Saturday, November 30, 2013

Cleveland Orchestra: Marin Alsop Conducts Barber Schumann, and Copland

Barber: Essay No. 2, Op. 17
Schumann: Piano Concerto in A minor, Op. 54 (David Fray, piano)
Copland: Symphony No. 3
Marin Aslop, conductor.

Although it has been nearly a month since my last Cleveland orchestra concert, I can hardly think of a program I've so thoroughly enjoyed in recent memory, not to mention one of the more adventurous programs by Cleveland Orchestra standards... I can only home for more.

The program opened with Samuel Barber's Essay No. 2 from the early 1940s. A beautiful piece, of starts with the wide open planes before shifting to a very angular and somewhat punchy scene that clearly evokes images of the hustle and bustle of an active city in constant motion, while near  the end  tapping from and timpani bring premonitions of marching to war.

I wasn't quote as captivated by Schumann's Piano Concerto -- partially because the couple in front of me were both texting through most of the piece though the first movement was delightfully light and wispy like freshly baked bread and pianist David Fray matched the orchestra's passion. Upon taking his seat in the and adjacent box following the Schumann, Mr. Fray graciously posed for photos with a few box holders, and upon learning that they were donors to the orchestra encouraged "Keep supporting the orchestra - it is a gem; nothing like it in the world".

The third and final piece on the program was one I've been hoping for for quite a while and looking forward to for several months -- Aaron Copland's Symphony No. 3 including a reformulation of the prolific Fanfare for the Common Man. Before beginning the piece Ms. Aslop touched briefly but humorously on a few key aspects of the piece, including snippets played by the orchestra -- I sincerely hope that the orchestra considers incorporating these few minutes of wisdom into future classical concerts.
On to the music -- the first movement was played with and conveyed a sublime passionate energy. The second movement was no less passionate, but was more evocative of a buoyant small-town celebration. The third movement began with a high register -- Ms. Aslop referred to it in her opening remarks as one "only dogs can hear" -- and very reserved compared to the brash end of the second movement. I could be mistaken, but I could swear I also picked up hits of Appalachian Spring wafting around. The third movement seamlessly gave way to the third where the Fanfare emerges in brilliant beauty, and is passed around the orchestra tansformed and fades away while the music remains strong and festive with the strong image of soaring gulls.


Saturday, November 23, 2013

Cleveland Classical Guitar Society: Carlos Perez

(Spanish and Latin American Music of the Romantic Era)
Jimenez Manjon: Dos Maxurkas
Jimenez Manjon: Arie Vasco
Pujol: Cubana
Pujol: Schottish Madrileno
Damas: Fandango Variado
Barros: Preludo opus 5
Barros: Maxixa
Sagreras: Estilo Criollo
Sagreras: La Ideal (Romanza sin palabras)
Sagreras: La Guella
Nazareth: Mariazinha sentada na pedra (tr. Perez)
Nazareth: Eponina (Valsa) (tr. Perez)
Nazareth: Vem ca branquinha (tr. Perez)
Carlos Perez, guitar
At the Plymouth Church UCC, Shaker Heights

On a blustery winter evening Rachel and I returned to the Plymouth Church, this weekend for the Cleveland Classical Guitar Society's presentation of Carlos Perez playing Spanish and Latin American Music of the Romantic Era. While the weather outside wasn't quite frightful, the music inside was quite delightful*

The first half of the program was given over to composers from Spain -- though Antonio Jimenez Manjon emigrated to South America early in his life -- his Dos Maxurkas was a warm and inviting beginning to the concert with a tranquil Una Flor and the slightly more lively and lyrical Lirica.

Pujol's Cubana had a more casual and "Cuban" flavor -- as may be implied by the title -- the Schottish Madrileno that Rachel and I had imputed as "Scottish" didn't really harken Scottish imagery. While rounding out the first half of the program, Tomas Damas's Fandango variado  featured interesting sounds including a using the body of the guitar for a drum beat.

The second half of the program moved Southwest to Latin America where the mood was generally lighter and the tempo seemingly faster; Augistin Barrios's Preludio opus 5 bringing a faster tempo and thae same composer's Maxixa bringing more festive color into the music. Julio Sagrearass's Estilo Criollo was the opposite with a deep and introspective feeling.

The program concluded with works by Ernesto Nazareth transcribed by guitar by Carlos Perez, where the bubbly Mariazinha sentada na pedra gave way to the more candle-lit-dinner romantic but sad Eponina (Valsa) [I'm not sure what it was about this piece, but I seemed spontaneously on the edge of tears], and finally a rousing Vem ca branquinha to end the warm music and return us to the reality of winter outside of the hall.

Cleveland Classical Guitar Society will be presenting a special event in conjunction with MOCA on Thursday, December 12th.


*(sorry, I really couldn't resist the first opportunity of the season to use that pun)

Saturday, November 16, 2013

BlueWater Chamber Orchestra: Honoring Cleveland's Culture

Corigliano: Voyages for Strings
Weber: Concertino for Clarinet and Orchestra, Op. 26 (Amitai Vardi, clarinet)
Beethoven: Romance No 2 for Violin and Orchestra. Op. 50 (Jieming Tang, violin)
Mendelssohn: Symphony No. 4 (Italian), Op. 90
Davies: An Orknet Wedding, with Sunrise, J. 264
Carlton R. Woods, conductor.
At the Plymouth Church UCC, Shaker Heights.

I'm finally home in Cleveland for a bit (no travel "on the books" until January, thankfully) and feeling a little lacking in the Music department. Tonight, Rachel and I took the short jaunt to the Plymouth Church in Shaker Heights for a fun program full of variety and quality musicianship from the BlueWater Chamber Orchestra.

This was our second time hearing the orchestra and the different "feelings" between the two venues was a bit striking -- while the Breen Center is more modern and a bit more comfortable, Plymouth Church has the advantage of a less formal feeling, specifically a less harsh division between orchestra and audience.

The program was a delightful "musical sampler" of sorts featuring works that span vast spaces both in time and structure, making it easy to like and hard to get bored.

Opening the program, Voyages for Strings presented a relaxed bit of travel -- no drama of a trip gone awry, but rather the serenity of an airplane in cruise or a train en route where everything is going as it should. Next up, the Concertino for Clarinet and Orchestra was restrained at introduction but broke free to a lively midsection with lively and engaging playing by soloist Anitai Vardi.

One beautifully flowing piece lead to another -- featuring a slightly younger but no less talented soloist in Jieming Tang, a currently sophomore. Mr. Tang and the orchestra gently embraced before taking each other on a slow dance.

Mendelssohn's Italian symphony was played with particular clarity, and the longest piece of the evening -- the first and fourth movements were the fastest -- the first being insistent with a hint of bickering, and the fourth with a sense of running after a burst of energy. While the second (more reserved) and the third movements were slower, the momentum of the piece was preserved avoiding the sense of "hitting the emergency brakes" that slower movements can sometimes give when following a faster movement.

The last piece of the evening was certainly the most fun and unique -- following a Scottish wedding with such movements as "Guests arriving out of violent weather", and "Increasingly inebriated dance" -- and also the first I can remember to feature bagpipes (with Mr. Jeff Sandlin filling that need quite well) -- it was toe tapping and cheery music. The only objection was the (intentionally) out of tune playing as the "drinking" progressed -- it was clear some of the musicians appeared to be physically pained by being forced out of tune -- but such is the necessity of the piece.

The next BlueWater Chamber Orchestra concert, "Lake Winds Bring Spring Strings" will be presented at the Plymouth Church on March 1st at 7pm.