Friday, July 2, 2010

Cleveland Orchestra: An American Spectacular

Bernstein: Overture from Candide
Copland: Suite from Appalachian Spring
Grofe: On the Trail from Grand Canyon Suite
Three Spirituals Sung A Cappella: Traditional (arr. Ringwald): Deep River; Traditional (arr. Hairston): Elijah Rock; Dawson: Soon Ah Will Be Done
Bates/Ward (arr. Dragon): America the Beautiful
Tchaikovsky: Overture: The Year 1812
Robert Porco, conductor.

Copland has long been one of my favorite composers, and perhaps my introduction to orchestral music first coming from Fanfare for The Common Man and the Hoe-Down allegro (from Rodeo) during a PBS 4th of July telecast a dozen or so years ago. Bernstein is a more recent discovery, with my introduction to the Cleveland Orchestra (and the wonderfully wide dynamic of live orchestral performance) coming from a performance of his Symphony No. 1 (Jeremiah) in Severance Hall a few seasons ago.

Thus, when I saw both names listed for this evening's concert there was no doubt that I would be in attendance. I know I've heard the Overture to Candide before, but the tonight's performance was a spellbinding introduction to the program.

Copland's Appalachian Spring, one of relatively few classical pieces to have found a home on my iPod was likewise enjoyable; there were moments where my attention was so captivated that I literally forgot to blink. Of course, I would have preferred to hear (even see) the entire ballet but the suite selection didn't miss too many of my favorite passages. One of the features of the iTunes version is a track of Copland rehearsing Appalachian Spring with an unidentified orchestra* where he makes the comments that the piece should be "light and playful", "Americanaish", and that "is not Tchaikovsky" -- I think the orchestra hit those marks tonight.

Grofe's On the Trail didn't really move me: I had no trouble hearing the pack of burros ambling down the canyon, but compared to the previous pieces I wasn't nearly as spellbound.

Following the intermission were three pieces sung a capella: Generally vocal performance doesn't move me**, but all three were enjoyable: If pressed, I'd probably call Elijah Rock my favorite.

Rounding out the program were Battle Hymn of the Republic, America the Beautiful, and, of course, Tchaikovsky's Festival Overture from The Year 1812. As overplayed as I tend to think it is (especially given the at best tenuous connection to American history), I can't recall having heard the 1812 Overture with choir before which made the piece interesting to hear again. As always, despite being "on guard" for it, the first cannon fire caused me to lurch noticeably in my seat.

Another milestone of 5 years in Cleveland, Sunday I'll be spending my 5th 4th of July at Blossom--wherever you might be, have a safe and fun celebration!

*-I've said it before -- I'm a sucker for insight to the creative process, and will never turn down the opportunity to attend a rehersal
**-Useless trivia: Studies have shown that in popular music men pay more attention to the music while women tend to pay more attention to lyrics

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