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As a blogkeeping note, Blogger is telling me that this is post #500 (including a few unpublished drafts that may or may not ever be published) and I have to say thanks to everyone who has been reading over the past few years.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


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