that decision.

I think the lesson learned from tonight, and in the spirit of being more opportunistic (with the side benefit of saving some money for our trip to Paris in March) I will not be attending next week's concert -- nor, do I expect, other concerts conducted by Mr. Welser-Most in the near future. I am optimistic about the concert on January 24th (including Pictures at and Exhibition) 


Saturday, November 15, 2014

Cleveland Classical Guitar Society Concert 3: Cavatina (Spain/Bosnia) A Cleveland Debut

Bach: Sonata in C Major for flute and continuo (BVW 1033)
Piazzolla: Adios Nonino
Assad: Three Balkan Pieces
Takrmitsu: Towards The Sea
Thomas: Out of Africa
Sor: Variations on "O Cara Armonia" from Mozart's The Magic Flute
Piazolla: Oblivion (encore)
Eugenia Moliner, flute; Dennis Azabagic, guitar. At Plymouth Church UCC, Shaker Heights.

Winter has most definitely arrived in Northeast Ohio, making the warm and simple feeling evoked by the first piece on the program -- J.S. Bach's Sonata in C -- of listening the the piece while sitting in front of a medieval castle's roaring fireplace. Interestingly, the couple noted that the authorship is somewhat questioned based on departures from Bach's typical stylem including ending on a Menuet movement.

An emotional farewell to father (Adios Nonino) took the second slot on the program with an interesting "squeaky" technique and sound from the guitar. Initially chipper, it concluded on a combination of somber and soaring tones. Ms. Moliner commented that it was an emotionally difficult piece to play based on the recent loss of her father.

Incidentally, the couple's -- yes, they are married -- onstage banter and needling added an extra texture and enjoyment to the concert.

The third "piece" on the program was actually a collection of three Balkan pieces -- the first, Kalajdzijsko Oro (traditional Macedonian) provided a fluttering flute punctuated by a guitar -- almost as if a soaring bird was punctuated by updrafts of wind. The second, also traditional Macedonian, Ajde slusajm slusaj  was soothing and relaxing, and the third, traditional Bulgarian, Ratchenitsa was more upbeat and carried a very different sound than the first two pieces.

Following intermission, Toward the Sea, commissioned by Greenpeace for its Save the Whale Campaign was captivating in its use of both the alto flute and its use of not only music but periods of silence to mimmic the sounds and communication of whales -- the imagery was unmistakable,

Out of Africa, also a thematic piece -- who's five movements covered the span of a single day in Africa, from the Call at Sunrise, Morning Dance to the mid-day Zenith, and the evening and night Evening Dance and Cradle Song was soothing and engaging with a clear arc in the tone from the bright morning to the slowing evenings. Both amusingly (and somewhat diffracting) the piece also covered the arc of consciousness of a very visible Hawken student -- with large yawns in the "morning", falling horizontal with one knee in the air at the zenith, and finally achieving a completely horizontal position through the evening and conclusion of the piece (and published program)

The last piece on the published program, variations on O Cara Armonia from Mozart's The Magic Flute was lively but not particularly evocative of particular emotion or imagery.

The Next Cleveland Classical Guitar Society International Series concert Gaelle (France) on February 28th.


Saturday, November 8, 2014

Cleveland Orchestra: Weilerstein Plays Elgar

Part: Cantus in Memory of Benjamin Britten
Elgar: Cello Concerto (Alisa Weilerstein, cello)
Unannounced encore for solo cello (Alisa Weilerstein, cello)
Adams: Harmonielehre
Giancarlo Guerrero, conductor

"Meh." Leaving at intermission, I found myself so completely uninspired that I contemplated skipping text for this entry. The first half of the program was well played but entirely too depressing and funereal in tone only slightly captivating and not at all inspiring.

Combined with word that a beloved orchestra staffer has resigning (no, not Gary Hanson) in addition to another recently announced departure, and a lingering day-long headache, I saw no point in--let alone being in the proper mood for-- sticking around for Adams. The minor traffic jam in the parking garage suggests I was not alone in reaching that conclusion.


Sunday, November 2, 2014

Heights Arts: Factory Seconds Trio - "Second to None"

Bardin: Sonatine en Trio (1982)
Leonin: Viderund omnes
Hovhaness: Fantasy No. 1 (1967)
Flothius: Sonatine (1946)
Hidas: Triga (1992)
Bassett: Trio for Brass Instruments (1953)
Needham: Mobiles (2013)
Frackenphol: Brass Trio (1966)
Jack Sutte; trumpet, Jesse McCormick, french horn; Rick Stout, trombone, with poetry readings by Kathleen Cerveny. At the home of Mark and Sue Hollingsworth, Shaker Heights

If The Cleveland Orchestra is the five-star fine dining of Classical music in Cleveland, Heights Arts is the gourmet food truck -- serving up delicacies for smaller audiences in slightly less predictable and more nomadic fashion. Indeed, aside from the fantastic music performed by amazing musicians, I like the experience if seeing inside some of the beautiful and unique homes on the East side -- and today's concert in the beautiful Hollingsworth residence was no exception.

What was unusual were the instruments -- a trio of brass players taking the name "Factory Seconds" in homage to their roles as the second for their instruments in The Cleveland Orchestra. I was a little nervous going in to today's program that brass, let alone a trio of brass, would overwhelm the small spaces and intimate audiences of the typical Heights Arts concert. That fear was misplaced.

I found that I enjoyed the first half of the program slightly more than the second half with Bardin's Sonatine en Trio, the opening piece on the program, setting an excellent mood with the spirited but playful marchesque first movement, the subdued evening walk of a second movement and the lively third movement.

The second an third pieces on the program were offered as a sandwich with a piece of poetry in the middle -- while I enjoyed Viderunt Omnes, said to be the beginning of Western music, I think I spent too much mentally time trying to connect Fantasy No. 1 to that piece and the poetry to enjoy it musically.

Flothius's Sonatine's four movements blended into a single fluid work and right around the time I had decided I was enjoying the quick pace of the first movement (which at the beginning I related to a festive almost circus-like feeling) I realized the piece had ended. Finishing out the first half of the program, Hidas' Triga offered a slightly more burnished fanfare.

The program following intermission, though notable for featuring all living American composers didn't capture my interest in the same way or to the same degree -- I had a hard time formulating a reaction to Bassett's Trio for Brass Instruments. Needham's Mobiles Started out with a subdued, dreamy nighttime walk on a quiet alley, met and crossed a busy thoroughfare, before returning to the shadows.