Wednesday, April 14, 2010

CityMusic Cleveland: Vajda conducts Sibelius, Mozart, and Beethoven

(You still have four more chances to hear this program, see the end of Monday's post for locations and times)

Sibelius: Rakastava (The Lover), Op. 14
Mozart: Flute Concerto No. 1 in G, K. 313 (Keidi Ruby Kushious, flute)
Beethoven: Symphony No. 8 in F, Op. 93
Gregory Vajda, conductor
at Fairmount Presbyterian Church

I would be lying if I didn't admit that I had some skepticism leading into tonight's concert. While I've had slight exposure to CityMusic, through the rehearsal on Monday and the benefit featuring the Linden Quartet a few weeks past, this was the first concert I've attended. My skepticism quickly passed.

I had a violin lesson of my own immediately prior to the concert, so I wound up driving: Before I even parked, I was caught by the sheer number of cars and a vertiable throng of people walking towards the church. Overall I was impressed by the performance's evenness and balance; Mr. Vajda's conducting was transparent and not overly heavy.

I've not had the pleasure of hearing Siebelius prior to this evening, and for a composer who's works tend to be described as 'bleak', 'desolate', and 'cold', I don't think Rastakava could have been any more contrary: The work was quite enjoyable. While not free from darkness, the overall tone of the piece overall the tone was sunny and quite pleasant to listen to, though one must wonder about the solemn and mornful ending: What events transpired leading to "Farewell! Good Evening!"

Mozart isn't one of my favorite composers, nor is the flute one of my favorite instruments, sounding generally rather rough to my ear. While it didn't earn a spot on my favorites list (and I should note the substantial standing ovation) the piece: The piece, did, however move at a tempo that was neither too fast nor too slow and was perfectly pleasant to listen to.

While a core part of the classical cannon, Beethoven has also not historically been one of my favorite composers. CIM's performance earlier this month of his Eroica symphony (No. 3, Op. 55) started to turn the tide, and has eighth symphony tonight became my favorite Beethoven piece. It is that antithesis of 'stuffy Classical' -- light and playful generally fast and occassionally loud it is just fun to listen to. It does not linger in one place for too long but there is a playful interplay among the strings particularly present in the fourth movement where an opening challenge by the violins is echoed back by the violas before launching into the body of the movemenet where this theme repeats frequently.

Well worth taking the time to listen to.


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