Saturday, August 27, 2011

Cleveland Orchestra: Mozart, Mendelssohn, and More!

Mozart: Symphony No. 25 in G minor, K. 183
Bach: Violin Concerto No. 1 in A minor, BVW 1041
Handel: The King Shall Rejoice (Coronation Anthem No. 3)*
Handel: Concerto Grosso in B-flat major, Op. 3 No. 2
Mendelssohn: Verleih' uns Frieden ("Grant Us Peace")*
Mendelssohn: Hear my Prayer*, Teresa Wakim, soprano
Handel: Zadok the Priest (Coronation Anthem No. 1)*
Nicolas McGegan, Conductor.
*- With the Blossom Festival Chorus, Lisa Wong, Assistant Director of Choruses

Settling in to my seat this evening I wasn't sure what to expect from tonight's program of Baroque. When Mr. McGegan took the podium I wasn't sure what to expect from him: The back of his head and his body language taking the podium seemed like he might be, ahem, I don't think there's a polite way to put this: Crusty old conductor.

That possibility, though, quickly passed as Mr. McGegan launched into the energetic Allegro con Brio first movement of Mozart's Symphony No. 25 with his own ball of energy. Unfortunately, while discouraging inter-movement applause (thankfully missing at this concert) it seems the orchestra has started a practice of inserting an interminable delay between the first and second movements of the first piece on the program for the purpose of seating latecomers. This practice is, in actuality, far more disruptive to the enjoyment of a piece than inter movement applause as it cleaves the first movement from the remainder of the piece and eliminates any sense of cohesiveness. It took me much of the second movement to return to the proper frame of mind, just in time to catch a playful shrug from Mr. McGegan to the violists at the end of that movement.

Cleveland Orchestra member and Principal Second Violin Stephen Rose joined the orchestra this evening as soloist in Bach's Violin Concerto No. 1 and delivered musical bliss. For the first and third movements I was gripped by both the musical and literal image of a dance: Mr. Rose would push in and Mr. McGegan would pull back; then they'd pull together. During the third movement I had to stifle incipient laughter after a few of Mr. McGegan's gestures--beyond the whole-body movement I had noticed earlier--looked like something from Baroque-era dance.

My favorite movement, from the evening, however, was the second movement of the violin concerto: In advance of the Orchestra's 9/11 Concert on Public Square the Orchestra is asking for the public to submit Images of Peace: I merely had to let my eyes flutter closed for the acoustical image of peace with Mr. Rose's lyrical violin over a persistent theme from the orchestra. Not to mention inspiration for my continued practice on the instrument*

Following intermission The Cleveland Orchestra was joined by the Blossom Festival Chorus and while the chorus sounded great generally, I didn't feel a strong attraction to The King Shall Rejoice, Verleth' uns Frieden, or Hear my Prayer. While I expected, given my ADD** tendencies, to enjoy the to-the-point and quick moving Concerto Grosso it largely passed sans notice--except for the beautiful sound from the cellos in the second movement.

Closing out the program, Zadok the Priest, used for every English coronation since George II in 1727, drew out the power of the chorus's collective voice along with an emphatic orchestra proclaiming "God save the king! Long live the king! May the king live forever! Amen, alleluia!" was certainly a triumphant way to end the evening's concert.

*- Eighteen months into it, I still occasionally produce noises more similar to a New York City traffic jam than music. Thankfully, those occasions are becoming fewer in number.
** - Officially, ADHD, but I've never really gotten the "hyperactive" part of that.

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