Saturday, January 8, 2011

Cleveland Orchestra: Dohnanyi Conducts Tchaikovsky

Widmann: Con Brio (Concert Overture for Orchestra)
Mozart: Horn Concerto No. 2 in E-flat major, K. 417 (Richard King, horn)
Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 6 ("Pathetique") in B minor, Op. 74
Christoph von Dohnanyi, conductor.

[This post was delayed and abbreviated due to a completely unrelated incident that occurred during the writing; that incident will receive its own post]

I try to consider each concert in a relative vacuum, but in this case I would be deceiving myself to claim otherwise: Being the first Cleveland Orchestra concert since the stunningly awful An Evening with Dave Brubeck (which, even considering some pretty bad stuff at the House of Blues, is a strong contender for the worst concert I've attended) I was hoping for something great but would have likely been satisfied with mediocre.

This was far from mediocre. Mr. Dohnanyi expertly guided the orchestra through three well-done pieces.

Opening the program was Widmann's Con Brio: Though I'm far completely knowledgeable about the complete classical cannon, Con Brio immediately brings to mind Beethoven and Allegro Con Brio. Other than the title, though, I didn't hear any similarities to Beethoven, what I did hear were interesting uses of instruments -- particularly in the winds and brass -- and early I heard some echos of the woodwinds in the strings that actually made me chuckle.

I should probably say now -- with my train of thought derailed by the mentioned incident -- that with a sold-out house and standing room only, I found myself in Box 16, seat F -- much further off center than I generally aim for. Being that far off on the sides can affect the sound, the even side, in my past opinion, has made the strings sound brighter than elsewhere in the hall (as a string fan, this is not necessarily a bad thing). Tonight -- probably due to both Mr. Dohnanyi's talent and the somewhat unusual staging of the orchestra with cellos and basses stage right and the second violins stage left -- the sound was exceptionally even.

Returning to the program, Mozart's Horn Concerto No. 2 was fantastically lovely; I do not know that I have ever heard the horn played as beautifully lyrically as was done tonight by Cleveland Orchestra member and soloist Richard King; the first two movements were equally lovely, but the galloping, dance like, energy of the third movement rondo found me having to strongly resist the urge to tap my feet.

Following intermission and closing out the program, Tchaikovsky's Sixth Symphony ("Pathetique") was interesting, the beginning of the first movement had a distinct funeral dirge sense to it; the following movements I found myself being hypnotized by Mr. Dohnanyi's baton. Unfortunately the more insightful remarks on both the playing and the music itself have been lost in between calling 911 and filling out the police report... suffice it to say that the orchestra redeemed itself quite well.


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