Monday, November 29, 2010

CIM Faculty Recital: Rose/King/Mo/Gonzalez/Chiang

Beethoven: Sonata for Violin and Piano No. 2 in A Major, Op. 12*
Arensky: Trio for Violin, Cello, and Piano in D Minor, Op. 32**
Brahms: Trio in E-flat Major, Op. 4 [sic]***
*- Stephen Rose, violin; Pi-Ju Chiang, piano
**- Boson Mo, violin; Josue Gonzalez, cello; Pi-Ju Chiang, piano
***- Richard King, horn; Stephen Rose, violin; Pi-Ju Chiang, piano

(Please see the audience courtesy note at the bottom of the post; it's a bit rantish and I may be alone in my irritation, but the lack of courtesy amongst certain [older] audience members really bothered me tonight)

To tell the truth I wasn't sure if I was going to make tonight's recital, but it was a most satisfying recital. Beethoven's sonata, like the pieces that followed it alternated between what I would characterize as distinctly 'happy' and 'sad' movements with not much gray space between. The first movement sparkled like few I've heard in Mixon hall, the second movement seemed mournful, and the third movement brought a return of happiness but without the champagne sparkle.

The middle piece on the program was composed by Anton Arensky, a name I am not familiar with. The first movement was beautifully lyrical, and the scherzo had a unusual and intriguing method that I can best call a bounced bowing that spent most of the time in Mr. Mo's violin but made an occasional visit to Mr. Gonzalez's cello. While listening to the third movements it stuck me as if I were listening to a somber eulogy for a dearly loved one, glancing at my program, I noticed the movement is identified as Elegia. Adagio. Well played. Mid-movement the tone changes from that of an eulogy to a respectful but less somber tune, striking me as delightful actually, before returning to the general mood of an eulogy. I'm not sure what to say about the finale.

Brahms's Trio also intrigued me--while Brahms's name is no doubt more familiar than that of Arensky, I can think of few chamber music examples that include a horn. Beautifully played by Richard King it did not disappoint (though, again--audience courtesy note--the gentleman in front of me kept feeling the need to declare that "he really should stop dumping the spit out" which kind of made embracing the entire work difficult). The andante first movement was depressing, but the following scherzo had a lighter, happy but not fully joyous sense to it. While I can't pinpoint a particular passage that evoked the feeling,

the impassioned third movement (adagio mesto) started to water my eyes, and the alegro con brio finale brought a sense of joy back and was the perfect note to end the recital on.

And Now I Start To Rant:

Audience Courtesy Note: I feel kind of bad saying this, but I'm afraid if I don't vent now I'm going to snap in a most unflattering and YouTubeable way during a recital or concert: When musicians are doing their thing, particularly during a quiet passage, show your respect by not (a) Repeatedly tell your neighbor how beautiful the music is or how so-and-so stopped by this afternoon, (b) do (a) even if you think you're whispering, (c) unwrap cellophane candy excruciatingly slowly--leaving no crinkle uncrunckled, (d) crinkle your program endlessly, (e) jingle the change in your pocket, or (f) repeatedly zip, unzip, Velcro, unvelcro, snap, or unsnap your bag. Do not continue to do (a)-(f) while several audience members are glaring at you. When one is completely immersed in the music these are a most jarring and rude return to the real world.


Sunday, November 28, 2010

Cleveland Orchestra: The Planets: An HD Odyssey

Saariaho: Asteroid 4179: Toutatis
Mozart: Symphony No. 41 in C major, K. 551 ("Jupiter")
Holst: The Planets*
* - With the women of the Cleveland Orchestra Chorus
Hans Graf, conductor.

"We have standing-room available" is a phrase I'd love to hear from the Orchestra's box office more frequently... of course as was the case today, preferably, after I've purchased my tickets!

Having gone through a bit of orchestral withdrawal over the past few weeks, I was eagerly awaiting my return to Severance Hall. I am a bit curious as to how this concert earned the Musically Speaking caption, as unlike other Musically Speaking concerts this one didn't really provide an educational background to the music. Semantics aside, during the second half of the concert I'm not sure of an appropriate adjective (but I'll sure try!).

But before I get ahead of myself, the first part of the program: Saariaho's Asteroid 4179 was pleasantly short and evoked sounds typical of "space music"; so familiar sounding was it that I could have sworn that I had heard it before; checking my notes however it seems I had not. I would be interested in hearing it again.

Mozart's Symphony 41, known in the English-speaking world as Jupiter sounded beautiful--particularly the first movement--but some of the themes were a bit repetitive for my taste, and the overall sound struck me as a bit too sentimental: Fine in short bursts but a bit wearing for an entire symphony.

Following an intermission where I caught up with some familiar faces in an adjoining box, was Holst's The Planets beautifully paired with high definition imagery from NASA. Sitting in the darkened hall I was both spellbound and mesmerized. Some movements the music was breathtaking, other movements the imagery stole my air, but the net result was that at the end of the 7 movements (Earth and Pluto omitted) my instinct to breathe had been suppressed long enough that I was gasping for air. Of the seven movements, I particularly enjoyed the contrast between the first two (Mars, The Bringer of War, an aggressive, unbalanced bit of music and Venus: The Bringer of Peace where my eyes slipped between the grace of the orchestra and the beauty of the imagery) the circus-like feeling brought along with Uranus: The Magician, but I think my favorite movement was Jupiter: The Bringer of Jollity, light, playful, triumphant, cinematic, and bold without being brash, I can't think of anything missing.

Though the final movement, Neptune: The Mystic didn't excite me to the same level, it's worth noting the fantastically ethereal, indeed mystical, sense lent to the movement by the off-stage (presumably from the organ chamber if my ears are to be trusted) voices of the women of the Cleveland Orchestra Chorus.


Saturday, November 27, 2010

Pickwick & Frolic: Cruise Ship Killer

"The best kind of ship is a friendship"

A fitting line from the production, and also the best advice for anyone considering attending. I found myself at the show with a small cadre of friends--when I had been invited I intentionally didn't ask any questions. I figured I'd give it a whirl.

An evening of firsts, this was my first venture into Pickwick & Frolic's facility on East 4th. This was also my first foray into the "Dinner Theater" genre and I was struck with some fear when a relative suggested that the dinner murder mystery format was highly interactive. Thankfully, all audience participation was strictly voluntary with a couple from my group participating in some pre-show karaoke.

To avoid ruining any surprise for future audiences (I'm not aware of any scheduled voyages at the moment), per the program's request I'm not going to say much about the plot or ending aside from the ending being a bit of a left field surprise.

The production quality wasn't the highest (the audio processing was distracting from the beginning and only seemed to get more noticeable as the show progressed) but the cast was enthusiastic and kept their over-the-top characters throughout; the pacing was reasonable. The audience was comfortable, and the waitstaff reasonably attentive without being intrusive.

The wine--in my case an unspecified Riesling--was likewise good, and the cheesecake dessert was delectable. The entree--at least the prime rib, however, was one of the more disappointing and unfufilling meals I've had recently: Cold and nearly flavorless I contemplated stopping along the way home to eat again.

It's not a show I'd do alone, but if you have a group of friends looking for an amusing night it's not a bad choice.

Recognize the friendships in your life and let the voyage last long.


Friday, November 26, 2010

Cleveland Play House: This Wonderful Life

(Through December 19th at the Cleveland Play House, 8500 Euclid Ave)

Complimenting the beautiful display of Christmas Trees in the lobbies, the Cleveland Play House is presenting a fresh take on a seasonal classic with This Wonderful Life (an adaptation of Frank Capra's It's A Wonderful Life).

I wasn't really sure what I had purchased a ticket for (a ticket acquired on pure impulse--"One for the next show, please" during the Light Up The Night festivities earlier this week) and had some fear when I learned it was a one-man show. The theatrical Christmas show is just about as hackneyed as a department store's Black Friday sale. The one-man show is a risky venture for both theatres and audience: Inexpensive to produce, if the audience hates that one-man they hate the entire cast.

This Wonderful Life, though, is a risk that pays dividends. The one man, James Leaming inhabits his characters. Arriving a bit early I caught the tail end of a talkback he was hosting; as talkback gave way to the audience invocation gave way to the action the transition was seamless; Mr. Leaming greeted arriving audience members, gave the cellphones-and-exits speech (though he didn't mention if seat cushions could be used for floatation) and then the real entertainment began. Though not roll-on-the-floor funny there are plenty of asides, tongue-in-cheek references, restrained sight gags, and double entendres sprinkled throughout to keep things amusing.

One challenge I often have with one-man/one-woman shows is filtering through the noise of over-the-top costume changes or accents and to keep track of who is whom. There are no costume changes, though the occasional accent is sparingly used to add depth.

Though the general plot is unlikely to surprise anyone even vaguely familiar with the film, looking at it in a wholly new context brings fresh clarity and relevance to the classic, and that ultimately selflessness reaps bountiful harvests and true friends are of immeasurable value.

This holiday season value your loved ones and friends...and seek always to make new friends.


Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Quick Update: Contemporary Youth Orchestra State of Independence

Just a quick update for anyone who's interested (and based on traffic, it seems like a lot of people are interested!)

I received the below press release with regards to Jon Anderson & The Contemporary Youth Orchestra's State of Independence concert that I blogged about back in May. The highlight is that for seemingly everyone except Time Warner* customers the concert will debut on HDNet Sunday, November 28th at 8pm.

If you are an aforementioned liberated person in the greater Cleveland area and interested in having a random stanger join you in your living room to watch... you know how to find me!

DALLAS (November 22, 2010) - HDNet Concert Series debuts "State of Independence: Jon Anderson and the Contemporary Youth Orchestra," Sunday, November 28 at 8:00 p.m. ET.

Anderson says, "Working and singing with the youth orchestra and chorus was a wonderful blessing in my life. These teenagers love music and perform as well as any adult orchestra that I've worked with around the world."

In 2004, English musician Jon Anderson - best known for his lead vocals with the band, Yes, and his collaborations with Oscar-winner Vangelis - appeared with the Contemporary Youth Orchestra of Cleveland. The concert was recorded but was only released to the orchestra members. Now, HDNet Concert Series will premiere the reunion performance of Anderson and the Contemporary Youth Orchestra which was filmed in May 2010 at Severance Hall in Cleveland, Ohio.

In this performance Anderson shares the stage with the 112 member Cleveland Contemporary Youth Orchestra and 60 member student chorus in an exhilarating performance that exudes energy and joy.

This special HDNet premiere showcases the collaborative effort between Anderson and the Orchestra, presenting a unique take on some old favorites such as, "Starship Trooper," "Show Me," "Long Distance Runaround," and "Owner of a Lonely Heart." The lineup also includes songs that were previously unreleased including "Music is God," and "Big Buddha."

A sneak preview of the concert can be found at the following link:

Don't miss this vibrant performance as "State of Independence: Jon Anderson and the Contemporary Youth Orchestra," makes its HDNet debut - Sunday, November 28 at 8:00 p.m. ET.

*- I really don't think Time Warner realizes how much of my money they owe to TiVo... If I could use TiVo's unique features (e.g. suggestions) with Uverse (or Dish, DirecTV, or anyone else) I would have cut that coax years ago.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Cleveland Play House: Festival of Trees Lighting (And Happy Thanksgiving!)

The weather outside isn't frightful (yet), there's no fire but still inside is delightful at Cleveland Play House's Festival of Trees.

It's hard to believe that we're at the tail end of November and that this coming Thursday is Thanksgiving but here we are. An annual tradition for the Cleveland Play House is their festival of trees where the lobbies and corridors of the Play House's complex are filled with Christmas trees sponsored and decorated by a variety of local organizations.

Tonight was the official lighting of the trees and in the beauty of the trees, the joy of the music, and the energy in the rooms one couldn't really help but to slip into the holiday spirit.

So on your next visit to the Cleveland Play House this season, take a few moments to stare in awe at the beautifully decorated trees. The centerpiece of the festival is a giant 25-foot-tall tree in the main rotunda decorated with program covers from the Play House's 95 seasons -- showing the evolution in graphic design (what I wouldn't give to thumb through some of the early programs!), theatrical tastes, and the Play House itself. But at the same time enjoy the scrappy but lovingly decorated tree nearby.

A variety of factors are conspiring to keep me from making the trip home to spend Thanksgiving with my family, but be your loved ones physically near or far may they be close and safe this holiday season.


Sunday, November 21, 2010

Chamber Music Guild: Trio Unnamed (Britton/Atherton/DeMio)

Beethoven: Trio, Op. 70 No. 1 (Ghost)
Schoenfield: Cafe Music (Andante moderato movement only)
Smetana: Trio, Op. 15
Susan Britton, violin; Linda Atherton, cello; Elizabeth DeMio, piano.
at Lyndhurst Community Presbyterian Church.

It's interesting -- I've heard the three musicians in tonight's (as yet, after 15 years, unnamed) trio but in varied contexts: Ms. Britton as my teacher, playing for Opera Cleveland, and new music with Cleveland Chamber Symphony; Ms. DeMio in collaboration with others at CIM; and Ms. Atherton in the pit for various Broadway-series shows at PlayhouseSquare -- but never in this context.

The audience was also interesting -- it seemed like I was the only person there who didn't know everyone else in attendance and it was one of the most social concert atmospheres I can recall outside of the house concert format giving a very welcoming atmosphere.

Full of variety, the program started with Beethoven's Ghost trio. Though the piano's tone was a bit bright to my ear it provided a glimpse of the wonderful musicality that we had to look forward to from tonight's musicians. The opening movement immediately stuck me as sweet but full flavor, while the third movement gave me a very Jekyll-and-Hyde vibe. The piece earned the Ghost nickname by way of its second movement, and while a person sitting behind me asked rhetorically "How could anyone miss the ghost?" it didn't strike me as such... Dark, certainly, but more sentimental than ghostly.

The next two pieces on the program were by composers that I'm not familiar with -- that should be expected, given my relative newness to classical music. Tonight I was not alone as many, if not most, of the audience announced a lack of familiarity; the same majority could later be heard offering compliments.

Closing the first half of the intermission we found one movement of Paul Schoenfield's Cafe Music. A bit on the mellow side, every instrument had a chance to shine as an extraordinarily lyrical song moved throughout the instruments, starting with the piano moving to a beautiful cello where it was matched on the violin, then the two bowed instruments had a chance at a bit of a duet. I'd certainly like to hear the other movements, particularly since Mr. Schoenfield resided in Cleveland Heights for a period of time.

Last, but certainly not least Smetana's Opus 15 trio. Lyrical throughout, as introduced by Ms. DeMio, the piece was composed shortly after his daughter's death. Opening with a bold statement from the violin, eventually joined by piano and later cello, in the first movement the composition held my interest throughout, but I loved the third movement. The third movement starts with almost an explosion of coordinated energy and quickly evokes the sense of a gallop; in this sense it's easy to imagine youthful energy playing about -- but this energy fades and is replaced with a somber and introspective feeling lead by the cello and an almost audible cry in the violin.

The galloping energy from earlier in the movement returned, though with slightly less clarity -- perhaps signaling a recovery -- only to end abruptly and the dark feeling returns, this time with a distinct cloud of mourning which hangs over the majority of the end of the movement. The end of the movement, though, is a burst of energy with a bit of the gallop mixed in: Perhaps to signify the end of Mr. Smetana's mourning or his daughter's freed spirit.

This program will be repeated Wednesday, December 8th at Noon at Trinity Cathedral, downtown Cleveland.


Thursday, November 18, 2010

Apollo's Fire: Myths of Love and Betrayal

Vivaldi: Alegro from Concerto Grosso in C, RV. 561 (Arr. Sorrell)*
Vivaldi: Due tiranni ho nel mio cor from Ottone in Villa, RV. 729
Vivaldi: Concerto in B minor for Four Volins, Op. 3 No. 10, RV. 580**
Handel: Chaconne from Terpsichore (Il Pastor Fido), HVW 8c
Handel: Che sento? Oh Dio! Se pieta di me non senti (Cleopatra's Solioquy) from Guilio Cesare in Egitto, HVW 17
Duchifree: Proserpine: Symphonie dramatique (Arr. Sorrell, World Premiere)***
Rameau: Prelude from Premier Livre de Pieces de Clavecin
Rameau: Cruelle Mere des amours (Phedre's aria) from Hippolyte et Arcie
Purcell: Dido's Lament from Dido Aeneas, Z. 626
Vivaldi: La Folia (Madness): Concerto grosso, after the Sonata, Op. 1, No. 12, RV. 63****
(Encore) Rameau: Les Indes Galantes [uncertain].
at St. Paul's Episcopal Church, Cleveland Heights.
Jeanette Sorrell, harpsicord and conductor.
*- Oliver Brault, Julie Andrijeski, Johanna Novom, violin.
** - Cynthia Roberts, Oliver Brault, Johanna Novom, Andrijeski, violin.
***- Oliver Brault, violin; Rene Schiffer, cello.
****- Cynthia Roberts, Oliver Brault, violin.

While St. Paul's Episcopal remains one of the most uncomfortable places I've heard anything -- a feeling that hasn't changed over the past year -- my tide is turning when it comes to Apollo's Fire. Though I enjoyed some more than others, the assortment of pieces arranged around the title of the program held my interest throughout.

Apollo's Fire will be taking this program on their first-ever European tour over the next 10 days, and it's another export that Cleveland can be proud of.

Likewise, Apollo's fire and Ms. Sorrell seem to be loosening up; though my initial reaction last year was of an organization that was stiff and took itself too seriously there was certainly some fun being had on and off stage at tonight's concert.

Beginning with the lively and familiar Allegro from Vivalidi's Concerto grosso in C the orchestra made a energetic statement that carried through the evening. Though Due tiranni ho nel mio cor was a bit slow for my tastes, Ms. Sophie Daneman's voice was beautifully revealed.

Frequent readers--and anyone else aware of my love of the string family -- shouldn't be surprised that the concerto for four violins was absolutely captivating and among my favorites for the evening. What I found surprising was the amazing, eerie, and almost human chorus that emerged during the allegro of this piece; it faded as quickly as my ear picked it up but I still had to look to make sure that one hadn't snuck in to the building.

Neither of the Handel pieces on the program really did anything for me, but a gentleman in the same row was quite -- almost disturbingly -- enthused by them.

Following intermission, Douchiffre's Prosperine: Symphony dramatique, composed by a member of Apollos Fire and receiving its world premiere at these concerts was an impressive excursion. Though a bit slow out of the gate, it was soulful and expressive and to that point I can't recall seeing a group of musicians so clearly enjoying the music that that was coming from their fingertips, and you could hear the passion as well.

After Prosperine the audience was treated to a rather extensive tuning session -- followed by Ms. Sorrell's assurance that there was no additional charge for tuning, and her introduction of the two Rameau pieces on the program...though neither piece ranked highly in my final assessment, Ms. Sorrell's introduction carried a comfortable relaxed but confident vibe that was a marked change from the vibe I had gotten from earlier performances and was one of the intangibles that made the concert worthy of 180 minutes in a church pew.

Closing the published program was the stunning and apply titled La Folia (Madness), Vivaldi's Concerto grosso. Seemingly out-joy-ing the enthusiasm displayed during Prosperine in addition to being musically brilliant the piece featured some interesting stage choreography in which musicians were not traditionally anchored but rather literally played off of other musicians. Also worth noting is the introduction, where the amazingly large Theorobo gave a distinct and beautiful sound that I associate with a Spanish Guitar. The enthusiasm was unanimous, but the gentleman at the end of my row was frighteningly in to the music.

There was an encore -- I didn't quite catch the title and after being introduced by Ms. Daneman with the concept that if you "do right by love, love will do right by you" and I found myself wondering what it takes to do right by love, and why it seems I'm so far from finding it.


Sunday, November 14, 2010

Classical Revolution Cleveland November Edition (@ Prosperity Social Club)

Walking into Prosperity Social Club a bit tardy this evening my ears were hit with a lively dance tune courtesy of a string quintet; my eyes once again struck by the incongruity of the perennially spinning disco ball above the unassuming stage.

The opening stanzas from The Limousines' Internet Killed The Video Star played through my head and seemed apt given the classical music audience situation: "The kids are disco dancing/They're tired of rock and roll/I tried to tell them 'hey, that drum machine ain't got no soul/But they don't want to listen, no/They think they've heard it all/They trade their guitars in for drum machines and disco balls"

Absent said disco ball, the "Food" and "Liquor" neon signs in the windows, and the drop ceiling, I wondered if this might be considered continuing the tradition of the medieval tavern band.

Tonight the guitars, violins, cellos, harp, saw, turkey baster, and other assorted instruments peacefully existed with the disco ball, and there wasn't a drum machine to be seen; while a drum machine may have no soul the performances tonight were full of it. As the front door let occasional blast of late-fall air into the room, the warmth of the music was difficult to miss, as was the variety: Everything from standard string arrangements to a very large trio (I didn't count but I'd venture the trio numbered at least twice the usual number) using a upright bass as a percussion instrument and playing a combination of saw (with bow) and turkey baster.

I honestly enjoyed all of the music that was brought before the audience tonight -- consisting of a mix of ClassicalRev regulars and disappointed Browns fans -- but was most interested by the sounds of Trepanning Trio's Balanise Love Song, and the novelty of the trio of harp solos. That's right, not only my first time hearing a live harp in solo form, but this was in a bar, only feet away from me--I can only imagine the logistical hurdles in moving such a large instrument from its home, up a few stairs and in and out of the bar--and it sound was beautifully resonant. Of course the string quintet that started the evening and the string quartet that I ended the evening with were beautiful (particularly the lively dance that I entered to).

(The quintet playing when I first arrived; the harpist playing feet from me; click either for larger version)
Classical Revolution Cleveland - November 2010Classical Revolution Cleveland - November 2010

Being in a bar, I ordered a delicious Strip Steak along with a couple adult beverages; the steak was good and it was interesting to hear the din of conversation mesh with the din of music: A conversation at the other end of the bar about the Cavs; another conversation when the game was over about the Browns loss; nearby there were discussions about music.

One of the occupants of a nearby bar stool is a member of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, For those unaware of happenings outside the Cleveland bubble, let me restate that as "a member of the Detroit-Symphony-Orchestra-whos-musicians-are-currently-on-strike". I've been following the situation to the northwest with some curiosity since before the strike started*. The more I learn the less rational, logical, or even sane that orchestra's management strikes (pun not intended) me as--I'm offended by some of management's non-financial work rules proposals reported by the media, and I'm not even a stakeholder. My short conversation with this musician only bolstered my support for the musician's cause. (Cleveland's 1-day strike in January included concerns about a 5% cut in compensation for one year; Detroit is trying to push a 33%+ cash cut without full restoral**.)

So you never know what you're going to encounter at Classical Revolution -- and the variety is what makes it fun. I saw a saw played, I heard a harp mere feet from my ears

*- Though I've avoided writing anything since it's not a topic that I'm by any means qualified to write on -- I know none of that organization's history.
** - Based on the media reports I could find.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Opera Cleveland: La Voix Humaine & Pagliacci

A double-billing of La Voix Humaine (By Francis Poulenc, Libretto by Jean Cocteau) and Pagliacci (By Ruggero Leoncavallo) brought tonight's audience to PlayhouseSquare's State Theater for one of the last performances in Opera Cleveland's abbreviated season -- and one of the last in their current incarnation as Opera Cleveland.

To the outside observer, the writing has been on the wall in varying shades of darkness since before the season began. Opening the season with Lucia di Lammermoor -- I think my best opera-going experience to date (thanks in no small part to the semi-open rehearsal) both enthusiasm (audience and production) and and production quality were high. The intervening production of The Pearl Fishers was flat for enthusiasm but the production quality was still high. Tonight's operas, I hate to say, were flat for both.

Now most of the "production quality" issues that caught my eye (none caught my ear, thankfully) were minor in and of themselves but combined I got the sense of a struggle to get the show up--and surely no budgets were broken in the construction of the sets.

La Voix Humaine was agonizing. Consisting solely of the suicidal woman's side of a telephone conversation with a former lover, fighting through a party line, disconnected calls, and nosy neighbors. The concept is intriguing but the execution felt eternal; I didn't particularly care for the lone singer's voice. As much as I wanted to feel a sense of drama -- the woman was, after all, suicidal and speaking with a long-time lover on the eve of his wedding to another woman -- it could have been a reading of the daily news for all I could tell. The music, though well performed, was so punctuated--coming in short, seemingly unrelated bursts--that it didn't really add anything.

In Pagliacci, I realized (decided?) that even if Opera Cleveland emerges following the restructuring [and I sincerely hope it does], I will not be in that audience. As much as I want to like opera*, I realized that it's just not for me--and I can't justify the ticket prices for something that's I'm at best apathetic about. The opera opens with two mimes and beautiful music; I truly thought that I was going to enjoy it. Again, this struck me as emotionally flat, and all of the women's voices drove me crazy -- and I don't mean that in a good way. Thought the action on stage was unfufilling the music was beautiful and on more than one occasion dissuaded me from making a mid-opera exit; my favorite parts were all instrumental including a passage at the end that is instantly recognizable.


Wednesday, November 10, 2010

CIM: Harmonic Hues (CIM@MOCA)

Donatoni: Arpege (1986)
Thomas: TOFT Serenade (2005)
Thomas: Scat (2007)
Knussen: Songs without Voices, Op. 26 (1991-92)

I'm not sure if I used CIM's concert as an excuse to visit MoCA Cleveland or if I used MoCA Cleveland as an excuse to hear CIM's concert, but either way it proved an interesting experience. Despite my artistic tastes gravitating to the modern/contemporary for some reason, previous to tonight I had not visited Cleveland's Museum of Contemporary Art. As a non collecting museum MoCA stages exhibitions bringing together art from outside collections. Currently on view Seth Rosenberg: The Cleveland Years; Duke Rilely: An Invitation to Luberland; and assume vivid astro focus: ilegitimo.

Duke Rilely's An Invitation to Luberland was a compelling multimedia tour through the hobo life in Cleveland and the Kingsbury Run encampment (and serial killers) -- one of Elliot Ness's (former Cleveland Public Safety Director turned FBI Man) failures... I can think of few exhibitions that so clearly pulled the viewer along.

As for the music, new music is still a taste I'm working to acquire: Like some modern art it doesn't necessarily make sense on first blush, given the ephemeral nature of new music, unlike the relatively static nature of new art it's difficult to simply stare at it until the details emerge. That was my challenge with the majority of the pieces on tonight's program.

Franco Donatoni's Arpege (Mackenzie Danner, flute; Mikola Djurica, clarinet; Anthony Bracewell, violin; Carlos Javier, cello; Talisa Blackman, piano; Nathan von Trotha, vibraphone; Keith Fitch, conductor) initially struck me as chaotic -- much like the large mural in front of which the evening's concerts were performed -- but the relationship of the individual instruments with respect to the piano gave an interesting core to listen for. The difference between Mr. Fitch's rounded and graceful movements conducting and the somewhat punctuated sound of the music added interest in visual and auditory contrast.

Augusta Read Thomas's TOFT Serenade (Charles Morey, violin; Frank Huang, piano) was my favorite piece of the program in two parts--the program notes indicate that the transition is seamless, but there was little doubt in my mind about the transition between the two--the work begins with a violin serenading an unseen lover with the piano talking the role of the strumming guitarist. The second portion was said to evoke the success of the serenade and the lover claiming down from her window...the sensation came and went for me, but none the less it was an enjoyable piece to here.

Thomas's next piece Scat (Daniel Rios, oboe; Anthony Bracewell, violin; Annalisa Boerner, viola; Joshua Zajac, cello; Frank Huang, piano) didn't really resonate with me musically and nor did I get the sense of a relationship to the jazz style from which the piece took its name and the program notes made explicit reference to.

Ending the program, Oliver Knussen's Songs Without Voices (Mackenzie Danner, flute; Daniel Rios, English horn; Nikola Djurica, clarinet; Zane Biddle, horn; Charles Morey, violin; Hari Bernstein, viola; Joshua Zajac, cello; Talisa Blackman, piano; John Young Shik Concklin, conductor)... hmm. The first of the four songs (Winter's Foil) opened in a quite ear-catching way but ultimately the noise of my thoughts [as of tonight, I am again unquestionably single unlike the questionably single state that I've lingered in for a couple weeks] took over.

(By the way...whomever the anonymous CIMer is who shared my blog yesterday -- and the people who have read as result... thanks!)

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Cleveland Orchestra: Matthias Pintscher Reflects

Ravel: Alborada del graciosco
Pintscher: Reflections on Narcissus (concerto for cello and orchestra)*
Ravel: Mother Goose
Dukas: The Sorcerer's Apprentice
Matthais Pintscher, conductor; *- Alban Gerhardt, cello.

At tonight's concert I was joined by a friend. Though she's a fan of dance, tonight's concert was her first visit to Severance Hall and only her second time hearing The Cleveland Orchestra. I can think of few concerts that would have made a better introduction to the institution.

Opening with Alborada del graciosco, a "morning song in a comic style", the lively pizzicato set the tone for the evening: There was an undeniable joy in the music. The first Ravel piece on the program, this was light and playful. During the set change between this and the next piece, my friend commented that watching the orchestra was, in itself, like watching a ballet; I couldn't help but to agree.

That next piece was Matthas Pintscher's Reflections on Narcissus, a concerto for cello and orchestra; conducted by the composer and receiving its US Premiere at tonight's concert. Under the heading of "learn something new every day" I now know the origin of the word narcissism. As for the music, while "new music" is a decidedly acquired taste this piece stood in a beautifully striking contrast to the Alborada. The sound, particularly during the first few of the five reflections was so evocative of water dripping into a pool that I'm not ashamed to admit a few sideways glances to ensure that the hall had not sprung a leak.

Following an intermission where I showed my guest around some of the hall's public areas, the second half of the program began with Ravel's Mother Goose ballet; though a touch slow for my tastes at parts it was absolutely captivating and each section of the orchestra shined in this lyrical suite.

Closing out the program was Dukas's The Sorcerer's Apprentice [L'apprenti sorcier], based on a ballad by Goethe. It took me about a minute but as the piece reached full swing it was, if you'll pardon the obvious, spellbinding--as was the rest of the concert. Potentially best known from Disney's Fantasia, with Mickey as the apprentice the music conjured images of the frantic bucket and broom that obviated a need for visual accompaniment.

All-in-all it was an extremely satisfying concert and one that demonstrated the sports car-like handling of The Cleveland Orchestra: Dead stop to a controlled but frantic burst of energy in one bar; quiet enough to hear the buzz from a hearing aid four boxes to my right to loud enough to drown out the noisiest of thoughts. A shining example of what Cleveland has to offer the world during the Asian tour taking place over the next three weeks.


Wednesday, November 3, 2010

CIM Orchestra: Debussy/Barber/Sibelius

Debussy: Prelude a "L'apres-midi d'un faune" (Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun)
Barber: Piano Concerto, Op. 38 (1962)*
Sibelius: Symphony No. 2 in D Major, Op. 43
Carl Topilow, conductor
*- Jeanette Aufiero, piano

I wasn't sure about attending this concert -- A project at work is driving me crazy, yesterday was a long day, and tomorrow is going to be a busy and potentially long day.

Had the program been different, I'm not sure I would have, to tell the truth, but I noticed the Sibelius symphony and I was immediately interested: I had first heard (and truly, heard of) Sibelius at a CityMusic Cleveland concert back in April of this year...and I loved it. I don't think I've seen his works programmed locally since then and I didn't want to miss the opportunity.

I was quite happy: While I'm at a loss to describe what I particularly loved about it (In Broad Terms: Lush melodies and soaring strings along with bass that traveled through the floor, to the back of the hall, through my legs and into my body) I was awestruck from the first notes. Though the tempo seemed to wander a bit, the first and second movements rate as some of the most beautiful music I've heard in recent memory. The third movement left me a little lost, but the fourth movement finale ended things impressively.

Preceding that, Barber's Piano Concerto was an interesting mix of emotions -- the first movement was a, aggressive, I guess, for my tastes--it conjured the image of a composer tearing his or her hair out (perhaps ringing a little too true to my feelings in the office not long before), while the second movement stood in stark contrast with a much more somber feel, while the third movement seemed even more explosive than the first.

Opening the concert was Debussy's Prelude a "L'apres-midi d'un faune" -- catching my attention here was the syntatic difference in the program: The French version read as if it is a prelude for a work titled The Afternoon of A Faun, while the English version -- and the styling I've seen previously reads as if the title of the work is Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun. So of course I had to Google it: It is a complete work Debussy based on a poem (L'apres-midi d'un faune). I've heard this work before, but this performance was the one where I could most clearly visualize a faun enjoying a playful afternoon.