Wednesday, April 13, 2011

CIM Orchestra @ Severance Hall: Kabalevsky/Prokofiev/Tchaikovsky

Kabalevsky: Overture to Colas Breugnon, The master of Clamecy, Op. 24
Prokofiev: Sinfonia Concertante for Cello and Orchestra in E Minor, Op. 129 (Matthew Allen, cello)
Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 4 in F Minor, Op. 36
Carl Topilow, conductor.

A friend joined me for her second visit to Severance Hall and her second time with the CIM Orchestra (no, the two did not share, the same first time) with this evening's Cleveland Institute of Music concert in Severance Hall. Making our way up to the Dress Circle and settling in shortly before the concert's 8pm start time, I wasn't sure what to expect from an evening of Russian music. My high expectations for CIM students were not let down and -- despite a rather noticeable cold air draft -- my friend enjoyed herself.

Opening the program with a composer that neither of us had heard of, Mr. Topilow wasted no time between taking the podium and launching into Dimitri Kabalevsky's speedy overture. It struck me as romantic, richly textured and climatic...oh and did I say fast paced? Though I didn't conjure any images along the ride, I can think of few reasons not to call this my favorite of the evening--by a bow hair. Overtures rarely do my short-by-nature attention span wrong, and this was no exception.

The middle piece, Prokofiev's Sinfonia Concertante was quite a departure from the overture that preceded it being quite a bit slower and less to-the-point, perhaps demonstrating CIM students' turn-on-a-dime versatility. Though I can't point to a specific measure, the first movement (andante) seemed a painting where the Matthew Allen's cello was the
crystal clear sharply-focused foreground and the orchestra was a diffused background.
In the second movement (allegro giusto), on the other hand, the cello stuck me as an artist struggling against the majority represented by the orchestra, overcoming, and eventually joining. The third movement, by contrast, didn't seem to create a story in my mind.

Closing out the program was Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 4. In listening to this piece in its entirety it seems unmistakably from the hand of Tchaikovsky. Perhaps because I had ballet on the mind (my friend and I were discussing the Celesta used in the Prokofiev piece, and also used by Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker) or perhaps from the sheer lyrical nature of the music it was very easy to -- and very difficult not to -- imagine dance choreographed to this music*. While I couldn't imagine a storyline or protagonist/antagonist relationship as I tend to do, the movement of imaginary dancers was crystal clear.

The third movement scherzo featured extensive use of pizzicato, a technique I rather enjoy when done properly -- and it was done properly. On the other hand, my friend commented, and I have to agree that the brass during the quite climatic ending of the fourth movement seemed a little too loud compare to the rest of the orchestra. But it was still a wonderful piece.

*- A resident professional ballet company is, to the best of my knowledge, one of the few performing arts forms lacking in Cleveland.

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