Thursday, February 24, 2011

Cleveland Orchestra:Prokofiev's Fifth Symphony

Stravinsky: Divertimento: Suite from The Fairy's Kiss
Vaskas: English Horn Concerto (Robert Walters, english* horn)
Prokofiev: Symphony No. 5 in B-flat major, Op. 100
Andrey Boreyko, conductor.

I got back into Cleveland late this morning after spending the first part of the week in Columbus. My first partial day back in the office was anything but relaxing and I was still wound up (ok, particularly wound up for those who know me) as I settled in to my seat in Severance Hall's Box 3 for tonight's concert.

While I've had a bit of a standoffish relationship with the past couple weekends of Cleveland Orchestra concerts, I had no trouble embracing this week's concert. Music intended for ballet rarely does me wrong, and opening the program with Divertimento, a suite from Stravinsky's The Fairy's Kiss continued that tradition, though on the whole it was played a bit quiet for my tastes. I'm not sure that I have a favorite movement from the piece, but you could certainly feel the dance in the piece and there were moments where the imagined choreography struck me as vividly as the music.

I have to admit some confusion about the nationality of horns -- when I saw the piece on the program, the instrument I pictured was actually a french horn; and I believe that this was the first time I've heard a solo english horn -- the instrument looks like an extended and slightly bulbous oboe more than any horn, and had a beautiful sound. The folk music second movement was my favorite and it was extremely difficult to resist the urge to do some toe-tapping, while the closely related Elegy 1 and Elegy 2 that bracketed that movement were much more reflective; perhaps a little too much so for my current mood.

Following intermission the Prokofiev's Symphony No. 5 didn't really hook me; the second movement was immediately gripping and held through the end of the piece. Though I loved the sound of the orchestra (and they more than made up for the lack of volume in the earlier pieces) the strings -- including Ms. Jones piano -- were particularly stimulating to my ear. Though the program note speaks of being "free and happy", and the piece ends with an explosive bit of triumph I didn't get the sense of being unconditionally free and happy. Nonetheless, ignoring any subtext -- merely perceived or actually -- it was a great end to the program.


*- Based on the interesting etymology and usage note in the program book, despite the voice of an English teacher screaming in agony in the back of my head, I'm adopting The Cleveland Orchestra's uncapitalized english horn usage.

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