Saturday, July 23, 2011

Cleveland Orchestra: Beethoven and Shostakovich

Beethoven: Piano Concerto No. 3 in C minor, Op. 37 (Jon Kumura Parker, piano)
Shostakovitch: Symphony No. 10 in E minor, Op. 93
David Afkham, Conductor.

I've been growing concerned lately that I may be becoming prematurely jaded -- I've heard a lot of great music making, don't get me wrong, but it's been a while since I've really been mesmerized or enveloped in true musical ecstasy.

I'd be lying if I told anyone that I was looking forward to Beethoven's Piano Concerto -- the Shostakovitch symphony is ultimately what pushed me to choose tonight's program over Sunday's by a mere hair. I had, in effect, viewed it as the entree required before partaking in dessert.

From the first notes under the young Mr. Afkham's talented baton, however, I suspected I was wrong. Shortly after Mr. Parker began tickling the keys of his piano I knew I was wrong. The first movement was wonderfully crisp with no sense of timidity. I loved the theme of the movement, and was mesmerized by the dynamic control of Mr. Parker's first solo, wherein--in the open air of the Blossom pavilion--his notes faded full-force to where you could just hear the felt of the hammer gently nudge the string, scarcely making a noise. I was so captivated by the first movement that I was barely able to resist the urge for inter movement applause. Others were not so restrained. The second movement seemed much more burnished and a bit rounder for lack of a better word. The third, and final movement, rather sneaks up with only a brief pause, and seems to be the most playful of the three, though the first was my favorite.

Following intermission Shostakovitch's Symphony 10 proved a worthy successor to the Beethoven that preceded it. I've found that I rather like that composer's works, but I've never been able to put a finger on it. Reading the program notes for the Symphony I wonder if it is because, from the program notes, "His scherzos, grim and sarcastic, are not like any others" -- I'm frequently sarcastic, occasionally grim: Maybe it resonates.

The first movement was a bit slow for my tastes, but the effect of various solos sprinkled throughout, combined with rain rippling against the Blossom roof, gave me no pause in imagining someone wandering lonely through a dense forest. The second movement was quite crisp and played with impressive speed and embodying what one source describes as a "menacing portrayal of Stalin's military parades". The program note makes great deal of Stalin's musical signature in the third movement though it was not something that really triggered anything while I was listening to the piece; however, the peaceful and lingering nature stands in stark contrast to the aggressive and moving than the second movement allegro.

The concert comes to a close -- supported by the now-constant tap of rain on the Blossom pavilion roof, with timpani rolls supplemented by well placed thunder -- with a fourth movement that starts andante and finishes allegro, with the clear sound of triumph being constantly challenged by hints of the darkness that opened the fist movement.

Mr. Akfkham put on an impressive show, and I would very much enjoy the privilege of hearing him conduct again. Based on the enthusiastic response to both pieces, I don't believe that I am alone.


No comments:

Post a Comment