Friday, December 3, 2010

Cleveland Orchestra: Fridays@7: Heroic Mahler

Nicolai: Overture to the Merry Wives of Windsor
Mahler: Symphony No. 1
Pinchas Steinberg, conductor
Followed by music by New York Gypsy All-Stars in the Grand Foyer

(It's not often I mention something not at a concert, but as a fan of Mr. Cohen I'm a bit disappointed that his solo in Neilsen's Clarinet Concerto, Op. 57 was omitted from the Friday@7 program...This concert was good, nay, fantastic enough that I'm having a debate with my credit card about retuning for a second helping tomorrow evening. Anyone have an extra ticket you'd care to liberate?)

There's something special about being amongst the first to sneak into the Severance Hall's beautiful main hall before a concert... While there are still fairly few musicians on stage and even fewer bodies in the hall the notes of a lone violinist warming up drift out over the empty seats to be mixed with a harp tuning. The harp fades away and then the violinist is joined by a clarinet and oboe...other musicians and their instruments begin to fill the stage and the sounds form this deliciously uncomposed, unconducted sound. As the hall opens and patrons filter in, the din of happy conversation slowly overtakes the bouquet of sounds coming from the stage, but in that brief period it is meditative, it is but a small reminder of the immense work put into the concert, and it is one of those simple joys. It is a reminder that the music we are about to hear is crafted by a hundred human hands and cannot be replaced by machine and this performance will be like no other.

Both pieces on tonight's program were stunning. The overture to The Merry Wives of Windsor was perhaps my favorite overture thus far and started with an hauntingly sustained quiet note from the first violins and was spellbinding -- the program notes that it runs about 10 minutes in performance; I was emeried, time stood still, and it seemed to end only seconds after beginning.

Mahler's Symphony 1 was likewise stunning -- more than one musician was overheard to say that it may be the best the orchestra has ever played it and I have no basis to disagree -- the first two movements were so captivating as to buoy the soul; my heart was pounding and there were moments I was afraid to breathe for fear of missing a note of wonderment. In the first movement, with the programmatic notation slow, dragging, as if spoken by nature, I could hear the birds chirping and envision a slow walk by a meandering brook; the second movement, carrying the notation, With powerful movement but not too fast, held true to that notation but was notable for an eerie burst from an instrument (I want to say bassoon) that sounded like a child crying "Pappa" (I actually had to scan the stage to see if a child had broken free!).

The third movement gently returned the soul to the body fourth movement both began and and ended with a bit of a funeral march theme. I was a bit apathetic about the first half of the fourth movement abut by the second half -- ending with the horns belting impressively while standing was nearly too much to restrain myself from erupting in applause during the movement.

Mr. Steinberg was one of those wonderful conductors who's hands left no doubt -- even to a relative neophyte such as myself in the audience -- what was expected at any given moment in the concert, and the Cleveland Orchestra once again proved its caliber and responsiveness -- not unlike a luxury sports car -- to turn and respond on a dime.

Following the fantastic concert in the main hall, the audience was treated to New York Gypsy All-Stars in the grand foyer -- a find choice -- where conversation, dancing, and general merriment mixed across patrons of all ages; from barely a teen to well into the gray hairs. A democracy of music I bumped into quite a few familiar faces, and the music was not just toe tapping but entire-body-bouncing.

I don't know what else to say... it was an amazing concert, and one of the most amazing concerts I've yet attended from the Fridays@7 series.


No comments:

Post a Comment