Saturday, April 2, 2011

Cleveland Orchestra: Gutierrez Plays Rachmaninoff

Beethoven: Allegretto from Symphony No. 7
Haydn: Symphony No. 96 ("Miracle") in D major
Rachmaninoff: Piano Concerto No. 2 in C minor, Op. 18 (Horacio Guitierrez, piano)
Dvorak: Symphony No. 7 in D minor, Op. 70
Jiri Belohlavek, conductor

Something felt off -- not just off, but very off -- about tonight's concert. I can't put my finger on it but the je ne sais qois was missing.

The concert started with the Allegretto (second) movement from Beethoven's Symphony No. 7 in tribute to the survivors and those who lost their lives in the Japanese tsunami and earthquake; the program requested a moment of silence at the conclusion of the movement. The music was stirringly soulful, and time seemed to stand still as a respectful silence enveloped the hall. Time resumed when Mr. Belohlavek stepped off the podium and the silence was broken by the first tentative applause.

Sandwiched between the Beethoven and Rachmaninoff, Haydn's Symphony 96 ("Miracle") felt insubstantial and superficial -- and like an odd programming choice.

Rachmaninoff's second piano concerto returned to the soulful feeling of the Beethoven and it was delightful to watch Mr. Gutierrez's fingers on the keyboard. The program note -- written by a name that I don't recognize -- reference to Rachmaninoff's "composers block" and how, on turning to professional help, "heard the same hypnotic formula repeated day after day..." and this piece had its hypnotic tendencies.

Closing out the program was Dvorak's Symphony No. 7. I have to day that I was a bit let down. I consider Dvorak one of my favorite composers -- and perhaps my favorite in the "true classical" sense -- with Symphony No. 9 ("From the New World") being one of my favorite symphonic works -- but this didn't sound like other Dvorak pieces I've heard. While there were some swells in the second and fourth movements where the strings sung, I generally wasn't captivated.


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