Thursday, May 12, 2011

Cleveland orchestra: Franz Welser-Most Conducts Bruckner's Fifth

Berg: Violin Concerto (Julia Fischer, violin)
Bruckner: Symphony No. 5 in B-flat Major
Franz Welser-Most, Conductor

I found myself at Severance Hall tonight rather than my normal Saturday concert evening because my dad is coming into town for to celebrate my 27th birthday on Saturday -- and as yet I've not been successful in convincing him to visit Severance Hall or hear the Cleveland Orchestra (though I have succeeded in getting him to Blossom at least once).

After a long day in the office -- with a few, ahem, challenging discussions with clients -- it was nice to arrive at the hall and start to settle in (birthday wishes from the box office, of course, made the settling in that much nicer). Once at my seat I found that I was sharing the box with another mid-May birthday and several people I've met before and seen often.

The concert began with Alban Berg's Violin Concerto, and the program note declares that "This is music that refuses to confirm to the stereotype that atonality despises beauty, that its mood is one of unrelieved angst". While I wouldn't begin to call it "ugly" or say that the angst is completely unrelieved, but I can't say that I'd call it beautiful nor angst-free. In the first movement I was struck by the feeling of a struggle between Ms. Fischer's solo as an individual, and the remainder of the orchestra as society. (Interestingly, according to the program note, around this time Mr. Berg's works and atonal music had been decreed a "musical communism" by the Nazi party) The second movement turned more mournful and seemed to be a struggle angst the self, with an Ms. Fischer playing to and with the Concertmaster as the remainder of the section violins folded in.

Following intermission, I had a hard time really sinking into the first two movements of Bruckner's 5th -- while demonstrating the Cleveland Orchestra's impressive dynamic range (during the quiet moments the breathing of the person in the next box over was literally louder than the sum of the barely audible but still musical orchestra) the slow portions of these two movements seemed timid and lethargic, though the faster portions displayed no such hesitation.
In the second movement I found myself amused by some humorous notes given to the flute but ominously echoed elsewhere. The third movement, a scherzo, was my favorite of the evening with no timidity and beautiful flow. I particularly enjoyed the soaring strings of this movement, before returning to a somewhat less lethargic feeling in the finale before concluding on a bold blast.


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