Saturday, December 11, 2010

Cleveland Orchestra: Christmas Concerts

(The full program is at the end of this post)

I honestly wasn't sure about the Christmas Concerts; I had this fear that being "popular music" and seasonal that they'd be rote and threadbare. That fear was quickly pushed aside with one of the finer performances I can recall of the full Cleveland Orchestra Chorus and a perfectly passioned performance by the Orchestra*. The concert opened with the most beautiful version of O Come, Emmanuel I can recall having heard and pretty much maintained that standard throughout.

While there were "standards" that you hear everywhere -- including yet another appearance of White Christmas, which I enjoyed slightly more this time around but if I don't hear it again this year or next I really won't be disappointed -- the majority of the program was fresh with a blend of well known and lesser known works, and the pacing was on the nice and quick side with the Hallelujah Chorus from Handel's Messiah seeming to edge close to the speed limit. I liked it.

Even with a slight headache and sharing the box 3 with some fidgety children** I can't point to a single piece that I didn't enjoy at least a bit, and conversely it's difficult to choose a favorite. In strong contention, though, was The Wexford Carol with Cleveland baritone Brian Keith Johnson and orchestra member Mary Kay Fink playing Isish whistle -- it was completely new to my ear. Another strong contender was Spirit of the Season from Polar Express, which paired nicely with the Suite from Polar Express in the Hollywood Movie Magic concert on Wednesday: The strings don't soar quite as high, but the voices were wonderful.

A suite of arrangements by Leroy Anderson independently nicely highlighted three major major sections of the orchestra and the chorus independently. Opening Part Two, Strauss's Overture to Die Fledermaus stood out as the only piece that's not overtly "Christmassy" and seemed to be the longest on the program -- but was nevertheless enjoyable.

Lastly but certainly not least and worthy of mention was the wonderful 'Twas the Night Before Christmas narrated by Reuben and Dorothy Silver: I didn't know that an orchestral version of the poem existed and it was certainly a pleasant insertion on the program.

So for the full program (and the program repeats, with some variations on the 12th (matinee), 17th, 18th (matinee and evening), and 19th (matinee and evening)...

Part One
Traditional: O Come, Emmanuel (arr. Parker)^
Traditional: Ding, Dong! Merrily on High (arr .Mager)
Traditional: In dulci jubilo (arr. Anderson) [Orchestra Brass only]
Traditional: O Little Town of Bethlehem (arr. Anderson) [Orchestra Strings only]
Traditional: Lo, How a Rose E'er Blooming [Chorus A Capella]
Traditional: Patapan (arr. Anderson) [Orchestra Woodwinds only]
Traditional: The Wexford Caroll (arr. Wilberg)^^
Traditional: Sussex Carol (arr. Bradford)^
Adam: O Holy Night (arr. Wilson)^^^
Traditional: O Come All Ye Faithful (arr. Willcocks)
Handel: Hallelujah chorus from Messiah.

Part Two
Strauss: Overture to Die Fledermaus^^^^
Silvestri & Ballard: Spirit of the Season^
Bass: 'Twas The Night Before Christmas^^^^^
Traditional: The Twelve Days of Christmas^
Anderson: Sleigh Ride^
Berlin: White Christmas (arr. Bass)^
One Encore.
Robert Porcco, conductor.

^- The Cleveland Orchestra and Cleveland Orchestra Chorus
^^ - Orchestra; Chorus; Brian Keath Johnson, baritone; Mary Kay Fink, Irish whistle
^^^- Orchestra; Chorus; Lyle Steelman and Michael Miller, fuegelhorns
^^^^- The Cleveland Orchestra only.
^^^^^- The Cleveland Orchestra; Reuben and Dorothy Silver, narrators.

*- Style gurus: I know the preference is for The Cleveland Orchestra (note the capital T) but when omitting Cleveland, should it be the Orchestra or The Orchestra? I have come close to loosing sleep on that question. I occasionally revel in minute detail.
** - Whose parents were quick to react without prompting, unlike the couple in Box 4 that I could hear carrying on a full-fledged conversation 3 boxes over. My death stare didn't work; it was the first time I've considered grabbing an usher during the concert.

No comments:

Post a Comment