Monday, October 10, 2011

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The concert started with the unpublished but patriotic Star Spangled Banner played by a standing orchestra...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.


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