Saturday, May 15, 2010

Cleveland Orchestra: Dreams and Prayers

Strauss: Overture to Die Fledermaus (The Bat)
Golijov: The Dreams and Prayers of Isaac the Blind (for klezmer clarinet and string orchestra), Franklin Cohen, clarinet.
Berlioz: Symphone Fantastique (Episode in the Life of an Artist), Op. 14
Tito Munoz, conductor.

I'll bite and take the cheesy cliche: The Symphony Fantastique tonight wasn't merely the final piece on the program, but an apt description for the Orchestra playing the program.

Under Mr. Munoz's artful direction The Cleveland Orchestra tonight formed a fantastic sandwich of music. Golijov's Dreams and Prayers was without a doubt, the meat of the concert, but the bread was no less delectable with Strauss's sparkling overture kicked the evening off to a lively start.

I've been a fan of Mr. Cohen's playing since I first heard him in a chamber concert last year; I've also heard quite a bit about Golijov, quite possibly this decade's most talked about composer and I was eager to hear the combination. My expectations were quite well exceeded with Mr. Cohen nimbly cycling though four clarinets--including a bass clarinet which I don't believe I've seen or heard previously. The balance between soloist and orchestra was among the best I can recall and the piece had a lively, almost spiritual quality.

Berlioz's Symphony Fantastique ran a bit longer than my attention span, but each movement had it's notable passages; I think the second, fourth, and fifth movements were among my favorites. Subtitled Episode in the Life of an Artist, while my attention was wondering I found myself intrigued by Berlioz's inspiration for the piece. According to the program notes, Berlioz had fallen madly in love with a woman that the composer had never met: He sent love letters that the target of his affection never responded to, "fearful of encouraging a madman". Quoting further from the program notes "Berlioz, distraught and unable to work or sleep or eat, wandered the countryside around Paris until he dropped from exhaustion and had to be retrieved by friends".

Are all artists crazy?


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