Saturday, March 20, 2010

Cleveland Orchestra: Ashkenazy, Pictures at an Exhibition

My search for a single adjective to properly fit this evening's concert is failing me right now, so I'll quote the Black Eyed Peas while I try to find something suitable: "I gotta feeling that tonight's gonna be a good night. That tonight's gonna be a good, good night." (From I Gotta Feeling).

Tonight's Cleveland Orchestra concert was hands down, the best, most energetic, thrilling, captivating, passionate, bold, explosive, concert I have ever attended. (Note that there were no qualifiers before "concert"). Not only finding a replacement for my previous favorite classical concert, Rachmaninoff's 2nd earlier this Severance season, I no longer need to think, if asked, what my favorite concert is.

Making the experience that much more amazing is that I generally don't care to repeat same program twice: Having heard the identical program on Thursday and thoroughly enjoying it, I didn't expect to enjoy tonight's concert to the same extent, much less to a stratospherically greater extent.

Somewhere around "Romeo Decides to Avenge Mercutio" in the Suite from Romeo and Juliet I noticed that my heart had started to race. It slowed down slightly during the change over to the Piano Concerto, but picked right back up with the skillful attack of both Mr. Bavouzet on piano, and the orchestra as a whole. Returning to a somewhat normal level for Intermission, I was whisked away to plateaus of pleasure during Ashkenazy's orchestration of Pictures at and Exhibition, with the final movement, the Great Gate of Kiev, elevating my pulse to heretofore unknown levels and launching my torso from the seat in Box 3 to deliver applause once the final notes had finished resonating in Severance Hall.

I'm still feeding off of an euphoric high unlike any I've ever felt before. If you weren't there, you really missed out on something special.* So much, so that the first time I published this post I forgot to include the program:

Prokofiev: Suite from Romeo and Juliet (Arr. Ashkenzay)
Prokofiev: Piano Concerto No. 1, in D-flat major, Op. 10 Mussorgsky: Pictures at an Exhibition (Orch. Ashkenazy)
Vladimir Ashkenzay, conductor; Jean-Efflam Bavouzet, piano.

Watching Mr. Ashkenzay was also pleasurable: Many conductors I've observed I find myself wondering what he (she) is trying to convey; there have been some conductors that I'm reasonably sure are conducting an imaginary orchestra while the real orchestra somehow makes music managing to ignore the crazy person on the podium. With each gesture Mr. Ashkenzay left no doubt about what he expected from the orchestra, and the orchestra's response was just as sharp as his baton.

* (Earlier this afternoon the Orchestra's website was showing a total of 26 seats available, all on the main floor; by the time I arrived at Severance an even slimmer selection was available, and according to an usher, by the time the house opened standing room was being sold. It's worth noting that Pictures received an unanimous standing ovation)

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