Saturday, November 1, 2014

BlueWater Chamber Orchestra: A Night Of Fright and Delight

Debussy: Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun
Respighi: Trittico Botticelliano for chamber orchestra
Deak: Concerto for String Quartet and Orchestra "The Headless Horseman of Sleepy Hollow" (Kenneth Johnston, Charles Morey, violins; Kirsten Docter, viola; Bryan Dumm, cello; Robert Conrad, narrator) Carlton R. Woods, director.
At Plymouth Church, UCC, Shaker Heights

Late Fall has certainly arrived in Northeast Ohio and while I was out of town Thursday and Friday, after spending a lazy day under warm covers Rachel and I headed to Plymouth Church in Shaker Heights to hear BlueWater Chamber Orchestra's Halloween-appropriate program. BlueWater, as a chamber orchestra, is an example of what makes greater Cleveland a great place to live with the wealth of musical talent in a slightly more compact and intimate format than the full-blown orchestra.

While the third work on the program, a concerto based on the short story The Headless Horesman of Sleepy Hollow" was initially what I thought was most intriguing, in execution the first two were the strongest showings.

Debussy's Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun is always enjoyable to hear and tonight's performance was particularly enjoyable thanks to an energetic delivery and the additional color brought by the addition of a harp -- while subtle it added a sparkle that made the afternoon of the faun that much easier to imagine.

Through the second piece on the program brought the audience Respighi's reactions, in musical form, to three works by Botticelli in Florence's Uffizi gallery via Trittico Botticelliano for chamber orchestra. The first, Primavera, was an energetic almost marching delivery that reminded me of a conversation in music with an interesting rhythm and more interesting texture. Second, L'adorazione dei Magi was a little bit more subdued and if I had to ascribe a specific feeling to it, "slightly middle-eastern"; the final movement, La Nascita di Venere was more of a meandering walk on a tepid fall day with a passionate delivery by the orchestra.

The concert concluded with Deak's Concerto for String Quartet and Orchestra "The Headless Horseman of Sleepy Hollow", narrated by Robert Conrad of WCLV, a piece I was really looking forward to hearing, especially with Mr. Woods's introductions for the soloists (Ichabod was represented by the two violinists on account of his "complex personality", Katrina represented by the viola "in a frisky kind of way", and the cello was "just strange") -- and Mr. Conrad's distinctive voice built for narration -- but the balance seemed a little lacking and I found myself struggling to hear Mr. Conrad's narration over the orchestra at times which distracted me from simply enjoying  the piece. Despite that challenge, the piece was enjoyable with overlapping textures a fun and lively "barn dance" and musicians clearly having fun with the performance.


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