Saturday, October 29, 2011

Cleveland Museum of Art: Schola Cantorum de Venezuela (Viva & Gala)(@ClevelandArt)

If it seems like many of the recent posts have revolved around the Cleveland Museum of Art it may because of how accessible -- both physically and psychologically -- the institution is--and how much there is going on at any given time . Tonight I had driven to the Museum to find Rachel in the galleries, but when I walked into the North lobby I bumped into Tom Welsh, the museum's Associate Director of Music, who had asked if I was planning on attending the concert.

"Concert? Tonight?" I asked momentarily confused and he mentioned the Schola Cantorum de Venezuela -- a Venezuelan choir. Not knowing if Rachel would be up for it I didn't commit, but when I found her hiding in "A Passion for Prints: The John Bonebrake Donation" she was also interested so we made our way back to the lobby.

I initially confused the ticket seller by asking for "two tickets" -- For what, she needed to know: The film, The lecture, The exhibition, The Choir. Confusion resolved and tickets in hand we found or way up to our seats on the balcony. My first time up there, I was interested to see how it would compare: While it offers a great vantage point, I felt a bit emotionally distant from the performers on stage.

The program assembled by the Schola Cantorum de Venezuela -- hailing from a country as known for its musical culture as anything else -- came in two parts: Aqua (Water) and Fiesta (well...Fiesta) with the Fiesta generally bolder and a bit more lively.

While I'm generally attracted to sharp contrasts, in Agua the subtle variations in texture from piece to piece and between voices within a piece were mesmerising, and the relative even keel of that half of the program created the perfect mood for some quality meditation. Cloudburst, "a ceremony, a celebration of the unleshed kinetic energy in all things" was a favorite the program with bold statements performers and the perfect vocal representation of rain (along with support from a handful of instruments). In the next piece, Binnamma, the rise and fall of voices sounded like the ebb and flow of waves. Closing out the first half, Yemaya, with soloists Paul Sojo, Javier Silva, and Victor Gonzalez, was a very light, happy, and moving choral piece and was my favorite from the first half of the program.

After intermission the show resumed with Primavera Portena from Las Cuatro Estaciones (Spring in Buenos Aires from The Four Seasons) with the program note that "the four tangos that comprise The Four Seasons are instrumental and in this program, the chior [sang] them with instrumental accompaniment." -- of course, a fiesta should start with a tango! Mule Rendeira (Lacemaker Woman) with percussion was hypnotic and rythmic. Cerezo Rosa (cha cha cha) was a lively dance, and all of the other pieces in the program were likewise lively and enjoyable. I'd be remiss to not mention Besame Muchowith the translated lyrics "Kiss me, kiss me much...", Son de la Lomay (They are from the Hill) with a good rhythm and, to borrow a lyric "con suis trovas fascinates que me las quiero aprender" [and I want to learn their fascinating rhythm].

The program ended with Nuestra Navidades (Our Christmas) including a bit of an audience sing along and concluding with a true fiesta on stage -- including a couple who had been dancing in the aisle joining the chior.


Part I: Aqua
Calcano: Evohe (Text: Planchart; Venezuela)
Castellanos: Al Mar anochecido (To the sea in twilight) (Text: Jimenez; Venezuela)
Whitacre: Cloudburst (Text: Paz; USA)
Golijov: From Oceana (Text: Neruda; Argentina)
A. Grau: Binnamma (Spain/Venezuela)
G. Grau: From Aqua (Text: Palacios; Venezuela) [Cancion de los rapidos remeros (Song of the Rowers); Yemaya

Part II: Fiesta
Piazzolla: From Las Cuatro Estaciones (The Four Seasons) (Arr. Escalada; Argentina) [Primavera Portena (Spring in Buenos Aries)]
Brazilian Folk Song: Muile Rendiera (Lacemaker Woman) (Arr. Fonseca; Brazil)
Lopez-Gavilan: Mambo que rico e (Mambo, how nice it is) (Cuba)
Ruffino: Cerezo Rosa (cha cha cha) (Arr. Alvarado; Cuba/Vinezuela)
Frometa: Toy Contento (Arr. Sauce; Venezuela)
Zapata: El Menciona'o (The Named One) (Arr. Ruiz; Venezuela)
Velazquez: Besame Mucho (Arr. A. Grau; Mexico)
Matamoros: Son de la Loma (They are From the Hill) (Arr. A. Grau; Cuba)
Galindez: La Arestinga (Arr. A. Grau; Venezuela)
Barros: Engo una forma mas (I have another way) (Arr. Raga; Cuba)
Rojas: Nuestras Navidades (Our Christmas) (Venezuela)


Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Cleveland Museum of Art: Bulletin of the Museum 1950- (@ClevelandArt)

I had planned on attending a facility recital at the Cleveland Institute of Music tonight, but when I got over to University Circle I couldn't find a parking space, so I returned home. My Grandmother sent a collection of things from my late grandfather -- including a publication dating from 1911 -- which reminded me it's been a little while since the last installment of my Bulletin of the Cleveland Museum of Art retrospective. The complete series, starting with an issue from 1915, can be found here.

September 1950. Thirty-Seventh Year. Number Seven. This bulletin, with a cover featuring a picture of smiling children in the "Junior Museum" is virtually entirely a schedule of events, including "Free Entertainments" for young people Saturday Afternoons at 2:00pm "These programs will consist of films, music, plays, marionette shows, and illustrated talks. Children under six not admitted; adults not admitted until 2.00p.m., and only if seats are available. For a monthly calendar of these events, apply to the Educational Department".

On October 13, Harry Fuchs, a cellist who's name was instantly recognizable and who served the Cleveland Orchestra for nearly 40 years (including the Principal and Assistant Principal chairs) presented a cello recital, and a series of lectures, films, and chamber music  presents a full schedule. Walter Blodgett, Curator of the Department of Musical Arts, continues a series of weekly informal organ recitals

January 1954. Forty First-Year. Number One. A two-year gap exists in my collection of bulletins, but in the centerfold of this issue proves interesting in light of the current Fu Baoshi exhibition: Rocks Orchids and Bamboo, a 1952 acquisition, credited to Shih-t'ao, Chinese from the 1600s. Accompanying the piece, a note, authored by Sherman E. Lee -- four years before being appointed as Director of the museum--an appointment some credit for the museum's tall stature today. That note includes a quote from the artist "I am always myself and must naturally be present in my work. The beards and eyebrows of the old masters cannot grow on my face. The lungs and bowels (thoughts and feelings) of the old masters cannot be transferred into my stomach (mind)."

February, 1954. Forty-First Year. Number Two: Part One.  The Library -- before it adopted the Ingalls name -- is declared to have become a "mine of information" with the acquisition of 29 of the then 36 "coveted volumes of the Old Series of Jahrbuch der kunsthistorischen sammlungen des allerhochsten kaiserhauses. [Google Translate is saying Yearbook of the Art Historical Collections of the Imperial House] The first volume appeared in Vienna in 1883 and the publication is still continued in the New Series". Googling, I can't determine if the New Series is still being extended. The Library is also proud of its acquisition of a complete set of the Societe francaise d'archeologie, published since 1834 "and still in full force". It was still in full force in 1954 and it's still in full force -- now online -- in 2011 with volume 169.

Museum Membership stands at 4,549.

April, 1956. Fourty-Third Year. Number Four. The current renovation and expansion project is not the Museum's first, as this issue opens with photos of the progress and "The progress of the new wing of the Museum is increasingly evident with the erection of the greater part of the steal framework. Only the sections where it will join the present building remain to be set in place" -- It continues, with words that can be taken to heart with the complete enclosure of the new Atrium and West Wing today -- "From now on the progress will be far less evident. On a monumental building such as this, the setting in place of the granite walls [...] and other interior equipment will be at best a lengthy process"

The membership has jumped considerably with a long list of new names and a total membership of 5,902.

September 1956. Forty-Third Year. Number Seven. The cover of this has photos of the 1958 Building -- now demolished -- well under construction, but is otherwise a schedule of events for the next quarter, and nothing particularly notable was noted. It is worth noting though the a subtle evolution in the typesetting was noticed leafing through this issue.

February 1957. Forty-Fourth Year. Number Two: Part Two. More pictures grace the cover of this issue, showing the West Section of the 1958 building connecting to the 1916 building. Now demolished, the land that this building sat on will soon become the "Living Room" of the Museum -- the magnificent new atrium. Again, though, the issue is entirely a schedule of events -- and one that seems to be thinning, perhaps in anticipation of...

April 1957. Forty-Fourth Year. Number Four. "THE CLOSING OF THE MUSEUM" proclaims a headline on the last page of this issue, "The Museum closed to the public on April 1. This decision   was in part necessary because of the plans to re-adapt the present building to new and changed uses, but it was caused by the impossibility of protecting and safeguarding the collections without proper air conditioning and dust control." Further, "During the period the Museum is closed, the Library will continue its services in the Department of Slides and Photographs. However, the borrowers will have to indicate their needs by telephone and the slides or photographs desired can be called for at a new temporary entrance at the West End of the New Wing." and "The public will have no access whatsoever to the building when it is closed."

It concludes with this note from then-Director  William M. Milliken that echos today: "The sacrifices that must be made during the period of transition will be met, one is sure, in the same generous spirit which has marked every relationship between the public and the Museum. The date of completion is not far distant [...]"

During this time, the Museum has encamped at the "Old Art School" on Juniper Drive. While I haven't been able to determine the precise location though this item from the Cleveland Memory Project indicates the intersection of Juniper and Magnolia Drives; if so, that facility -- even that intersection -- is now buried under a Case Western Reserve University Student Residential Village.

With this post turning wordy... I'll save the rest of the 1950s for next time.


Sunday, October 23, 2011

M.U.S.i.C: Classical Cabaret Program No. 4

Sarasate: Romanza Andaluza #^%
Gustavino:  La Rosa y el Sauce, Jardin de Amores, Nana del Nino Malo, Elegia, Gerografia Fiscia 
Ginastera: Pampeana No. 2, Op. 21^ª
Ginastera: Cinco canciones populares argentinas: Chacarera, Triste, Zamba, Arrorro, Gato^²
Albeniz: Leyenda ^%³
Shchedrin: A la Alveniz (arr. Dokshizer)^%³
Cristancho: Jose Morales Bambucco¹
Calvo: Arabesque¹
Granados: Intermezzo (from Goyescas)
Bizet: Ouvre ton coeur^§
Weil: Youkali^§
Piazzolla: Historie du Tango-Bordel 1900-Cafe 1930-Nightclub 1960#¤

#- Iryna Krechkovsky, violin; ^-Javier Gonzalez, piano; %- Gina Petrella, castanets; §-Gabriela Martinez, soprano; ª-Marlene Ballena, cello; ²-Miguel Amaguana, tenor; ³-Josh Rzepka, trumpet; ¹-Felepe Calle, piano; ¤- Gideon Whitehead, guitar.

Something I've often wondered--but been afraid to ask out loud--is with the plethora of music world-class conservatories in Northeast Ohio (The Cleveland Institute of Music, Oberlin, and Baldwin-Wallace to name just the first three that come to mind) what happens to the talented students immediately after graduation.

M.U.S.i.C (Musical Upcoming Stars in the Classics) answers that question by providing paid performance opportunities for those upcoming artists. Though I had not previously heard of M.U.S.i.C (their website can be found here), Artistic Director Jodi Kanter invited me to this concert at the Hanna Perkins Center in Shaker Heights. Being perpetually amazed at the variety of arts outlets in Northeast Ohio -- I gladly accepted, though I didn't know what to expect.

First, the venue, a gym/auditorium at the Hanna Perkins Center in Shaker Heights (originally built as the Malvern School) has been gloriously preserved/maintained/restored -- building oozes 1930s details, but lacks any hint of accumulated dirt or grime to dull the services. before the performance I had some doubts about the acoustic sanity of performing in a gym, but as it turns out the room was satisfactory: Drinks and light snacks were available before, during intermission, and after the concert and the feel was generally very laid back -- it was certainly one of the most social groups I've attended a concert with.

Though I found the second half of the program more compelling than the last half, the first half wasn't without its highlights, I particularly enjoyed Papeana No. 2, Op. 21 and the interplay between cello and piano: While at times the two instruments seemed to exist in separate spheres, at others the two seemed to be chasing each other. On the other hand, Albeniz's Leyenda seemed rather rough around the edges...but Mr. Rzepka's trumpet aptly recovered in the following A la Albeniz which struck me as something you might enjoy in a smokey cafe.

The musicians returned after intermission offering a lively piano for Jose Morales Bambucco, then another great performance from cellist Marlene Ballena who;s impassioned and energetic Intermezzo from Goyescas evolved into a slow embrace and I think was my favorite piece of the evening. Closing out the program Piazzolla's Hustorie du Tango stopped at three scenes: A 1900 Bordel, a 1930 cafe and a 1960 Nightclub and provided colorful tones throughout; my favorite (and I think the most lively) was the 1960 Nightclub which echoed the traditions established in the prior scenes but took things up a notch and included Ms. Krechkovsky playing behind the bridge among other novel techniques.

The next concert is scheduled for December 4th as their 4th Annual Hotel Brunch/Concert, with time, location, and program to be announced.


Tri-C Presents: Daniel Bernard Roumain (DBR): Symphony for the Dance Floor

I don't think I've ever actually attended a Tri-C Presents event before...and I'm not entirely sure how I wound up on their mailing lists... but when I saw the mailing for Daniel Bernard Roumain's, also known as DBR, Symphony for the Dance Floor, I was instantly intrigued.

When I first looked at the dates I thought it was last weekend -- which was already booked solid by the time I saw the event -- but Rachel pointed out that it was actually this weekend, and with the Orchestra in Europe my Saturday evening was thankfully open -- and we took the opportunity to visit Tri-C's Metro Campus.

Though sparsely attended Mr. Roumain gave a dazzling performance that tickled every sense except smell. Blending classical (Mr. Roumain plays a 5-stringed violin) hip hop (Lord Jamar serves as both MC and DJ)and who knows how many other traditions of music, dance, and verbal and visual storytelling traditions. Via the program note, DBR relates the inspiration for the work came from the tragedy of the Haitian earthquake: "As a composer, my initial thought was to create some large, solemn requiem for Haiti. But as a Haitian-composer, I realized that would be wrong. What was needed was apiece that was vibrant, moving and alive!"

The staging was unique and the first sign that we were in for something different: The majority of the audience was seated on stage, facing each other, with a narrow "runway" of sorts covered in Marley separating the two halves.

The end result certainly all of those. Though some symphonic techniques were clearly recognizable -- like the fast-slow-scherzo-fast structure of the movements, others were completely foreign: The work begins with the DJ scratching before DBR begins playing. When DBR takes the stage, he isn't anchored to one spot. But this isn't the typical "strolling violinist": While he's playing with vigor to successfully challenge any soloist, he's also contorting into unusual positions: Playing with the scroll of the violin touching the floor; having a dancer hang off his elbow or his waist...or stand on his back...while he is playing and not missing a note.

The bass of the notes (and the beat) makes their way up into your body via the stage floor. The piece is roughly equal parts Mr. Roumain alone on stage (but never alone musically -- a variety of pre-recorded and sampled music keeps him able company) dance, and choir: A brief video clip and photos of Haitians round out the visual portion of a show that stops just shy of sensory overload. A few notes of Beethoven make their appearance (with Lord Jamar filling a role as conductor)

The audience is fully engaged as well: There was enough rhythmic clapping that at the end of the performance my hands were a bit sore; the involuntary toe tapping persisted throughout: Near the climatic conclusion ended with much of the audience flooding the strange and creating a scene indistinguishable from a night club center stage, and as impressively, Mr. Roumain playing a few notes on his violin using his tongue.

The final result was a work that was very much alive and both explored and celebrated the worlds of music, dance, hip hop, perception, video, and photography. Not to mention some very catchy sounds -- Though I rarely purchase music from venues other than iTunes, I had no hesitation to pick up the CD on my way out -- and based on what I heard on the ride home, it is an authentic, if somewhat flat, representation of the music of the show. But you really need to see, hear, and feel it to get the full effect.


Friday, October 21, 2011

Cleveland Museum of Art: Fu Baoshi Young Professionals Night (@ClevelandArt)

The Young Professionals Event tonight at the Cleveland Museum of Art is one of those odd events where it came to my attention not through a single channel but through seemingly every vehicle I pay even the slightest bit of attention to. Needless to say, I was rather intrigued by the opportunity and was excited to "give it a whirl" so to speak.

Rachel was working at the museum tonight so after we were both finished with work for the day  we met in the galleries when we were both finished and killed some time in medieval and contemporary before making it back to the reception. The reception was quiet but well attended -- an interesting mix of people I know and museum staffers I recognized and completely new faces.

The reception featured Chinese takeout containers and deserts (I'm proud to say that I held my own with chopsticks, but Rachel had me firmly beat in that category). Also at the reception a supply of paper, ink, and brushes where you could try your hands at Fu Baoshi's techniques. Once again Rachel's artistic side had a chance to shine.

At 7PM, though, the most interesting -- and unexpected -- part of the evening began. Curator Anita Chung gave a guided tour of the exhibition, relating Mr. Baoshi's art -- both subject matter and techniques to the political and social climate which existed in China throughout his career, and his struggle to remain relevant (and not have his art appear elitist) after the rise of communism. Ms. Chung's enlightening presentation as we strolled through the exhibition also touched on the differences between Western and Chinese art: Where Western art tends to show things from a fixed perspective, Chinese frequently shows the subject over a period of time; where Western is quick to reject and adopt traditions (think all of the "isms") where Chinese has a very long tradition that isn't (or at least wasn't) readily rejected.

Ms. Chung was understandably very excited about her exhibition and her detailed (and far from boring) tour gave en excellent overview and things that will certainly help to appreciate the exhibition when I return to peruse it at my (our) own pace.

(as a side note today was Rachel and my septamensiversary)


Wednesday, October 19, 2011

CIM Orchestra: CIM@Severance - Daughtery, Stravinsky, Ravel

Daugherty: Red Cape Tango from the Metropolis Symphony (1988-93)
Stravinsky: Violin Concerto in D Major (Emily Nebel, Violin)
Ravel: Daphnis et Chloé Suites Nos. 1 and 2
Carl Topilow, conductor
at Severance Hall, Cleveland

For the second time in relatively recent history Rachel and I found ourselves at Severance Hall, not for a Cleveland Orchestra concert (they're currently touring Europe, leaving me a bit envious) but for the able Cleveland Institute of Music Orchestra -- the second in their series of free concerts at Severance Hall.

We were seated at about 3 o'clock in the house -- the furthest house right I've been in Severance and I was a bit concerned about what the sound would be (previously, I've noted in that in Box 16 the violins sound particularly strong compared to boxes 1-12, and I was wondering if that would intensify further afield -- it doesn't) but I was also interested by the view afforded -- virtually straight on to the violinists and over-the-shoulder for the cellists.

The program opened with Michael Daugherty's Red Cape Tango, which playful and remained my favorite from the evening. Starting with a horn call echoed off-stage by an instrument that could have just as easily been miles away, then each principal slowly built before arriving at a full-bodied and delicious dance. That dance is interesting, but periodically and chaotically interrupted for varying--and significant periods of time--at one point a an amusingly sour trombone note is answered by solo violin.

Next up on the program was Stravinsky's Violin Concerto. Stravinsky and I haven't been having the best run of late. Tonight's performance, with Emily Nebel playing the solo violin part, was infinitely more enjoyable than the Agnon heard just five days ago, but it still left me more than a little wanting, and the general mood was more depressing than not (the emotions I associated with each movement were "Restrained Excitement"--"Melancholy"--"Crying Woman"--"Lively"). The fourth movement, Capriccio, was my favorite from the piece both with the generally more lively disposition and some particularly impressive playing from Ms. Nebel -- not the least of which was a bit of ricochet.

After intermission the program finished with Suites 1 and 2 from Ravel's Daphnis et Chloe, each consisting of three movements played without pause. The first suite, Nocturne--Interlude--Danse Guerriere, was indisputably nocturnal and lingered in that mood with a few erie overtones, and a wind machine, until an explosive and slightly jarring arrival at the Danse Guerriere. The second suite, Daybreak--Pantomime--General Dance, begin with the musical equivalent of a slowly rising sun, complete with a twinkling harp and happily chirping birds. The energy of daybreak gave way to a midday siesta, before winding up with a light dance led by flute and sting pizzicato.


Saturday, October 15, 2011

Cleveland Museum of Art: Chinese Art in an Age of Revolution: Fu Baoshi (1904–1965)

The Cleveland Museum of Art's next exhibition, Chinese Art in an Age of Revolution: Fu Baoshi (1904–1965), opens to the public tomorrow; tonight was the Member's Reception and Preview Party. The exhibition is mounted as a retrospective on the life and work of Chinese painter Fu Baoshi.

Coming on the heels of The Lure of Painted Poetry I was a bit skeptical about another Asian show so quickly -- but walking through the the exhibition it was an interesting comparison: While Lure was traditional Japanese, Fu Baoshi's work was well centered in the 1900s, the techniques are instantly identifiable. The scenes depicted in Mr. Baoshi's works, however, are full of more resonant and relatable messages, both political and of daily life. While a telephone poll would have been anachronistic in the ealier show, it is gracefully incorporated into a hillside scene here.

The reception seemed particularly well attended and it was great to see so many people giving such an enthusiastic reception -- particularly enjoyed bumping into a number of people I know -- however the sheer size of the crowd made it a bit difficult to fully absorb the art or to fully understand the timeline within which Mr. Baoshi's work developed -- but that information is there and we plan to make a return visit soon when we can spend a bit more time in a little bit more quiet with the art.

As with Lure, the detail of the paper scrolls on which the works were painted was almost as captivating in some ways as the art itself. The art, meanwhile is largely monochromatic, with hints of color -- primarily red, but the occasional blue and green. The scarcity with which they are used makes it that much more impactful.

Taking a step back, before we walked into the exhibition hall, the catering was, as usual themed for the exhibition, and this time delightfully included a variety of options for the less adventurous (or more picky) eaters amongst us. After indulging in light food, we entered Gartner Auditorium where Director David Franklin (approaching his one-year anniversary with the how time flies) introduced the two representatives from the Nanjing Museum, the major source of lent works for this exhibition -- Mr. Zhang Min, Vice Director of Academic Committee and Mr. Wan Xinhua, Vice Curator of Department of Art Research and Fu Baoshi specialist. Curator of Chinese Art, Anita Chung provided an excited -- and animated -- introduction to an exhibition she was clearly proud of.


Friday, October 14, 2011

Cleveland Orchestra: Fridays@7 - Bolero

Stravinsky: Agon (complete ballet score)
Tchaikovsky: Violin Concerto in D minor, Op. 35 (Nikolaj Znaider, violin)
Ravel: Bolero
Franz Welser-Most, conductor
(Post-concert entertainment by PolkaFest with the Eddie Rodick Orchestra and Hoedown with Back Porch Swing Band and square dance caller Larry Ward)

Last season my work (i.e. the thing that pays for my concert habit) travel schedule prevented me from taking advantage of the Fridays@7 series; I was interested to attend again this season, and brought Rachel to the hall with me this evening.

The Cleveland Orchestra's portion of the program tonight was varied in tone, texture, era, and reception. Unfortunately, the tone-setting piece for the concert was one of the most disappointing pieces I've heard the orchestra play. While Stravinsky's Agon, the score for a ballet with original choreography by Balanchine  was interesting -- and it was certainly easy to visualize the physical dance related to each movement (as described in the program note), but without dance there wasn't really anything musically compelling, let alone captivating about the piece. The program introduction refers to the piece as a "masterful work of modern angles" -- if that is the case, there were too few lines. From the unusually light and overly polite applause meeting the piece it was clear that I was not alone.

(As an aside, given the post concert entertainment, it seems Copland's Appalachian Spring would have been a better fit...and a composer much less known to the orchestra)

It took much of the first movement of Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto to wash away Agnon. One critic early in the concerto's life declared that it "stank to the ear" - but that was not the case as Mr. Znaider's impassioned playing sparkled from the first notes. Rachel mentioned that it frequently seems to her that soloists are trying too hard, where tonight Mr. Znaider felt at ease... I can't say I've noticed the trend, but it is undeniable that he was at ease. His playing was so well received that he was accorded not one but two standing ovations: The first after the first movement nearly as enthusiastic at that at the conclusion. I enjoyed the echos and variations on echos that occurred between orchestra and soloist; I don't recall them being so clear the last time I heard this piece)

Rounding out the program and my uncontroverted favorite from the evening, although it was the least complex musically, was Ravel's Bolero. The steady rat of the snare drum began so quietly that it was barely noticeable -- I think the first few notes (along with a light pizzicato from the cellists) were lost among the subdued rustling of concertgoers -- it grew in intensity throughout the piece, as the 13 variations bounced around the orchestra's instruments and likewise grew in intensity and, it seemed persistence.

Following the concert, it was odd to step out from the box level it was a little odd and surreal to hear the sounds of a square dance caller in the Severance foyer, and it was fun to watch in the beginning, but unlike previous concerts where the post-entertainment was largely organic, this felt forced: Much of the lobby floor was occupied by professional dancers with attendees crammed around the edges; and then it took on more of the flavor of dance than fun causing the audience to think quite quickly. More fun and a bit more relaxed -- though with similar space issues, PolkaFest with the Eddie Rodick Orchestra offered lively polka to which Rachel and I closed out the evening watching.


Wednesday, October 12, 2011

CityMusic Cleveland: Beethoven/Ligeti/Dvorak

Beethoven: Leonore Overture No. 3
Ligeti: Concerto Romanesc (Romanian Concerto for Orchestra)
Dvorak: Cello Concerto in B minor, Op. 104 (Jan Vogler, cello)
Ryan McAdams, conductor.
at Fairmout Presbyterian Church, Cleveland Heights

It seems that without fail CityMusic Cleveland's concerts are on days -- even complete weeks -- where by the time I find out about the concert I'm already committed to another obligation. It was looking like this would be another one of those missed concerts until yesterday when my trip to Columbus was postponed, so carpe concert!

CityMusic Cleveland is somewhat unique in that they are a chamber orchestra -- smaller than a symphonic orchestra, with a bit more intimate feeling. Nomadic,  they play each program in several venues throughout Greater Cleveland, with a specific emphasis on neighborhoods may be overlooked by other programs. And the concerts are offered without admission charge (with a free-will offering collection).

The concert opened with Beethoven's Lenore Overture No. 3; as the program note observes, Beethoven only wrote one opera, but he wrote the opera a total of three times with four overtures. This was not the "final" version, cast aside: Listening to the overture it's easy to understand at least some of the reasons why: a great piece of music, it doesn't really create the excitement and anticipation that typifies an overture. Though I'm not familiar with the opera, based on the program note Overture No. 3 also acts as a spoiler, giving away too much of the plot. Musically, the beginning seemed overly dark and dramatic introduction that gave way to a brighter mood. A particular highlight, the two episodes of distant trumpets signaling a rescue were beautifully clear...and distant.

Second on the program, Ligeti's Concert Romanesc was interoduced by Mr. McAdams -- who seemed particularly at ease condicting this orchestra -- with the warning that some of the horn notes may sound a bit sour, but this was intentional and not the result of someone going off their meds. Banned by Soviet censors, some twenty years elapsed since the piece's single rehersal in 1951 and first public performance in 1971. This was my favorite from the program, with a sweet cello sound and a generally meandering and longing tone in the first movmenent, an excited  declaration and commentary in the second movment, before returning to slow and melancholy third movment. But if the Ligeti was my favorite piece, the fourth movement was my favorite movement -- with an interesting earie sound rising from the strings at the beginning of the movmenent, and sounds that were undeniably rooted in folk music.

Finishing the program, Dvorak's Cello Concerto, perhaps the most anticicpiated: Dvorak is one of my favorite composers and the cello is one of my favorite instruments. This is the third time I've heard this piece -- previously with The Clevleand Orchestra and with the CIM Orchestra. Tonight, the opening bars from the CityMusic orchestra once again evoked a feeling of familiarity and relationship to the composer's From the New World, but my inital thought was that the voice of Mr. Vogler's cello solo was a bit odd, but that feeling dimished as the work progressed and the instrument truly began to sing under his bow. The piece as played to night had a general feeling of melancholy and searching for something that was not to be found--though the musical sun made appearances from behind the clouds, and when it did the result was spectacular.

Additional preformances ar St. Colman Church, Cleveland, Thursday; St. Noel Church, Willoughby Hills, Friday; Shrine Church of St. Sanislaus, Cleveland (Slavic Village), Saturday, and St. Mary Church, Elyria, Sunday. (all at 7:30 PM, except Sunday at 2:00 PM)


Monday, October 10, 2011

Cleveland Museum of Art: Folias & Romances: Music Dialogues between Orient and Occident (@ClevelandArt)

(The full program is at the conclusion of this post)
Ferran Savall, Voice and Toeorbo; Jordi Savall, Lira da gamba and seven strings bass viol.

One of the reasons I love living in Cleveland is that you're virtually surrounded by the arts -- be they performing or classical -- and near the end of this chock-full weekend I found myself in the Gartner Auditorium at the Cleveland Museum of Art for father and son team Jordi and Ferran Savall's performance.

While I'm at the museum practically weekly, this was the first event I've attended at Gartner. While the performance was fantastic, the organization didn't quite meet my expectations for the museum (for one, at least three different times were advertised depending on where you looked) and the event started late and ran longer than the box office had indicated, leaving me a bit harried and stressed about being late for the next event on my schedule. I probably should have left at intermission, but I was otherwise enjoying the concert too much to leave it unfinished.

I wasn't sure what to expect musically; the three instruments used aren't exactly common, but the result was musical magic. The program wove a selection of music picked from a progression of regions together. Within each grouping (From Orient, The Celtic Traditions, The Catalan traditions, The Spanish Folias, From Occident, Dialogues: The Mediterranean Traditions, and Ostinatos from the Old & New World) the music was played without pause, resulting in a beautifully flowing  program with a color that evolved slowly but clearly.

Being a Celtic fan, it is perhaps without surprise that my favorite portion of the program was the lively and animated -- entirely instrumental -- The Celtic Traditions, where at points it was hard to resist dancing a little jig in the auditorium. The Catalan Traditions that followed shifted to beautifully soothing (Particularly the younger Savall's voice in El Mariner. The second half of the program was more in the direction of lullabies, between two wonderfully voiced instruments in the hands of Jordi Savall and the voice in the hands of Feran Savall.

It was no accident that the concert ended on Jarabe Loco with the lyrics translated as "At last they are united / the old and the new world / and now they only stand divided / by a sea as deep as it is old" -- that is precisely what the program accomplished.


The full program:
From Orient
Shepardic (Sarajevo): Paxarico tu te llams (Instrumental)
Hebrew Lullaby (Israel): Noumi, moumi yaldatii
Traditional (Afghanistan): Nastaran (Instrumental)
Shepardic (Music) and Muguel de Cervantes (text): Marinero soy de amor
The Celtic Traditions
Dan R. MacDonald: Abergeldie Castle Strathspey
Traditional (Scottish): Regents Rant
Ryan's Mammoth Collection (Boston, 1883): Crabs in the Skillet
Ryan's Mammoth Collection (Boston, 1883): Lord Moira's Hornpipe
The Catalan Traditions
F. Savall (Music), Manuel Forcano (text): Mireu el nostre mar
Traditional (Catalonia): El mariner
The Spanish Folias
Antonio Martin y Coll: Diferencias sobre las Folias
From Occident
Traditional (Catalonia) and F. Savall: La canco del lladre
Marias: Muzettes I-II
Traditional (Breton) and J. Savall (Improvisations and variations): Gwerz "O Sonjal"
Dialogues: The Mediterranean Traditions
Traditional (Greece): Apo zeno meros
Shepardic Lullaby: Durme, hermosa donzella
From Morocco: Ghazali tal jahri (Instrumental)
Traditional (Turkey): Uskudar'a
Ostinatos from the Old & New World
Diego Ortiz: Romanesca & Passamezzo Moderno (Instrumental)
Canarios (Ostinato improvisations)
Improvisations after A. Valente & Jarocho traditions: Folias Criollas / Jarabe loco.

Canton Symphony: A Birthday Celebration of Liszt

Brouwer: Remembrances
Liszt: Piano Concerto No. 1 in E-flat major (Martina Filjak, piano)
Schumann: (unintelligible) solo piano encore.
Liszt: Symphonic Poem No. 7 (Festkalange)
Stravinsky: Fierbird Suite (1919)
Gerhardt Zimmerman, Conductor
at Ulmstattd Performing Arts Hall, Canton.

I've heard good things about the Canton Symphony in general and Music Director Gerhard Zimmerman in particular. My list has included attending a performance, but I had not made it as far as to actually attend a performance. On Thursday, a patron of the arts in the truest sense offered his tickets to tonight's season-opening concert, I jumped at the opportunity.

Following the Viva and Gala performance at the Cleveland Museum of Art (blog post on that to follow tomorrow -- I'm exhausted tonight) I picked up Rachel from work and we drove to Canton. After a false start in the GPS department, we found ourselves at the correct venue and in our seats. Ulmstattd Performing Arts Hall, part of a high school campus is as inglorious as any high school performing arts center and I was having doubts... until Mr. Zimmerman took to the podium.

The concert started with the unpublished but patriotic Star Spangled Banner played by a standing orchestra... catching both of us off guard.

Mr Zimmerman is instantly personable and a bit of a comedian. Composer Margaret Brouwer joined him to introduce her work as the first piece on the program, Remembrances. Composed to honor the memory of a friend who had passed, while listening to the colors of this piece I couldn't help but to think of the line "Endings are never ever happy, it's the happy moments along the way that in the end make it OK" from Five for Fighting's Nobody. Ms. Brouwer said that while she hadn't been thinking of sailing while was composing this piece, the friend was an avid sailor. Listening to the piece, though, the sounds of sailing were clear: A deep call as the ship disappears into the eternal sunset, the rise and fall and thrill of sailing on the open ocean, and then disappearing into the unknown. Rachel and I both felt, though, that the end was a bit long winded, and there were  few places where the piece could have ended without feeling cut short.

Second on the program was Liszt's Piano Concerto played by last year's Cleveland International Piano Competition winner Martina Filjak and... wow. I was so taken by her attack, delicacy, and the confidence of her sound that I couldn't force myself to listen to anything but her playing; the piece seemed to be over just as quickly as it started. Ms. Filjack then returned to treat a salivating audience to a wonderful Schumann piano solo.

Tonight's concert was enjoyable in large part because it moved expiditiously. Mr. Zimmerman lead, and the orchestara followed, quickly; movements were distinct but without unnecessary pauses.  And that continued with Liszt's Symphonic Poem No. 7 which was possibly my least favorite from the evening (assuming it is necessary for one to choose a least favorite) but it was not without its enjoyable parts: A farnfare with the occassional sense of fancy.

Closing out the program Stravinsky's Firebird suite. The first two movments struck me as a bit rough... while they're identified in the program as dances, but I didn't get that feeling of a dance of any kind. Coming into the third movement (Infernal dance of King Kashcei) anyone asleep was jarred awake with an explosive sound and a torrent of notes. Leaving a nearly manic movement, the audience was restored to rest via the Berceuse Lullaby and the concert ending finale.

While the hour drive means I likely won't be attending as frequently as I might otherwise, this high-quality and well orchestrated (if you'll forgive the pun) concert made me a fast fan of the Canton Symphony... I hope to return again soon.


Saturday, October 8, 2011

Cleveland Public Theatre: Springboard - Again And Against

I don't make it West to Cleveland Public Theatre as often as I'd like, but a friend suggested that I check out the Springboard Festival -- and with my Saturday night open (and feeling a bit guilty for missing Pandemonium) I figured it would be a great opportunity to bring Rachel across the river.

Springboard is a festival of staged readings -- each play is a new work, still being honed to perfection. Actors are on script, only a (single) handful of rehearsals are allowed, creative staff are allowed and encouraged to make revisions. I've only attended a handful of readings -- staged or unstaged -- but it appeals to my quest to get "behind the scenes" and it's also a unique opportunity for the audience, in most cases, to contribute to the development of a work -- suggestions and concerns are frequently taken into account as the piece is massaged before it becomes fixed and finally staged.

Tonight's offering was playwright Betty Shamish's Again and Against, with Raymond Bobgan (as an Iraqi-American FBI agent) interrogating Ms. Chris Seibert (as a Palestinian-American accused of terrorism but claiming to agitate only for understanding) with Beth Wood providing the rare bit of context via voice over. In the program, all three are given directing credit; online Ms. Wood has that credit. All three gave commendable performances, with Mr. Bobgan and Ms. Seibert being particularly gripping; especially considering that they were on script*. Based on the casting and context clues it took a relatively long time for me to figure out that both characters shared an ethnic heritage -- which is fairly important to the plot of the play.

The action unfolds entirely within a sparsely-furnished interrogation room. A college student is accused of plotting terrorist acts -- she insists that it's merely a not-so-peaceful protest and she doesn't (and didn't) intend to harm anyone. Over the course of the interrogation stories are told as truth, truth is served as a as a story, and the only thing clear is the lack of clarity: Where do stories end and the truth begin? Does she know more than she's telling; who is actually interrogating her? Where is the line between protest and terrorism? What is truth, anyway? Is it what is written (and therefore the woman's need for her side of the story to be written down during the interrogation?)

Sympathies change with every newly revealed truth -- or is it a lie? While I initially found the female sympathetic... half-witting participant in something she didn't fully understand and without malevolent intentions...the revelation near the end of the play that twenty dogs were involved made me doubt the one thing that heretofore had been without question. Are you assimilated? What culture do you identify with? What do other people see you as?

While the play was gripping and compelling -- billed at a 140-minute, intermisisonless, run time it didn't feel nearly that long -- but so much information was being thrown out, and so much of it then revealed to be lies -- that it was difficult to keep track of what information was actually important, and I feel I occasionally lost track of the message amongst the mental filing, refiling, and shredding.

Following the performance, there was a brief talk back and it was interesting to hear how other audience members reacted: A condemnation of politics and society, from one member. Men generally sympathized with the interrogate (and her sarcastic humor hooked me), while women generally found her abrasive and irritating--and without sympathy. (I wish more productions would include this feature--certainly helps to round out the theatre going experience)

Information about the rest of Springboard can be found on Cleveland Public Theatre's Website at


* i.e. reading from the script.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Cleveland Orchestra: Mozart's Great Mass In C Minor

Strauss: Metamorphosen (A study for 23 Solo Strings)
Mozart: Mass ("The Great") in C minor, K427
(Malin Hartelius, Julia Lezhneva, soprano; Martin Mitterrutzner, tenor; Ruben Drole, baritone; with the Cleveland Orchestra Chorus)
Franz Welser-Most, conductor

I have to admit to some hesitation with tonight's program: Superficially, at least, it seemed to echo last week's program. But what a dramatic difference; if this is any indication for the rest of the season it should be a great one.

Opening the program, Strauss's beautifully gripping Metamorphosen, subtitled as a study for 23 solo strings. Based on that subtitle I was prepared for something...cacophonous...for lack of a better word. What we were given was delightfully coherent: While each of the 23 instruments at times made its independent voice heard above the others it was cohesive. And mournful; deeply mournful, though it is not for want of the occasional ray of sunlight; the glimmer of hope. Looking at the time the work was composed -- 1943-45 and the program note provides a crystal context for that emotion: World War II and both the death of friends and loved ones, not to mention the the utter destruction of cultural landmarks and heritage.

Following intermission, Mozart's Great Mass was well...great. The Cleveland Orchestra Chorus's performance was stunning, and while I've frequently felt that Mr. Welser-Most's sound is a little too rounded around the edges I not once got that sense tonight. The result was a near religious experience in which time--and the outside world seemed to stand still, while the music resonated with the pulse of the heart. Though the opening Kyrie was by a narrow option my favorite, there was a point during Qui tollis (part of Gloria) where I realized that was neither consciously paying attention to the music nor processing other thoughts: My mind was completely and utterly at ease, something that's all too rare.

Oddly striking in an otherwise warm Severance Hall, was the refreshing blast of cool air that seemed to accompany each time the chorus rose.

I was unmoved in either direction by the male soloists, my reactions to the female soloists, both sopranos, were strong: Something felt off about Ms. Hartelius's contribution to the piece; though I can't put my finger on the why, I tried to tune her out. On the other hand, Ms. Lezhneva's voice was merely a hair shy of being a siren's call (the siren of myth that lured many a sailor to their deaths, that is; not the annoying thing attached to emergency vehicles) and everything hid ever so slightly behind her vocal presence.


Wednesday, October 5, 2011

CIM Orchestra: Smetana/Shostakovich/Sibelius

Smetana: Overture to The Bartered Bride
Shostakovitch: Violin Concerto No. 1 in A minor, Op. 77 (Leah Nelson, violin)
Bizet: March of the Toreadors (from Carmen) (Phil Robinson, special guest conductor)
Sibelius: Symphony No. 5 in E-flat major
Sasha Makila, guest conductor
Kulas Hall at the Cleveland Institute of Music

I try to attend as many of the CIM Orchestra concerts as possible: It's a nice--not to mention inexpensive--way to unwind midweek. When lead by a conductor who's sound I truly enjoy, however, I make a special effort to attend. Tonight's concert, conducted by Sasha Makila was one of the later group of concerts. I had high expectations and was not disappointed.

The program opened with the overture to Bedrich Smetana's The Bartered Bride, which set an exciting tone for the concert: Bold, confident, and expressive. And for the overture particularly, fast. The sense of tentative and uncertain playing that I noted for this season's first concert seems to have disappeared. And I really enjoyed this one.

Next up on the the program Shostakovitch's Violin Concerto, with the young and already-accomplished Leah Nelson playing the violin solo part. While the musicians were red faced and possibly still recovering from the exertion of the overture, the first movement (Nocturne) struck me as slowly dark, almost a graveyard scene, and harps provided the sound evocative of a clock chiming out an hour, while Rachel noted that the violin sounded like a woman crying. The second movement (Scherzo) was more lively and seemed to embody a dialog between the violin and the winds, while the third movement, and specifically the solo cadenza at the end of the Pasacaglia movement feels emotionally charged before leading into the final movement, Burlesca, which generally felt happier, faster, and more optimistic.

After intermission, Bizet's March of the Toreadors from the opera Carmen was conducted by Phil Robinson who won the opportunity via a silent auction to benefit CIM. I have to admit I was on one hand  bit envious of the opportunity, but I fear had I been in that position I would have been frozen under a ton of anxiety. In any event the Orchestra did a fine job with the piece.

Last on the program, Sibelius's Symphony No. 5. Just as Mr. Makila is a conductor whom I enjoy, I enjoy Sibelius's compositions, and the two together was a wonderful way to start the concert. Each of the tree movements had multiple tempo notations and multiple emotions. The first movement, begins calmly; I related it to the gentle sound of sun breaking dawn as the night hands earth over to day, while the end of the piece is climatic and hurried.

If the first movement was morning, the second movment could just as easily be related to the sounds of dusk as the sun retreats from view with a persistant pizzicato, and as the light slips away the listener was treated to the sound of beautiful strings over persistant horns before turning into a dialogue with the winds. Lastly, the third movment begins with a sense of exitement rising from the violins and violsa, before evolving to a slow dance, the sounds of of mourning, and finally trumphant, with a crisply punctuated finale.


Sunday, October 2, 2011

Heights Arts House Concert: Welcome Bach Tudor Arms

Leclair: Sonata III for two violins, Op. 3, No. 3.
Kurtag: Hommage a Mihaly Andras (12 Microludes for String Quartet (1978))
Bach: So schau' dies holden Tages Licht (Aria from Kanata, BVW 1073)

Bach: Hilf, Gott, dass es uns gelingt (Aria from Kantata BVW 194)
Bach: Ruhig und in sich zu frieden (Aria from Kantata BVW 204)
Bach: Ich bin vergnugt in meinem Leiden (Aria from Kantata BVW 58)
Tartini: Concerto for Violin and String Orchestra, D. 80
Tessrini: Concerto in A-major for Violin and String Orchestra, Op. 1, No. 12
(Jung Oh, soprano; Peter Otto, Miho Hashizume, Isabel Trautwein, violin; James Larson, viola; Daniel Pereira, cello)

Heights Arts' series of house concerts is a highlight of my concert-going season: You get to hear magnificent musicians in unusual locations in a more relaxed atmosphere. In addition, with the small ensembles you are treated to music that was chosen by the musicians playing it are even more deeply invested.

Tonight's concert brought together talented members of the Cleveland Orchestra along with CIM Faculty was my first glimpse into the Tudor Arms Hotel (a DoubleTree hotel*) on Carnegie Avenue since it's recently completed renovation-and reopening (before being returned to hotel use, the building served as Case student housing and social services offices). The 2nd floor ballrooms -- this concert was in the mirrored Crystal Ballroom -- certainly exude the feeling of an era gone by, though the new murals on the walls were as vibrant as the music we were about to hear.

The program was a interesting mix of composer well known along with composers lesser known. Opening the program, Leclair's wonderfully sweet Sonata III for two violins, played by Orchestra members Isabel Trautwein and Miho Hashizume provided a delightfully sweet opening to the concert.

Following that piece, Cellist and CIM faculty member Daniel Pereira provided an interesting comparison between Kurtag and Bach's works, most succinctly that Bach was composing in a highly regimented time with rules inviolate, where Kurtag composing in a much later era was essentially free from rules. In that context the pieces were alternated -- three movements of Kurtag to each Bach Aria. The contrast was interesting, but not as jarring as you might expect given the 200-year spread between the composers. The color and texture of the mostly short Microludes was interesting and varied -- calm and lethargic, agitated, fog-like, swampy, stormy, and startled were all feelings that I could associate with various movements, while Ms. Oh's wonderful voice added elegance to the Bach arias. (At one point in Ruhg und in sich zu frieden, a note was sustained for what felt like hours, yet by looking at Ms. Oh's face you would not suspect she required any more effort than a casual conversation). Rachel noted that while German is a harsh language, from Ms. Oh's singing it was only at the end that you got a sense of the guttural harshness.

Following intermission, Cleveland Orchestra First Associate Concertmaster Peter Otto joined the ensemble and quite a bit of levity. On talking about the difficulty of the instrument, he noted "If you don't start by 10, you're always going to sound like you're torturing baby animals" (I take exception to that -- two years in, I sound like I'm torturing adult animals). Mr. Otto noted that historically the violin concerto form had been considered an aberration, in poor taste, and lacking complexity. After listing to the two pieces that followed, that is hard to reconcile.

Tartini's Concerto for Violin and String Orchestra offered (with improvised cadenzas by Mr. Otto) two sweet movements concluded by a lively allegro assi third movement. Interestingly, the participation of the cello and viola were quite limited throughout all three movements, leaving a piece virtually for three violins. Mr. Otto's improvised cadenzas blended beautifully with the score, and I simply closed my eyes and let the beautiful notes play off my ears for much of the piece.

Closing out the concert and my unquestionable favorite, Tessarini's Concerto for Violin and String Orchestra (Op. 1, No. 12) with three gripping movements: The first movement (allegro) was lively, and the third movement (vivace, allegro) was my favorite with a galloping pace and a tsunami of notes springing from Mr. Otto's instrument, while the second movement (largo) provided a refreshing, but well-paced respite between the two.

The concert concluded with a standing ovation; I think the first for a Heights Arts house concert, while the silent auction ended a few minutes after and I found myself the winner of a performance with Ms. Trautwein, which I am quite looking forward to--a welcome encore to last year's experience with cellist Ms. Tanya Ell.

*- I have a Hilton HHonors free night certificate I've been saving for the reopening of this hotel... I need to check if it's still valid and book a stay soon to check it out!