Sunday, November 29, 2009

Cleveland Orchestra: Musically Speaking, Dvorak's Symphony 9, "From the New World"

A magnificently delightful afternoon is the best way to summarize today's experience at Severance Hall; in four parts: Tour, Prelude, Concert, Q&A.

"Like driving a Rolls Royce [or a] Ferrari" -- Bernard de Billy on conducting the Cleveland Orchestra.

The Musically Speaking series takes from the Chicago Symphony's Beyond The Score concept -- which I've previously read about and was very curious about the real life implementation I couldn't have been more delighted by the outcome. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

The Concert (3-5pm): From the New World is one of my favorite pieces; and thanks to the Beyond the Score programming I feel like I have a much better understanding of the influences behind the piece -- and why some of the passages have always seemed very familiar. It's easy to think that music gets composed in a vacuum, and program notes -- no matter how well written -- can only do so much to break the vacuum. The combination of short passages from the piece, passages from other pieces as well as contemporary reports, letters, and video eliminated the vacuum.

This is one of few pieces I've heard performed previously (September 23rd by the CIM Orchestra); while comparing a music conservatory's playing to that of The Cleveland Orchestra may not be completely fair it's the only comparison I can make. In three words, the Cleveland Orchestra's performance effervescent and delicate. It had a certain sparkling quality that I didn't hear in the CIM performance, and enough energy to carry things, yet not mindlessly crashing through the piece. The playing was quite simply passioned.

Previously, I had noted that I thought the 1st and 2nd movements were two slow for my tastes. In this performance, the 1st movement was much more my speed; and it turns out (thanks to Beyond the Score) that the blame for the speed of the 2nd movement can be blamed on the original conductor.

The Tour (1-2pm): On selected Sundays tours are offered of Severance Hall; I've done the tour before but each guide has their own version of the story and I've never seen the same tour twice. While I still wish more "back stage" areas were covered instead of purely ceremonial areas, today included a view of the real organ pipes an the George Szell Memorial Library which I hadn't seen previously. The tour segued into...

The Prelude Concert (2-2:40pm): Unfortunately, the tour hadn't finished by the time the prelude concert began and I missed the first piece (Ewazen's Quintet for English Horn and Strings); the second piece (Dvorak's String Quartet No. 10, op. 51) was beautifully played however I'm not sure if I was supposed to realize a connection between that piece and From the New World, aside from the common composer -- the audience was nearly standing room only; certainly the largest group I've ever seen in the Chamber Hall.

The Q&A (5pm-): As the cherry on top, a too-brief Question and Answer session with Messrs Bernard de Billy (conductor), Gary Ginsling (Orchestra general manager), and Robert Walters (English horn) followed the concert. Two of my most common requests for understanding classical music have been to provide more context for the piece and any context for the orchestra. Beyond the Score answers the problem of context for the piece, and the wonderful Q&A session opened the window for context for the orchestra. I was particularly interested to hear Mr. Walters's personal connections to the piece-- the homesickness on a European tour especially. Likewise, Mr. de Billy's comments on conducting the orchestra were illuminating; from the ease with which rehearsals progressed to the comparison drawn between conducting in Cleveland and driving a luxury car.

I hope the Orchestra would offer this type of Q&A were more frequently -- it certainly adds a level of understanding to see how the musicians and conductor approach the music and how past experiences have affected their connection to the pieces.

On my way out to my car after the Q&A session I ran into a few of the folks from last weekend's Heights Arts concert -- and the words "I read your blog" caught me so completely off guard I couldn't appropriately complement them on todays performance. Scratch that, I stood staring like a speechless idiot. In the same breath a woman reminded me that she was sitting behind me at the CIM percussion concert... Small world (and thanks for reading!) =)


Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

To the 92% of my readers that come from the United States, I hope everyone has, had, or is having a happy Thanksgiving. (To the other 8%... happy Thursday?!?)


Monday, November 23, 2009

CIM Percussion Ensemble

Cowell: Ostinato Pianissimo
Tompkins: Six Duets in a Rudimental Style
Lansky: Three Moves for Marimba
Burritt: Shadow Chasers (1994)
Lansky: Threads

I wasn't sure what was in store for this evening's performance -- actually, it wasn't until about 40 minutes before the appointed time that I decided to attend. I was pleasantly surprised.

Of course, when you say percussion, the first things that come to mind are an snare drum-- or, of course, the percussive noise of the cannon in the 1812 Overture or a marching band... none are particular favorites of mine. Fortunately, this program was completely devoid of cannons and marching bands... and the snare drum was kept in check.

The Marimba is an instrument I was first introduced to at Baldwin-Wallace's Focus Festival a year or two ago; I was an instant fan. It has a hypnotic sound that I can never really find the words to describe -- tonight's performance featured two pieces with the marimba. The first, a solo was enticing, but Buritt's Shadow Chasers was my favorite from the program.


Sunday, November 22, 2009

Heights Arts: House Concert Series - To the Extreme and Back

Mozart: Duo in B-flat Major, KV 424
Ligeti: String Quartet No. 1 "Metamorphoses Nocturnes"
Beethoven: String Quintet in C-major, op. 29
Mozart: Clarinet Quintet in A, KV 581

With Miho Hashiume and Isabel Trautwein, violin; Yu Jin and Sonja Braaten, viola; Tanya Ell, Cello; and Franklin Cohen, clarinet.

I came into this program more or less on a whim. The concept of playing a concert in a private residence seemed interesting, perhaps a nod to the very origins of chamber music; Heights Arts is an organization relatively new to my consciousness; and generally it just seemed like a good idea.

I was not disappointed.

From the location -- a private penthouse downtown with fantastic views of the city and fantastic hosts -- to the music played beautifully in a impossibly intimate setting I can think of no way I would have preferred to spend the afternoon. The social atmosphere was also quite welcoming -- I was one of less than a handful who raised their hand when asked if this was a first time, and it truly seemed like everyone knew everyone.

The Ligeti piece was an athletic endeavor and one of the more challenging pieces I've seen played live--with a touching story behind it, but Mozart's Clarinet Quintet caught me off guard with a rich texture and beautiful playing by Mr. Cohen, equaled by the string artists.

It was particularly interesting that the majority of the musicians on the program are also members of the Cleveland Orchestra and how different -- not necessarily better nor worse, just different -- the experience is when you take that group of five musicians out of more than 100 and have them playing, literally, in a living room rather than a concert hall. This was particularly true of the clarinet, which I don't believe I've ever heard in such an intimate setting, and had a certain richness that I hadn't previously noticed.


Saturday, November 21, 2009

Orange County: Spring Awakeining [Revised/Final]

I originally wrote this sitting on the floor of LAX waiting for my flight home to Cleveland via Houston after seeing Spring Awakening. Again. With my Mom.

This was my 6th time in my 3rd state for this show, making it one of few musicals I've seen more than once. When I first bought my ticket for the show in Cleveland I knew nothing of it, and had a box office sales rep try talking me out of it including the phrase "a very, extremely, explicit show".

I saw the show that first time, fell for the music (including some profane titles, let alone lyrics) and it touched me. I saw it again in Cleveland, then once in Pittsburgh, twice in Philadelphia (including once on stage in SA13 -- the best seat in the house), and now once in California.

There were some cast changes since the last time I saw this tour and it felt a little weird -- the Adult Man, in particular caught me off guard... not that it was bad, but kind of like when you put on a new pair of shoes after wearing your familiar pair and it just doesn't seem quite right.

I'll post more later, but my flight is boarding now.

My one huge complaint about this stop was the show seemed to be lacking the energy I've found previously -- maybe it was the weeknight performance, the fact that it was only the 3rd show at this venue, or it could even be California's energy conservation regulations -- but while energetic, it didn't hit the mark. In fact, one of my Mom's comments (the first time she's seen the show) was that it "didn't quite seem to have the energy that it would take to overcome the darkness".

But she also called it "the most depressing thing she's ever seen" -- something I can't agree with... but then again, I still think the line "we've all got our junk and my junk is you" is one of the most romantic lyrics I've ever heard.

The show drew more laughs at more lines for a longer period of time than I've noticed in any of the other cities I've seen the show in. There were some subtle differences -- like I don't think I've ever noticed the cigarette actually being lit.

I was in BB8, she was in BB9, second row house right (stage left) of center which was almost as intimate as the onstage seats--we nearly got hit by a flying reed during the scene leading to All that is known--I loved it, but it was probably a little too close for a first timer to really get a feel for the show.


Cleveland Orchestra: Fridays@7 - Cello and Space [Revised]

Dvorak: Cello Concerto in B Minor, Op. 104
Strauss: Also sprach Zarathustra, Op. 30

Before I begin, I have to say that the Orchestra's box office is, by far, my favorite Cleveland box office--competence, professionalism, and speed are constant features. But the truly special thing is the wonderfully personal service -- at least one employee knows my order before I've even opened my mouth, and has even remembered my name. You can't buy customer service like that, especially considering I'm neither a donor nor a subscriber.

It wasn't until I was in my seat fingering through the program that I figured out what the "Cello and Space" title for the concert meant. I hate to say it, but this evening didn't posses the same magic as the last Fridays @ 7. It was still a fine evening of entertainment, but I didn't get the euphoric high-energy vibe I got from the previous event...

The playing in the hall was up to the orchestra's usual standards, and as the gentleman in front of me told his wife between movements, "No one plays Dvorak like the Cleveland Orchestra". Strauss's Also sprach Zarathustra is probably best known as the theme for 2001: A Space Odyssey and was my favorite of the two pieces. The bass line at the beginning of that piece happened to hit the harmonic of "something" in one of the adjoining boxes causing an interesting, though unintentional, buzzing and demonstrating the power of the orchestra.

The after-entertainment started out interesting but once other instruments started getting added it just became noise, due almost entirely to a sound reinforcement system that seemed inadequate for the size of the crowd it was serving. After the third song, the week of sleeping in hotel rooms, sofas, and the 3 hours of sleep I got last night in seat 4A of a Boeing 757 caught up with me and the siren's song of my own bed was too loud to ignore.

The orchestra is in the unenviable position of needing to grow a younger audience while not alienating their existing patrons. I think the Fridays@7 concept is a good bridge between the two, I just hope that the excitement and energy of the first one can be recaptured going forward.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

This Sunday, COYO or Solon Philharmonic...oh wait.

I'm wrapping up Day 2 in San Francisco... got hit with some other work items that required attention so no leisure time today. I skipped the Opera; with work, a 3-hour run time, and an 8pm start it just didn't seem like something I was in the right mood to enjoy.

But being prospective and looking forward to Cleveland and this already know what I'm doing Friday night, but Saturday and Sunday are free of plans. One of the problems with a city that has so much to offer is sometimes tough decisions must be made.

The other day I realized Sunday the Cleveland Orchestra Youth Orchestra is going to be performing a program that includes Copland's Appalachian Suite Sunday at 3pm. I am interested.

Then going through my NEOhioPAL mail, I found an announcement that The Solon Philharmonic, a group I had not heard of, would be performing Copland's A Lincoln Portrait [no direct relation] and Old American Songs Sunday at 3pm. I am interested.

Then looking at my Performing Arts calendar, I realized that I already have a ticket for Heights Arts' To The Extreme and Back, a program that sounds interesting on its own but more so coupled with the fact that it takes place in a private residence, at 4pm Sunday. So I guess that settles that.

(Other events I know are happening Sunday include Tri-C's Eurydice, two CIM Concerts, Wicked at Playhouse Square, and Browns Rules at Cleveland Public Theater... and this is a relatively light weekend)


Tuesday, November 17, 2009

California Tour, Day 1: Veni, vidi, vici

This week I'm doing a "whirlwind" California tour -- I flew into San Francisco yesterday afternoon and will be here until Wednesday when I fly to San Diego; Thursday I see a musical (my favorite musical) in Orange County and then at 12:30 AM Friday morning I fly via Houston to be back in Cleveland for the Orchestra's next Fridays @ 7 concert.

I had no plans for today when I got here... and still had no plans when I left the room this morning. Last visit I hit all of the museums I knew about and was interested in so... I wound up finishing my longest walk/run to date -- 16.75, give or take, continuous miles on foot down the Embarcadero, through Fisherman's Wharf (with a brief pause at In-N-Out Burger for lunch), way, way, down Lombard, and that's where it got interesting, especially since that's the last place I actually looked at a map. At some point I decided I was going to cross the Golden Gate while I was here.

First, I found myself at the Palace of Fine Arts which is a beautiful structure and stunning grounds... I'm unclear, though if the Palace includes just the dome or the dome + the hall that is now home to the Exploratorium; if the latter is true the name is much less confusing. In any event, it's amazing what fantastic condition the place is in given the complete lack of walls.

From there the pedestrian path to the Golden Gate was decidedly unclear and I wound up crossing over and making my way through the Presidio, a decommissioned military installation (1776-1994), now a mixed use facility; at some point during my walk through the beautiful grounds, I got turned slightly sideways -- this part of San Francisco is not the most pedestrian friendly with no wayfinding and sidewalks that occasionally abruptly disappear, but it was a relatively scenic hike through the woods with a very peaceful cemetery along the way.

Once back in the general direction of the bridge, I stumbled across an overlook that provided some unworldly views of the Bridge and the ocean before continuing on to my goal: The Golden Gate Bridge. I've driven across, and been driven across this bridge before. I've also walked on to the bridge... but never completely across. Narrowly missing death-by-tourist-cyclist on a few occasions I made it north, then back south.

I, thankfully, did not retrace my steps on the way back; instead, after getting off the bridge I immediately wound up on Lincoln Blvd, switch backed my way down to the coast and followed the coast to Fort Mason; through a park, and back to Van Ness. From Van Ness I took North Point and Beach to the Cable Car turn around. I rode the cable car all the way downtown, not so much because that's where I wanted to go but because I wanted to sit for a little while. Once downtown I walked back to the hotel (about 1 mile, for a total of about 17.75 miles) and took my shoes off.

My hotel is across the street from the Transamerica Pyramid. From the North side of the bridge, you can see the Transamerica Pyramid but it seems like it's one heck of a long way away.

I'm seriously considering, time permitting, checking out the San Francisco Opera tomorrow evening... we'll see.


Saturday, November 14, 2009

Cleveland Orchestra: Brahms/Adams/Brahms

Brahms: Tragic Overture
Adams: Doctor Atomic Symphony
Brahms: Piano Concerto No. 2

The pre-concert lectures are an invaluable addition to the concert experience. Tonight's commentary by Assistant Conductor James Feddeck was instrumental, excuse the pun, in helping to understand the program in greater depth.

Whenever possible at Severance Hall prefer to grab a seat in one of the boxes... Not only are they some of the best views and definitely the best sounding of any of the seating areas I've tried but there's a certain collegiality that frequently exists among box members that doesn't seem to develop in the other areas. The fine folks who shared Box 8 with me this evening were some of the most hospitable I've encountered.

Brahms' Tragic Overture passed quietly -- literally, I thought the volume could be upped a touch but had no other strong feelings on the piece.

Adam's Doctor Atomic Symphony, excerpted from his opera by a similar title was quite simply amazing, and I think the piece became my favorite post-1980 "classical" composition. Mr. Feddeck implored the audience at the pre-concert lecture to listen to the piece as a dramatic work and I was simply too into the music to even consider that aspect. The piece features some fantastic string work, a beautiful trumpet solo (coming from a guy who dislikes brass) and is just generally impressive in its breadth.

Finally, Brahms' Piano Concerto No. 2... I've mentioned before that I'm not a huge fan of piano concertos generally. One of my boxmates mentioned that this was one of his favorites and after listening to this performance I could understand why he would say that. I have to confess, though, that what most took me about this piece were the rich cello solos in the third movement. Amazingly, the orchestra last performed this piece in Severance 42 years ago!


Cleveland Play House: Inherit The Wind

I am conflicted about this show. However, my utter dislike of matinees in general has been reaffirmed.

For most of the first act I thought that the show was well paced both in the plot and the direction... but then things kind of fell apart and I was struggling to stay awake*.

The 2nd act was entertaining but the story seemed to drag; aside from the two attorneys, none of the characters seamed to be doing anything useful and the actors didn't seem to be doing anything to sell their characters. At one point during the bible/Darwin/bible thing in the courtroom I was waiting for the "Why Can't I Own Canadians" speech which would have added some levity... but it never came.

It wasn't until after the show had ended that I learned that the play was written in 1955 [which was a question I heard asked a dozen times during intermission] and as a critique on McCarthyism... something that as far as I could find was not mentioned in the program and certainly adds some very useful context and gives meaning to the play's existence.

Based largely on the "lack of selling" that I mentioned, I didn't feel a real connection with any of the characters and therefore didn't feel a connection to the story.

Throughout the 2nd act there was a persistent very high pitched screeching emanating from some indeterminate corner of the theater which was extraordinarily distracting.

* I don't think this was the play's fault based on my day Friday ending at 1:30 AM Saturday, the fact that I had just waked +/-6 miles [Shaker Lakes is beautiful this time of year!], and the fact that I need to be at the airport by 7:00 AM Tomorrow.

CMA: After Hours w/ Sheer Frost Orchestra and Eats Tapes)

Friday evening the Cleveland Museum of Art opened a companion exhibition to the Gauguin show featuring ten works by students at the Cleveland Institute of Art-- the opening also featured works by Sheer Frost Orchestra and Eats Tapes.

In three parts:
The Art, CIA Students: Cleveland 2009: I would suggest that anyone attending the Museum first walk through the gallery and just enjoy the art then read the exhibition book and go through again... Most of the pieces are interesting in one way or another, though I think my favorite concept was either Exchange Rate or 10' x 8' x 100. Operator and Spectator is just kind of fun and Standard Shipping Error is a sort of whimsical look at what could have been if, I suppose, Gauguin's work had been trusted to a shipping company en route to it's exhibition.

Sheer Frost Orchestra: The concept is certainly unusual-- 17 electric guitars played lying flat on the ground using bottles of nail polish the connection between performer and instrument. The sound created could only be described as ethereal, and the one or two occasions where something resembling a "normal" electric guitar sound was heard seemed aberrant. I'm not sure which was worse, however: The people carrying on relative loud conversations in the gallery during the performance or the unidentified woman who made not one but two announcements about the same.

Eats Tapes: I love the name of this duo; it took me a few minutes to get warmed up to electronic sound but wow. Interesting sounds and rhythms literally pulsating through the building -- I'm pretty sure the curators will notice some seismic activity in the East wing. Had the lights been turned off in the Key Bank Lobby, the scene outside of the Gauguin galleries would have been largely indistinguishable from a nightclub... some interesting and organic dancing with a fantastically diverse crowd from somewhere around 18 up.


Friday, November 13, 2009

I'm pretty sure my Deity is mocking me

I'm generally happy with my life -- I'm debt-free except for my mortgage, own a house in a neighborhood I like, enjoy my job and the places that that travel brings me. I'm in generally good health, and I live in a region that has hundreds of events to enjoy covering pretty much every known facet of entertainment. If I were more religious I may use the word "blessed".

But the part I'm not so happy about is starting to really drag: I'm missing a true human connection. Someone to share those experiences with, someone to discover new ideas through, someone for whom you suspend rational thought. And it seems like the more I try to do something about it the less success I have. I've decided bars are not the best place to meet the kind of person I'm looking for... and it seems a profound majority of the women in "my age range" in Cleveland actually prefer sports to our fantastic arts scene, which begs the question for competitive types: Who has the better record, the Browns or the Orchestra?

Anyway, a several months back I came oh-so-close to earning a meeting with a woman who sounded amazing, and it turns out works for one of the institutions I highly respect. That incident was the first time I can honestly say that rational thought went out the window--and it felt good. But something came up and we never met. I felt like (feel like) an ass, but don't really regret the experience.

So the Deity-is-mocking-me part comes: A coworker happened to send me the profile for someone he though I had a lot in common with. I agreed--in fact, one of the most promising connections since the aforementioned--and sent her an email. In the interim, one item in particular from her profile sounded very familiar, and long story short(er) it turns out that the two have been, for lack of a more sutably vague term, coworkers.

But a week later no response; not even a "not interested." Which leaves things in that awkward... was it received? Maybe it got lost in a spam folder somewhere? Should I try harder? State. I hate things that linger without closure.


One other pet peeve while I'm ranting: Am I the only one who beleives that being friends is a step between "complete strangers" and "a relationship"?

This message will self-destruct as soon as I come to my senses.


Monday, November 9, 2009

I am a composer and other slightly delusional thoughts

While waiting for the start of the New Music Series concert I wrote about to begin on Saturday, I happened to overhear the two gentlemen in the row behind me conversing. Seemingly composition students, one of them remarked that, while scoring for the guitar, he wanted to learn how to write for the harp.

Something about that comment sparked something in the back of the head and I think, possibly delusionally, for the first time I have a way to explain what I do in less than three pages: I am a composer. I don't write music, and my compositions are executed by processors rather than orchestras but the concept is the same.

I've often wondered how composers can come up with their pieces without ever hearing them [in their entirety] until in the hands of an orchestra, and I realized that I do the same thing nearly every day.

The composer for music must be aware of the capabilities and limitations of each of the instruments they are writing for, how to evoke the particular emotions that they desire from a piece, and even what instruments not to use (just because a vibraphone is available doesn't mean that it needs to be used...). A completed composition is then turned over to the musicians for a first performance, an then may be adjusted, tweaked, or scrapped to meet the expectations of the composer...

Every day I must be aware of the capabilities and limitations of my orchestra -- the processors for which I write programs and the devices connected to them; lights, screens, air conditioners, plasmas, projectors, audio systems, and on. I have my instruments, my bowings, and there's a careful balance to be had; with literally thousands of options and few clear cut decisions with lots of gray sometimes the when not to use something question becomes a delicate decision. I usually can visualize the flow of things before my fingers land on the keyboard.

I can rehearse by loading the program in a processor in the office... but it's not until the program gets loaded in the actual system -- with all of the peripherals in place and ready for their roles that I see my composition life for the first time. Most of the time it "sounds" beautifully on the first try -- lights move in unison, the volume control works, the screen drops, the projector turns on, and the thing you expect shows up on screen... other times, it requires a little tweaking before it "sounds" the way I want it to.

"It" can range from a simple conference room to the system a Eastern state's Senate uses to vote, a conference center in Indiana to the night clubs and bars at a casino in northern Michigan... A single movement to an entire symphony, if you will.

Ok I think I've taken the metaphor to it's extreme, and I do sound a little delusional...but hey, it's what makes me cute ;)


Sunday, November 8, 2009

CMA: Viva & Gala: Garth Knox Viola d'amore

Hume (arr. Knox): Pavane (1605) for viola d'amore
Ariosti: Prima Lezione (1720) for viola d'amore and cello
Knox: Malor me bat (2004) for viola d'amore and cello
Sciarrino: Notturni brillanti for viola
Knox: Viola Spaces for viola and cello
Marais: Les Folies d'Espagne (1685) for viola d'amore and cello
Traditional (arr. Knox): Celtic Melodies for viola d'amore and cello

A complete spur of the moment decision lead me from Mixon Hall at CIM to Plymouth Unitarian church in Shaker Heights for this evening's "Viva and Gala Around Town" performance featuring Garth Knox and his viola d'amore. I was interested for one because unlike a "normal" violin, viola, or cello which each have four strings, the viola d'amore has 14, 7 of which are played and the remaining 7 are "sympathetic" and are not directly played but instead resonate.

The music was interesting and Mr. Knox's commentary and explanation was both on point and informative. I believe Prima Lezione was may favorite piece; the three-turned-four movements of Viola Spaces certainly featured some unusual playing methods and some equally unusual sounds, and I'm torn between calling "Nine Fingers" or "One Finger" my favorite movement from that work.

CIM: New Music Series, Takemitsu & Druckman

Toru Takemitsu: Quatrain II (1977)
Toru Takemitsu: Air (1995)
Jacob Druckman: Dance With Shadows (1989)
Toru Takemitsu: Rainspell (1992)
Jacob Druckman: Come Round (1992)

In short: I didn't particulary enjoy the concert; there was nothing wrong per se, I just couldn't get into any of the pieces-- not for want of excellent playing, simply material that didn't capture my imagination no matter how well it was played.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Cleveland Orchestra: A Salute to John Williams

They say absence makes the heart grow fonder... apparently the same applies to the ear. It's been three weeks since my last visit to Severance and the richness of tonight's performance exceeded my expectations. I was pleasantly surprised by the massive turnout including what appeared to be a large number of first-timers.

To get the not so great (to call it bad would be a massive overstatement) out of the way first, if I hear the Main Title from Star Wars one more time this year I think I'm going to go crazy(er)... I truly don't understand why it's as popular as it is; and despite some beautiful string passages it really is "honky" for my taste.

I had previously noted that I hoped to hear some of Mr. Williams' lesser known works and was generally pleased with the diversity of the program, including several pieces that I've never before heard. The music from Far and Away was by far my favorite and it was new to me. A note in the score noted that the composer had fun wiht the piece and that he hoped orchestras and audiences would have similar feelings--that hope was satisfied.

After an initial standing ovation, Richard Kaufman, conductor remarked that the orchestra had "fourteen more pieces" -- I don't think the audience would have minded. The encore, March from the film 1941 was not new to me -- it's been in my iTunes collection for at least 9 years -- but the vibrancy and sheer energy of live performance could not be beat.

Events I'm planning on attending in the next two weeks.
Sunday, November 8th, 4 PM - Cleveland Institute of Music: New Music Series (Mixon Hall)
Friday, November 13th, 9 PM - Cleveland Museum of Art After Hours
Saturday, November 14th , 8 PM - The Cleveland Orchestra, Doctor Atomic Symphony (Find me in Box 8, Seat F)
Thursday, November 19th, 7:30 PM - Orange County (CA) Performing Arts Center: Spring Awakening (Find me in the Orchestra, seat BB7; my 6th time in 3 states with this show)
Friday, November 20th 7:00 PM - The Cleveland Orchestra: Fridays@7 (find me in Box 5, Seat E)

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

CIM Chamber Orchestra: Beethoven, Bloch, Copland and Violin Part IV

Beethoven: Symphony No. 2 in D major, op. 36
Bloch: Concerto Grosso No. 1
Copland: Concerto for Clarinet and Orchestra

I started this evening with violin lesson number four... I feel like a massive amount of progress has been made, but there's plenty of ground left to cover. I then made my way to CIM for a magnificent concert.

Seeing Copland on the billing is what got me through the door--depending on my mood if you ask who my favorite composer is Copland would be as likely an answer as Gershwin, Newman [either of them] or Williams. I think, though, this is the first time I've heard Copland played live. I don't have a favorite piece from this concert simply because I thoroughly enjoyed and was engaged by all of them.

I think Symphony No. 2 became my favorite Beethoven piece, had a magnificent energy... and I may be committing sacrilege by saying this but in the 2nd or 3rd movement I could have sworn I heard hints of the the Looney Tunes theme. The lack of an adagio certainly doesn't hurt.

Likewise, while I've only heard one Bloch piece before this evening (and that piece didn't particularly enthrall me) Concerto Grosso No. 1 held me spellbound through all four movements. The counterpoint that popped up throughout the piece was intriguing, and the Fugue was particularly interesting especially with the violas kicking off the movement.

Copland's Concerto for Clarinet and Orchestra was great, but didn't captivate me to the same level as Symphony No. 2 or Concerto Grosso No. 1 --- the prolonged clarinet solo in the middle of the piece just felt too long.

The gentleman next to me made a comment about half of the orchestra playing out of key--it's possible that that's the case, but I certainly didn't hear it.

Have I mentioned this week how much I love Cleveland, and everything this city has to offer... Or how amazed I am at the talent of the students at CIM (and that CIM offers this programming to the public at no charge)?

Sunday, November 1, 2009

CIM Faculty Recital: Bach, Stravinsky, Bloch & Penderecki

(Carol Lynn Ruzicka, Violin; Cara Chowning, Piano)

Well played, challenging and technically interesting but not tremendously captivating music.

My last run-in with Bach about a month ago was rather unfortunate; this time around was more favorable. I generally enjoyed the Sonata in G Major for Violin and Keyboard and the performance generally but didn't feel a particularly strong attraction to the work as a whole or any one movement.

I've been interested in hearing Stravinsky's music for a little while, largely because of a comment buried near the end of a Wall Street Journal article on dwindling jazz audiences a few months ago (online here) that particularly resonated with me:

No, I don’t know how to get young people to start listening to jazz again. But I do know this: Any symphony orchestra that thinks it can appeal to under-30 listeners by suggesting that they should like Schubert and Stravinsky has already lost the battle. If you’re marketing Schubert and Stravinsky to those listeners, you have no choice but to start from scratch and make the case for the beauty of their music to otherwise intelligent people who simply don’t take it for granted. By the same token, jazz musicians who want to keep their own equally beautiful music alive and well have got to start thinking hard about how to pitch it to young listeners—not next month, not next week, but right now.

I think, but could not swear, that today is the first time I've heard Stravinsky live -- what I found more interesting that the music was the program note on his collaboration with Dushkin and I hadn't realized that he spent a fair amount of his life in the US. Pastorale was too pastoral for my tastes; Ballad from The Fairy's Kiss had some interesting moments, but favorite piece from the afternoon was Stravinsky's Tango.

At the risk of committing heresy, I had no meaningful reaction at all to Bloch's Nuit Exotique.

Krzystzof Penderecki's Sonata No. 2 for Violin and Piano had its interesting moments -- and interesting sounds. It certainly appeared to be quite a demanding piece at nearly 40 minutes in length, I was exhausted just watching Ms. Ruzicka. While I had no conscious reactions to the piece, other than marveling at the left hand work, I did find my left eye beginning to water as the final movement wound up.