Thursday, February 16, 2012

Cleveland Orchestra: Stravinsky, Mozart, and More

Schoenberg: Three Piano Pieces, Op. 11  (Pierre-Laurent Aimard, solo piano)
Mozart: Piano Concerto No. 18 in B-flat major, K456 (Pirerre-Laurent Almard, piano and  conductor)
Stravinsky: Symphonies of Wind Instruments (1920 version)
Stravinsky: Symphony of Palms (with the Cleveland Orchestra Chorus)
Tito Munoz, conductor.

"How was the concert?" my girlfriend texted me after I returned home this evening. All I could really muster was "Eh. It was what it was :-/" and I'm tempted to leave it at that. Though Pierre Boulez, originally scheduled to conduct this week's concerts was seen in the hall tonight, for the second week he was not to be seen on the podium on advice of his opthamologist.

Nothing in the program was terribly compelling nor did any of the pieces really sustain interest. That's not to say that there weren't points of interest, but like a rural highway with too-few gas stations one point didn't muster enough energy to propel my interest to the next. My mind did a lot of wandering tonight.

Opening the program tonight pianist Pierre-Laurent Aimard took the stage with Schoenberg's solo piano Three Piano Pieces. The first and third pieces found their way to the bottom of my list ("Noise" and "Stormy Noise", respectively, being the notes I jotted to myself) but nonetheless, the experience of soloist in the hall alone was unique with the sound of the collective breathing and simple etre (as strange as it sounds) -- of  the hall challenging the sound of the soloist. Perhaps in that context, the second movement with a distinct alternating pattern gave the sense of wandering alone and going against the majority.

The second piece, Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 18, was conducted by Mr. Aimard from the keyboard showed a bit more promise with the first movement which seemed a rather regal waltz occasionally interrupted by the petulant youth of the winds -- carrying through the ensemble -- before returning to calm. The second movement meanwhile was despairingly sweet rising out of the second violins though the movement felt emotionally restrained. and the piece ended on a happy -- almost frolicy -- tone.

Following intermission, Stravinsky ruled the roost starting with the 1920 version of Symphonies of Wind Instruments which the program relates to cubist art -- though I'm not sure I heard the connection it was interesting to hear a piece which was angular and bold but gracefully rounded at the same time. Where explosions from an instrument -- particularly near the end of the ten-minute piece -- appear and then meld back into the whole.

Finally, Symphony of the Psalms where the Cleveland Orchestra Chorus once again delivered a pleasantly vibratto free preformance -- I think I could have listened to the graceful Alleluia at the beginning and end of Psalm 150 all night, but the haunting vocal power brought fourth during the short Psalm 38 really made the listener sit up. Curiously, Stravinsky's version of Psalm 150 omits the "laudate eum in psalterio et cithara" ("praise Him with psaltery and harp") -- and I was reading that note just as a gloriously plucked harp wrenched my attention from the program book.


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