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!


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