Saturday, January 12, 2013

Cleveland Orchestra: Garrick Ohlsson Plays Tchaikovsky

Tchaikovsky: Piano Concerto No. 2 in G major, Op. 44 (Garrick Ohlsson, piano)
Shostakovitch: Symphony No. 10 in E minor, Op. 93
Franz Welser-Most, conductor

The second in a musical trifecta of a weekend, or the meat of a classical sandwich bookended with chamber works, I was looking forward to this evening's return of the Cleveland Orchestra to Severance Hall well before last night's ChamberFest gala introduced me to Garrick Ohlsson in a more intimate setting. But after that gala I was particularly looking forward to the concert.

The first piece on the program was Mr. Ohlsson's riveting performance with the Orchestra of Tchaikovsky's 2nd piano concerto, and while it didn't conjure the imagery of extended scenes to the extent of last night, rather very brief -- and sometimes diametrically opposed -- vignettes of brief scenes, it was nonetheless compelling. Last night I was seated directly opposite of Mr. Ohlsson, where I could clearly see the intensity of his playing through his facial expressions, but I couldn't see his handiwork.

Tonight I had the good fortune of occupying the front of Box 3, one of my favorite seats in the hall, where I had an amazing view of Mr. Ohlson's rather large hands fluttering across the keyboard with impressive precision and the result was a wonderful balance between both the orchestra and soloist; the third movement was an impressive run of excited energy and, I'm sure, contributed to the level of ovation from the nearly sold-out audience.

Following intermission, the only other piece on the program was Shostakovitch's weighty 10th symphony. While the first movement is a little slow and restrained for my tastes -- perhaps best summed as bleak as a Cleveland winter -- the unbounding energy charging forward in the second made the wait well worth it. The program notes make reference to a runaway train, but in the orchestra's performance kept all wheels attached and firmly on track for the musical thrill ride. The third movement allowed both audience and musicians a bit of a rest to catch our collective breaths. The fourth movement left me a little wanting, but I can't put my finger on why. It was the only question mark in an otherwise wonderful concert.


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