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)


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