Saturday, October 30, 2010

Cleveland Orchestra: Preucil Plays Mozart

Haydn: Symphony No. 22 ("The Philosopher") in E-flat major
R.V. Williams: Five Mystical Songs* (Christopher Maltman, baritone)
Mozart: Violin Concerto No 5. ("Turkish") in A major, K.219 (William Preucil, violin)
R.V. Williams: Toward the Unknown Region*
Andrew Davis, conductor
*- With the Cleveland Orchestra Chorus.

Dull and timid; timid and dull: The essence of the reaction I had to Hadyn's Symphony No. 22--more easily known as the Philosopher. Unfortunately, it also sums up the reaction I had to the rest of the just didn't speak to me. Perhaps the music should strike me as timid and dull but with titles overtly evoking the "Mystical", "Turkish", and "Unknown" I hoped that I would be at least moved by something. I wasn't. Stiff and almost mechanical, there didn't seem to be joy in the music; my applause was courteous rather than enthusiastic.

The Philospher's opening adagio was my favorite from the evening--with a clock-like melody and a alternating dialog between winds and strings evoked the image of a question-and-answer debate.

In Five Mystical Songs, based on texts by George Herbert the Cleveland Orchestra Chorus burst forth with amazing power. I found it difficult, however, with the verbal ornamentation to understand that the choir was singing an English song--let alone what was being sung--and again, with the timid feeling it felt as if the orchestra was unduly restrained in deference to the choir. The last of the songs, Antiphon, was the one that I enjoyed listening to most.

While Mr. Preucil gave a technically intimidating performance in Mozart's Turkish violin concerto but the first two movements struck me as...well, I don't need to repeat myself. The percussive, exotic sounding passages in the third movement -- from which the piece draws the name Turkish were the highlight here.

Closing out the program with Toward the Unknown Region, based on the text from Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman, I desperately wanted to love the piece. It was thankfully only 15 minutes in duration. Here again, the choir delivered impressive, cohesive energy, but in that delivery intelligibility suffered, and the orchestra seemed to be playing under the choir rather than with the choir.


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