Saturday, November 24, 2012

Cleveland Orchestra: Chopin and Rachmaninoff

Chopin: Piano Concerto No. 2 in F minor Op. 21 (Louis Lortie, piano)
Rachmaninoff: Symphony No. 2 in E minor, Op. 27
Jaap van Zweden, conductor.

Rachel and I spent the last week in California vacating (and before that I spent a week in California working)... so having survived Thanksgiving with part of the family, both parks in the Disneyland Resort [on what would turn out to be one of the busiest days of the year] the Getty Center, Hollywood, The Griffith Park Observatory and other Southern California landmarks, it was nice to sleep in my own bed last night and head to a Cleveland Orchestra concert this evening -- although I will admit that I'm still a bit out of it.

[Incidentally next week The Cleveland Orchestra is joining the Joffery Ballet for performances of The Nutcracker. While I love ballet and the Cleveland Orchestra, unless I can figure out a way to get tickets without having to deal with, let alone support, the insufferable PlayhouseSquare box office, I will not be attending those performances]

The program opened with Chopin's Piano Concerto and I can't say the performance left anything to be desired, but on the same token nothing really grabbed me or pulled me into the music; more like watching a painting from the distance in a crowded museum than being alone with a painting -- or better -- immersed in the scene. This cloud briefly lifted for a few bars late in the piece where pizzicato strings evoked the feeling of a far off dance.

The first movement of the Rachmaninoff didn't fare much better, however starting with the second movement the tide turned. In that movement, the opening sounds like it is trumpeting the arrival of an evening newscast, imparting a sense of importance and urgency before somewhat abruptly trailing off and transitioning to the tranquility of a candlelit dinner. The newscast and tranquility both return for alternating encores within the movement. Meanwhile, the third movement is largely tender and loving as a lover's embrace followed by an outpouring of intense emotion. The fourth movement was slightly stormy but largely summing up the preceding movements.


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