Saturday, June 5, 2010

Cleveland Orchestra: Composers Connect

Botti: Translucence (2005)
Staud: On Comparative Meteorology (2009)
Andriessen: Worker's Union (Interlude performance by Mark Jackobs, Scott Dixon, Maximilian Dimoff, Marc Damoulakis, and Dylan Moffitt)
Dalbavie: Concertate il suono (2000)
Pintscher: with lillies white (2002)
Matthias Pintscher, conductor.

It would be easy to take this evening's concerts at face value, and a fine performance it was, but I had a feeling there was a grander purpose. During the second intermission it I was finally able to verbalize it: This concert as a whole was about more than new music, but the concept of embracing something new.

New also challenges one to think for his or herself: All four works in the concert programs were commissioned by The Cleveland Orchestra from young composers, and do not have a wide body of critical commentary weighting them down. New is not necessarily popular: Attendant to the premiere of any work is the possibility of a run-away hit and the risk of an instant flop; it is not merely the road less taken but the road that doesn't yet exist.

With that frame of mind, this concert -- celebrating 10 years of The Cleveland Orchestra's commissions and of musical risk taking -- seems a fitting end to a season where the Orchestra itself took risks and tried the new, most notably in the Fridays@7 format but also other subtle changes designed to appeal to a wider audience.

On first blush the structure of the program seemed odd with an intermission or interlude separating each piece, especially considering that the longest piece was 20-some minutes, yet this construction gave listeners a chance to cleanse their musical palate between pieces and allowed each composition to stand on its own. Severance Hall was refreshingly full with a broad mix of patrons represented.

As for the music itself, modern classical music tends to befuddle me, and I did not have a clear favorite from the concert. The only work I had heard before was Staud's On Comparative Meteorology. When I first heard it in 2009 I was generally confused by it [in fact, likening the confusion from that hearing to my feelings after one aborted courtship] and I hoped that a second hearing, a year later and with a broader exposure to the cannon, might make more sense. Such was not the case: I was as confused by this hearing as I was the first time around.

Susan Botti's Translucence held a slight edge over the others... The piece's quiet beginning certainly had a bit of a mossy feel and took me to solitude in a forest, building, and questioning if actually alone in that forest.

Worker's Union (for any loud grouping of instruments) was presented during the interlude between the two sets of compositions. Not an orchestra commission the piece was an announced as "about 14 minutes of noise" -- and held true to that advertisement, but nonetheless was interesting to listen to.

Both Dalbavie and Pintscher's works were interesting for their unconventional stagings (Dalbavie had three "concertinos" scattered throughout the auditorium in addition to those musicians on stage, while Pintscher had thee lone percussionists in the same locations) and one can only speculate as to the amount of rehearsal and tweaking that went into making four distinct music-producing bodies sound coherent, but they certainly did.

So here's to taking risks; to trying the unknown; to supporting new talent.


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