Saturday, October 25, 2014

Cleveland Orchestra: Bach Brahms, and Mendelssohn

Bach: Cantata No. 199, BVW 199 (Yulia Van Doren, soprano)
Brahms: Song of Destiny [Schichsalslied], Op. 54 (Cleveland Orchestra Chorus, Robert Porco, director)
Mendelssohn: Symphony No. 5 ("Reformation") in D major, Op. 107
James Gaffigan, Conductor.

[I should note that next Saturday, BlueWater Chamber Orchestra is offering a promising concert at Plymouth Church including Robert Conrad narrating a string interpretation of  Washington Irving’s story “The Headless Horseman of Sleepy Hollow”]

While it was quite disappointing to hear not only Hillary Hahn had withdrawn from this weekends performances but that, in the words of another patron "they really  couldn't find another violinist!?! In Cleveland?" I have to say I enjoyed the replacement.

While someone who knows me well remarked "I wasn't expecting to see you-- there's more singing than you usually care for" and I, honestly, wasn't expecting to like Bach's Cantata No. 199, Ms. Van Doren and the predominantly string chamber orchestra delivered a well-balanced passionate piece that was delightful to listen to.

Likewise, while it seems a waste of the Chorus for only 15 minutes the initially meditative turning explosive Sing of Destiny had me bolt upright with attention. Mr. Gaffigan's expressive conducting, particularly in the third movement with hair flying despite very sharp conducting was the theatrical cherry on the top -- and the delta between the restrained and respectful first and second sections and the fierce and bold third was delicious.

Following intermission Mendelssohn's Symphony No. 5 was the piece I had most looked forward to on tonight's program -- and while it was as enjoyable to listen to as the other pieces on the program, something felt not quite right, or the piece didn't seem to quite fit with the rest of the program -- I couldn't put my finger on it.


Sunday, October 12, 2014

Cleveland Orchestra:Lang Lang Plays Chopin and Strauss

Pintscher: Idyll (for orchestra) (World Premiere performances)
Chopin: Andante Spianato & Grand Polonaise brillante in E-flat major, Op. 22 (for piano and orchestra) (Lang Lang, piano)
Strauss: Burleske (for piano and orchestra) (Lang Lang, piano)
Strauss: Till Eulenspiegel's Merry Pranks, Op. 28
Franz Welser-Most, conductor.

Ok, so on one hand I was very excited to return to Severance for a new season, on the other hand that excitement was tempered -- almost quenched -- by the news that Mr. Welser-Most's contract was renewed. I was really hoping for a change, and the news out of Austria had gotten my hopes up.

Anyway, this afternoon's concert opened with a half hour of tedium in the form of Matthias Pintscher's Idyll. While not as jarring and painful as most "new" classical at 25 minutes plus it was entirely too long and uninteresting -- sure there were parts that had a tenuous hold of my attention, early on a section reminded me of playful nymphs; later the atmosphere approaching a murder scene in a classic film, but on the whole I would have preferred to do without.

Lang Lang brought Chopin's Andante spianato & Grand Polonaise brilliante to life beginning with a sound I would liken to a delightfully fluffy and delicious pastry for the ears to wash out the foul taste of the prior composition -- although the orchestra was a bit stiff under Welser-Most's baton, it was certainly preferable to the Pintscher. 

Following intermission was like an entirely new concert and could have been cleaved from the first half for a much more enjoyable program on its own. Chopin's Burleske, once again with the piano part played by Lang Lang was sparkling with a bold orchestra embracing in a familiar dance with the piano, while towards the end of the piece brought arguments from the orchestra that puncutated otherwise flowing music. 

Finally the program closed with Strauss's Till Eulenspeigel's Merry Pranks was enjoyable in a fun and lyrical way but I didn't find it particularly memorable