Saturday, October 27, 2012

Cleveland Orchestra: Rachmaninoff's Second Piano Concerto

Liadov: The Enchanted Lake, Op. 62
Rachmaninoff: Piano Concerto No. 2 in C minor, Op. 18 (Simon Trpceski, piano)
[Encore] Piece for solo Piano (Simon Trpceski, piano)
Sibelius: Symphony Mo. 2 in D major, Op. 43
Robin Ticciati, conductor.

Once again The Cleveland Orchestra provided a dazzling performance; while each of the pieces could have aptly stood on its own or provided ballast for a lesser performance but together the program left nothing to be desired -- except perhaps more.

The Enchanted Lake, one of the shortest pieces I've heard the Orchestra play outside of a pops concert, at just about five minutes, emerged from darkness as a quiet [the first several bars were, essentially, lost to a chorus crinkling programs and shifting patrons]. The overall sound generally captured a mystical place with a dark and murky feel, of particular note, the sounds from the celesta [for some reason "struck idiophone" always makes me giggle] instantly reminded me of dripping water.

In listening to the magnificent performance of Rachmaninoff's second piano concerto by Simon Trpceski with the Orchestra I found myself wondering my general distaste for the genre may simply because I've never found a pianist worth loving. Mr. Trpceski fills that void and meshes wonderfully with the Orchestra. The moods of the three movements could easily be phases of a romance: The first is dark, stormy, and intensely passionate appeal. The second movement takes a cooler tone and, as the program note mentions, seems apt for a romantic candle lit dinner -- in listening I felt like I was eavesdropping on a dinner date conversation between pianist and orchestra. The third movement was more dramatic than the second and less tense than the first, with the Orchestra taking the forefront.

While I spent much of the piece with my eyes closed just absorbing the wonderful sounds emanating from the stage, in the second movement I opened my eyes during a moment while Mr. Trpceski was playing unaccompanied to watch maestro Ticciati's baton slowly sweep, parallel to the floor and otherwise motionless, from left to right, as if a teacher selecting a student, before arriving at and engaging with a flute, invited to join the piano.

After his dazzling performance (and one of the quickest standing ovations I can remember) Mr. Trpceski announced that he was "very sad to have to leave Cleveland tomorrow" and offered an encore that was as engaging and captivating as it was fast-paced; though he announced the composer and the piece from the stage I wasn't able to make note of it -- though it was based on folk piece.

Finally, one of my favorite composers -- and one who doesn't get programmed nearly enough -- Jean Sibelius's Symphony No. 2 which begins punctuated with delightful -- if repetitive -- material that coalesces into a delightful whole; the second movement begins on an aggressive note (with pizzicato basses and cellos) before calming with a gentle violin that picks up a more full-bodied sound. The fourth and final movement, though, is some of my favorite orchestral music with broadly cinematic climaxes that just pull you in.


Saturday, October 20, 2012

(Post #500) Cleveland Orchestra: All Russian - Prokofiev's Alexander Nevsky

Rimsky-Korsakov: Suite from The Golden Cockerel
Tchaikovsky: Francesca da Rimini: Symphonic Fantasy after Dante, Op. 32
Prokofiev: Alexander Nevsky, Op 78 (The Cleveland Orchestra Chorus, Roberto Porco, Director; Sasha Cooke, Mezzo-soprano)
Pinchas Steinberg, conductor

As a blogkeeping note, Blogger is telling me that this is post #500 (including a few unpublished drafts that may or may not ever be published) and I have to say thanks to everyone who has been reading over the past few years.

While milling around Severance Hall's lobby this evening my nose lead me to something I hadn't seen in the building before: A patron eating a genuine, no-doubt-about-it medium pepperoni pizza--packaged in a to-go box and clearly ordered on his way to the hall, aside from making me very hungry (it smelled good) I internally bemoaned the lack of a decent "quick, easy, and inexpensive" light food option near the hall.*

Making my way upstairs and settling in for the concert I wasn't sure how I was going to react to an all Russian program. Generally I like the region, but would two hours be too much? It would seem not. Starting with a suite from Rimsky-Korsakov's The Golden Cockerel the concert was vibrant, textured, and colorful: From the first movement which reminded me of a nighttime scene -- tiptoeing through a house to avoid disturbing the other occupants (before bumping into something and creating quite the disturbance) through the mystery (helped with a pointed celesta) and some of the most stunning turn-your-head-and-perk-up-your-ears playing from the orchestra's viola section. The piece culminated in an explosion of sound.

The middle piece on the program didn't engage me to nearly the extent as the two outside pieces, and I let my mind wander (mainly to contemplating how much business I've generated in the last week, and the amount of work associated thereto) and stayed mostly in that area until I was pulled back into the piece by Franklin Cohen's beautiful clarinet laid on a luxurious bed of understated strings.

The best was certainly saved for last with Prokofiev's seven movement Alexander Nevksy. With seven movements in just about forty minutes, the piece was bound to move. Aside from moving, it had a beautiful range of emotion and texture. The foreboding overture-esque and instrumental Russia under the Mongolian Yoke lead into to the crisp and restrained voices in Song about Alexander Nevsky (which sounded like a hushed tale to be told around a campfire). The third movement was ominous and repetitive along the lines of a march to the death, but the fourth movement was my favorite from the concert and took the form of a stirringly patriotic call to action. The fifth movement captured elements of the previous movements (especially the third)) but was more insistent, and had an urgency emphasised by impressive speed and volume. By contract, the sixth movement -- the only one featuring the soloist -- was slow, mournful, and restrained, before reaching the reprieve and happy ending.


Friday, October 19, 2012

Cleveland Classical Guitar Society: Paul Galbrath In Concert

Bach: Cello Suite No. 6 in D Major, BVW 1012
Hindemith: Harp Sonata (1939)
Traditional Catalian: El Testament d'Amelia
Ponce: 20 Variations and Fugue on "Las Folias de Espana"
Torroba: Burgalesa
Paul Galbrath, Eight-Stringed Guitar (all pieces arranged by the artist)
at Plymouth Congregational Church, Shaker Heights.

The guitar is an often overlooked member of the classical world. Fortunately, Cleveland has an outlet specifically for this corner. I know people who have spoken highly of the Cleveland Classical Guitar Society, but until tonight's concert I had not experienced one of their concerts myself.

I have a feeling that even had I experienced a CCGS concert prior to this evening's, tonight still would have been a very unique presentation -- Paul Galbrath plays an eight-stringed guitar, more striking, however is the playing position: Upright with a tail piece resting on a resonance box, much like the modern cello (two of the eight strings extend the full length of the instrument). That is where the similarities to the cello -- at least to this writers eyes and ears end.

After a long day -- capping off a longer week -- I found the sound throughout the concert to be invitingly warm and very conducive to relaxing meditation. While it's a state that's very conducive to preserving what little is left of my sanity, it is not conducive to noting specific emotional responses to specific pieces. Needless to say, though, Rachel and I thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.

Even when the music took a turn for the louder, faster, and generally more energetic, the sense of an inner calm persisted through Mr. Galbrath's playing. Aurally, I was also struck by how harp-like, more than any other instrument, much of the program sounded. On the other hand, visually, for as big and room-filling as every piece sounded, Mr. Galbrath's movements were small and precise, sometimes verging on barely noticeable.

The next Cleveland Classical Guitar Society concert is on Friday, November 16th and features Edel Munoz (More information here)


Saturday, October 13, 2012

Cleveland Orchestra: Stravinsky's Petrouchka

Stravinsky: Petrouchka (complete ballet music, 1947 revision)
Paulus: Violin Concerto No. 3 (World Premiere, William Preucil, violin)
Ravel: Rapsodie espagnole
Giancario Guerro, conductor

I've sat in many of the boxes at Severance, and while the lower numbers (closest to center) are undoubetely my favorites, thus far Box 1 has eluded me. Tonight through good fortune I found my way to Seat F in that elusive box -- dead center in the hall for what was without reservation my favorite concert so far this season -- and the polar opposite about what I felt towards last week's concert.

Opening with the complete ballet music to Petrouchka in four scenes; and it was one of those glorious pieces where I just got lost in the music without needing to look any deeper -- the piece had energy, it had texture. It was bright and focused -- exactly the characteristics that got me got me hooked on the Orchestra and live classical generally. Every section sparkled but worthy of particular note were Joella Jones stunningly fresh statements from the piano.

The story behind Violin Concerto No. 3 was almost as fascinating as the piece itself; Mr. and Mrs. Hoeschler and Mr. and Mrs. Dahlen, all of Minneapolis, commissioned the piece that received its world premiere with this weekend's concerts. This is the latest in a series of commissions and it was interesting to hear their thoughts and goals attached to each commission. Following a tradition repeated every five years since the Hoeschler's 15th wedding anniversary, Violin Concerto No. 3 was commissioned to celebrate their 45th (If I ever get married I may have to steal this wonderful idea). As for the piece, many people have modern music stereotyped as atonal -- this was very musical, though without a forced program.

Listening to the first movement, I had the impression of Mr. Pruecil's violin as a driver rushing down the street trying to make a date with the sounds of the orchestra as the sounds of a busy city outside. In the second movement, the tender romantic sounds from Mr. Pruecil's violin with the gentle bed of the orchestra made me imagine a serenade by musician-as-romancer outside the romancee's window--on the edge of tears beautiful, while the third movement was unsettled and agitated.

The desert on the three-course (I almost wrote chorus) evening at Severance was Ravel's Rhapsodie espagnole, a quick fifteen minutes trip to Spain with sounds randing from a restrained and a kind of cautious mystery to a fiery explosion of festive music.


Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Column and Stripe: Transformer Station Hard Hat Tour (@ClevelandArt #ColumnAndStripe)

I'm a sucker for a construction site -- I'm see a lot of interesting sites through my day job (a hard hat and a reflective safety vest are perpetually in my trunk) but some of the sites I find most interesting are a little bit trickier to access -- the Cleveland Museum of Art's new gallery space (I am forever tempted to sneak around the barrier and go for a look-see) being one example. [Rachel and I did sneak in for the Atrium preview which was an amazing opportunity to peek in].

The Transformer Station, on West 29th Street on Cleveland's West Side is an interesting collaboration between the Fred and Laura Ruth Bidwell Foundation and The Cleveland Museum of Art, with each organization programming the space for six months out of the year. Tonight, the Bidwells and their Architect invited Column and Stripe and AIA Cleveland members for a presentation on the project and to tour the space well before it's February 1, 2013 public opening.
Once the formal presentation had ended the assembled guests were free to roam throughout the building and peek into, over, and under every nook and cranny of the space -- from an old tunnel that one presumes brought the conductors  powering Cleveland's street cars in and out of the building and glass insulators on the ceiling in the historic original building to the elevator shaft and gallery space in the new addition (oh and the 15-ton capacity overhead crane in the original building definitely makes a unique statement in the appropriately named crane gallery.
After the nooks and crannies had been thoroughly explored, Column and Stripe's president Graham Veysey hosted the attendees in his hip pad across the street at the Ohio City Firehouse with an assortment of beer, appetizers, conversation, and food courtesy of Touch Supper Club's food truck.

(Full disclosure: I serve as the chair for Column and Stripe's Philanthropy Committee)

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Cleveland Orchestra: Love and Mozart

Mendelssohn: Four Entr'actes from A Midsummer Night's Dream, Op. 61
Mozart: Bassoon Concerto in B-flat major, K.191 (John Clouser, bassoon)
Berlioz: Love Scene from Romeo and Juliet, Op. 17
Ravel: Daphnis and Chloe Suite No. 2 (Cleveland Orchestra Chorus, Robert Porco, director)
James Feddeck, conductor.

Mediocre is not a word I commonly associate with the Cleveland Orchestra, yet, with tonight's concert I can't offer any higher prase. Going into the hall tonight something felt a little off but I couldn't -- and still can't put my finger on it. Once the concert started (after a well-deserved award recognition to Milton and Tamar Maltz) I found myself craving for each piece to end. I had contemplated leaving during intermission, but convinced myself to stay hoping to be blown away by the second half. I was not.

I was inclined to blame it on my seat -- a bit further to the left than I prefer. But I've had this seat before, and wasn't as put off. I thought it may be the conductor, but I've heard Mr. Feddeck before. While he's not my favorite conductor, I've never had this negative a reaction. In any event my chief complaint -- aside from the aforementioned "something feeling off" -- was that the entire concert, from the opening note of the Mendelssohn up until the last few pages of the Daphnis and Chloe it felt flat and disengaged -- like looking at a photograph of a painting rather than standing in the room with it and admiring the texture (the reason I love live classical and can't stand recordings).

There were a few highlights, namely the Wedding March from Four Entr'actes from A Midsummer Night's Dream -- which although flat trumps any performance I've heard at an actual wedding and had me briefly wondering how much it would cost (logistical issues aside) to have The Cleveland Orchestra perform the Wedding March at an actual wedding. The other highlight came in the last few bars of the Daphnis and Chloe suite where both The Cleveland Orchestra Chorus and the Orchestra itself came to full power and delivered an impressive and slightly eerie chant. But even this felt a bit overly rounded at the edges.


Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Cleveland Museum of Art: Concert in the Galleries (with Cleveland Institute of Music students)

Kodaly: Sonata for Solo Cello, op. 8 (Mvt. III)¹
Piazzolla: Tango Etude No. 3²
Grgin: Cappriccio for solo clarinet 3²
Kovacs: Hommage a Manuel De Falla²
Molnar: Haru No Umi³,ª
Debussy: Sytinxª
Hoover: Kokopelliª
Mendelssohn: String Quartet in E-flat Major, Op. 44 No. 3 (Mvt. I)º
¹-Matthew Allen, cello; ²-Nikola Djurica, clarinet; ³-Joseph Rebman, harp; ª-Jeiran Hasan, flute; º-Veridian String Quartet (John Heffernan, Deborah Milburn, violin; Catherine Schilling, viola; Genevive Tabby, cello)
In the Reinberger Gallery, Gallery 212, 1916 Building at the Cleveland Museum of Art.

It's already been a loooong week, so while I was somewhat tempted to skip this month's free concert in The Cleveland Museum of Art's galleries and perhaps find a strong margarita. Instead, I met Rachel and her brother in Gallery 212 for bite-sized collection of classical music among classical art.

Since the series debuted last year I've been a fan -- bringing students from neighboring University Circle institutions The Cleveland Institute of Music and Case Western Reserve University into the beautiful galleries of The Cleveland Museum of Art for a collection of relatively short pieces for solo instruments and small ensembles.

Acoustically, Gallery 212 is rather live and rather reverberant (echo-y, if you will) which I think helped to draw out the sounds, particularly in the strings, while not being as complimentary to the woodwinds and occasionally muddying the quartet's otherwise delightful performance.

The program set off to a rousing start with cellist Matthew Allen playing the lively third movement (Allegro molto vivace) of Zoltan Kodaly's Sonata for Solo Cello. Early on the piece caught my ear with layered sounds that reminded me a little bit of a gallop before taking on a more marine feeling.

Nikola Djurica was next up with three pieces for solo clarinet each having very different sounds -- ranging from fluttering and airy in Pizazolla's Tango Etude No. 3 to Grgin's Cappriccio for Solo Clarinet, a piece that seemed to pull in the jazzy, swinging enthusiasm of the roaring 20s tempered with a hint of the depression. Mr. Djurica's final piece was a clarinet homage to Manuel De Falla, and while I picked up a bit of the Spanish sound, I think the room's acoustics diminished the effect.

My favorite piece from the evening was a collaboration between harpist Joseph Rebman (who I've heard perform in a bar as well as a proper recital hall) and flutist Jeiran Hasan, Harau No Umi by composer Josef Molnar which was just several minutes of meditative bliss with a distinctively Japanese sound that reminded me of gently falling water.

Ms. Hasan followed up with two pieces for solo flute -- Debussy's Syrinx  and Hoover's Kokopelli which were enjoyable, but the room acoustics did not flatter the performance.

Last on the program, the Veridian String Quartet preformed the first (allegro vivace) movement from Mendelssohn's String Quartet in E-flat Major, was again warm -- assisted by the room -- and captivating with a hint of sorrow.

After the concert had ended the three of us paid Martin Creed's Half the Air in a Given Space (in the Glass Box gallery through Thanksgiving) a visit -- it was a unique experience, and a separate post on that will be forthcoming.