Sunday, January 10, 2010

Cleveland Orchestra: Musically Speaking: Tchaikovsky's Fourth

Prelude Concert:
Ysaye: Sonata for two violins, Op. Posthumous (Peter Otto and Eli Matthews, violin)
Tchaikovsky: Souvenir de Florence in D minor, Op. 70 (Chulin Park, Sae Shiragami, violin; Patrick Connolly, Joanna Patterson, viola; Paul Kushious, David Alan Harrell, cello)

Beyond the Score: A multimedia exploration of Tchaikovsky's Fourth Symphony (Symphony No. 4 in F minor, Op. 36)

Borrowing someone else's words, it was a wonderfully complete experience.
I started this afternoon with not one but two tours of Severance Hall; it's amazing how each tour guide puts their own spin on the tour and shows off little corners that aren't even mentioned by other guides (The Taplin Room was today's such discovery) and makes it well worth repeating, though I'm not sure it needs to be done on the same day.*

Following the second tour I made my way down to the Rineberger Chamber Hall for the prelude concert. Both pieces were preceded by enlightening commentary from the musicians, which certainly added to the value, understanding, and humor of the pieces. I was taken by Ysaye's Sonata, and Souvenir de Florence was an interesting...ummm...prelude to the main attraction and had some interesting themes developed.

Most of the feelings I expressed after the first Musically Speaking concert held true for this concert. As I had previously noted it's easy to believe that music is composted in a vacuum, and once again this concert broke that seal. As I learned, Tchaikovsky's private life wasn't in the best shape and his marriage was strictly one of convenience. The detail behind inspirations for various passages and themes is certainly enlightening, and the excerpting helps immensely. When I heard the piece Friday, for example, I had not noticed the three waltzes; the intention to evoke the sound of "tears"; or the subtle nod to the music of The Nutcracker. The theme of booming brass, though, can't help but to make one's mind wander to the 1812 Overture which came two years after this piece.

When I heard the performance on Friday, I was in the front row of Box 12 which is essentially in the right corner of the box level. Today I was in the back row of Box 2, which is just about as close to dead center as you can get as a member of the public. On Friday, I noted that the Orchestra sounded brighter from that position and that feeling holds true today. Same piece, same conductor, still sounded great but not quite as bright. But everyone has their own "favorite" seat at Severance and there are 2,000 to choose from. (Next Saturday, partially out of necessity, unless something else opens up I'll be trying Box 22 out)

The concert was followed by a Q&A with Gary Ginstling, Japp van Zweden, Rrakn Rosenwein, and Gerard McBurney which was a great way to cap off the afternoon. It was quite interesting to hear their takes on a variety of subjects, including my question: How does the performance evolve across the span of the four performances. Mr. van Zweden commented on the relationship that is formed between the conductor and the orchestra who start as complete strangers, spend three days of rehearsal together and the relationship continues to be forged through the performances. Mr. Rosenwein added that Mr. van Zweden was very into the moment and the same notes may have received different gestures each night.

One idea that had been floated with seeing the concert twice was that it would be an interesting opportunity to evaluate Mr. van Zweden's debut with the orchestra. I have to confess that I'm really not sure what one looks for in evaluating a conductor. His actions generally seemed to be sharper, more assertive, than I'm used to while his left hand was gracefully pulling, or perhaps better, coaxing each note out. I don't think I've noticed so much movement.

Ok, this post is getting long enough... I really could go on, but it would be best if you experience Musically Speaking/Beyond the Score for yourself. The next opportunity -- the last of this season -- will be March 7th.

* I'd still gladly pay for a top to bottom, back stage, under stage, BOH/FOH tour.

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