Wednesday, October 13, 2010

CIM Orchestra: Mozart/Walton/Wagner

Mozart: Overture to Die Zauberflote (The Magic Flute), K. 620
Walton: Concerto for Violin and Orchestra (Ai Nihira, violin)
Wagner: Symphonic Excepts from Der Ring des Nibelugen (Entrance of the Gods into Valhalla from Das Rheingold; Forest Murmurs from Siegfried; Siegfried's Death and Funeral Music from Gotterdammerung; Ride of the Valkyries from Die Walkure)
Asher Fisch, conductor.

During his opening remarks CIM President Joel Smirnoff commented on expanding the number of Severance Hall performances this year (I thought there were more of them!) and that it was particularly necessary based on the challenge of fitting so many instruments and so much volume in CIM's normal performance spaces.

Admitting that I was a bit skeptical of that comment through the first two pieces on the program, the excerpts from The Ring Cycle absolutely proved the point.

The Magic Flute is a piece that seems to be orbiting just outside of my reach -- it seems that I've heard of more performances of this piece in the last six months than any other piece -- yet I have not actually heard this piece. Though it's has a slow start, it got moving to a quite pleasing clip by midpoint.

Walton's Concerto for Violin and Orchestra left me unsatisfied -- perhaps it was too introspective during a time when I'm asking myself too many questions -- but the je ne sais quois that I crave didn't hit me. There were certainly passages that were pleasant to listen to sprinkled throughout the work but they were not the majority.

After intermission and rounding out out the program were five excerpts from Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen (also known as The Ring Cycle). Every time The Ring Cycle comes up I'm reminded by a comment one Cleveland Orchestra guest conductor made from the podium -- that The Ring Cycle, depending upon the age and weight of the conductor, can take between 24 and 30 hours to perform in its entirety. I don't know if that's true, but nonetheless, the cycle is a substantial body of work. It's also worth noting that four harps were present on stage for this work.

Mr. Fisch's comments before the work reinforced that, highlighted the difficulty of excerpting coherent pieces from the wholes, and made no apologies for the fact that the music that was presented tonight was not precisely as it would have been heard in the operas. That didn't diminish the quality in the slightest. From the energy of Entrance of the Gods into Valhalla to the delightfully textured and restrained Forest Murmurs (Where a flute clearly evoked the feelings of birds on a soft landscape laid by the strings).

Siegfried's Rhine Journey began beautifully in the cellos (what can I say, I'm a sucker for strings -- especially the cello) and grew from those relatively small beginnings into something big. The Death and Funeral March took that big, punctuated it with horns and oh, my. "Explosive" was the first word that came to mind to describe the impressive energy emanating from the Severance stage... but Explosive has the connotation of being uncontrolled. This was anything but uncontrolled.

The concert ended with the well-known Ride of the Valkyries. It was good. There's not really anything to say on that subject.

I should also note that Mr. Fisch conducted the Der Ring des Nibelungen pieces (and perhaps the others as well -- I didn't happen to notice) without benefit of a score. That impressed me.


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