Sunday, January 15, 2012

Cleveland Orchestra: Brahms Violin Concerto

Brahms: Violin Concerto in D major, Op. 77 (Julian Rachlin, violin)
Saariaho: Orion
Smetana: Three Four Symphonic Poems from Ma Viast [My Country]
Franz Welser-Most, conductor.

Nearly half way into the month of January it seems a little odd to still be exchanging new years greetings, but as the first concert weekend of 2012 it was delightful to return to Severance and cross paths with patrons, ushers, and other Severanceites that I last saw last year.

Tonight's concert began with Brahms' Violin Concerto with Julian Rachlin joining the Orchestra for the first time: The opening to the piece was heavenly and grounded in the orchestra developing into a passionate embrace between the soloist with hints of both a lover's quarrel and dance. The second movement featured meandering winds luring the listener back into the comfort of the music with a bit of a hypnotic flair. The third and final movement was both lively and agitated; early in the movement the sound made it seem as if a choir was hovering above the orchestra -- but the sound was entirely grounded within the orchestra.

Kaija Saariaho's Orion, a composition premiered by The Cleveland Orchestra barely a decade ago,  was an interesting combination of sounds with the first movement seeming generally celestial with a recurring theme that's weight and impact on the movement increased like a lumbering giant's footsteps through the orchestral woods. While the first movement was a mix of overlapping voices, the second movement featured solo instrumental voices seemingly, by comparison, wandering the universe solo. The third movement borrowed on themes from the first two movements with a repeating descending, almost comical, sound punctuated with an excited flair.

Last on the program were four (the original program promised three) symphonic poems from Smetana's Ma Viast, and my favorite from the evening. In Vysehard, The Mighty Fortress the music began with two harps leading into winds with a regal air eventually enveloping the entire orchestra, with a proud trumpet statement and a restrained ending. The Moldau passed largely without notice but I did notice the combination of pizzicato strings and delightful flutes. The thrid of the poems, Sarka, The Warrior Maid seemed both romantic and cinematic with a celebratory ending (The Wikipedia entry describes the basis of the movement thusly:

"Šárka ties herself to a tree as bait and waits to be saved by the princely knight Ctirad, deceiving him into believing that she is an unwilling captive of the rebelling women. Once released by Ctirad, who has quickly fallen in love with her, Šárka serves him and his comrades with drugged mead and once they have fallen asleep she sounds a hunting horn: an agreed signal to the other women. " -- and with that basis it's clear that what the celebration is for.

The fourth and final movement From Boehmia's Forests and Fields was evidently a late addition as it isn't included in the original program begins with a sun rising over a dawn bed of strings, is bright and evocative of grandeur or of a bright new day with an interesting frantic/calm/frantic segment near the end of the piece.


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