Saturday, February 27, 2010

Cleveland Play House: Emma

Being familiar with Ms. Austen's work in name only, I can't comment on how faithful Play House Artistic Director Michael Bloom's adaption may or may not be. Likewise, this lack of familiarity lead me into the theater with no expectations or conception of what was to come.

As should be expected from the Play House the set was well-done and visually appealing. While entertaining and quite humorous -- there were a couple young women on the opposite side of the house who were a veritable laugh track for the first act -- I felt with the exception of the core Emma-the-Matchmaker there wasn't much in the way of character development in the first act, with most of it piled into the span of about 30 minutes during the second act. There were plenty of awkward male/female interactions, which I could relate quite well to; yet there seemed to be almost a vacuum of chemistry.

Unfortunately the performance was marred by a variety of technical issues of various conspicuity--the most glaring of which resulted in the sudden substitution of dance music with a most unmusical squealing. While the actors made a valiant attempt to cover after a stunned moment, the remainder of this scene made nearly no sense. One actor in particular seemed shaken by this and audibly stumbled over several lines through the remainder of the performance.

Based on my recent, incredibly confusing, interactions with the fairer sex perhaps Emma's advice to Harriet early in Act I provides some insight:

I lay it down as a general rule, Harriet, that if a woman doubts as to whether she should accept a man or not, she certainly ought to refuse him. If she can hesitate as to 'Yes,' she ought to say 'No' directly.
Though my initial though is to assume that this would relate to marriage rather than a cup of coffee, perhaps this is still the common thought and perhaps I am delivering some reason for hesitation (but what?)


Friday, February 26, 2010

TrueNorth Symphony: The ABCs of Symphonic Music

TrueNorth delivers decidedly mixed results with varied program. (The rather extensive program follows this post)

I wasn't quite sure what to expect from TrueNorth, and given tonight's weather and my general fear of the west side seeing Copland on the program pushed me over the edge. This concert was sandwiched between two of the more terrifying drives in my nearly 5 years of living in Cleveland. Being conspicuously out of place with dress shirt, let alone a sport coat, it was the most casual venue and audience I've shared a classical concert with, and given that it is a volunteer orchestra I'm not really sure what standard I should evaluate it against -- even to compare it to the students of CIM would likely be unfair given that institution's pre-professional nature.

The concert opened strong with the selection of Anderson pieces; I'm still unsure why Syncopated Clock such a favorite of programmers, but it is more enjoyable without the audience participation shtick that a certain pops orchestra loves.

In Memory: STS 51L, composed by a member of the orchestra, had a nice sound and structure.

The two harpsichords for Bach's concerto had electronic reinforcement which rendered the orchestra nearly inaudible by comparison; I did enjoy the piece and despite having almost no musical similarity made me think of the orchestral arrangement of Perrey-Kingsley's Baroque Hoedown (aka the theme to Disney's Main Street Electrical Parade)

Likewise, the prelude from the solo Suite Number 1, a title I didn't recognize and on the program in tribute to recently deceased cellist James F. Meyers, is quite possibly the most recognizable piece written for cello and was stirring. I'm still not sure how to articulate my feelings about Bizet's Carmen Suite No. 1, and I have to leave it at that.

Which brings us to Copland. Quite possibly my favorite composer, excluding soundtracks, and the composer I've heard the fewest number of live music performances of. This performance seemed mushy; I felt like the winds were a bit sharp for Prairie Night (leveling off after several measures) and that the strings had trouble keeping things together for Celebration Dance. Hoe-Down is frequently excerpted from the ballet Rodeo (or Rodeo: Four Dance Episodes, a slightly reworked orchestral derivative by Copland), and demands energy. "Lethargic" is a good one-word summary both in tempo and overall feel given this piece; I thought the horn was a a bit flat and overall there seemed to be a lack of confidence in the strings. If I've ever heard a piece that demands an orchestra "Be Bold" this is it.

The concert program:
Anderson: Favorites (Blue Tango, Belle of the Ball, Syncopated Clock, Serenata)
Doppler: Fantasie Pastorale Hongroise (Sarah Holmes, flute)
Rayner: In Memory: STS 51L and all Shuttle Astronauts
Bach: Concerto for Two Harpsichords in C Major
Bach: Suite No. 1 in G Major for Violoncello Solo (Jacqueline Black, cello)
Bizet: Carmen Suite No. 1
Beethoven: Sonata Pathetique, Op. 13 (Cecilia Llg McKay, harp)
Copland: Selections from the Billy The Kid suite (Prairie Night, Celebration Dance)
Copland: Hoe Down from the Rodeo suite.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

CIM: Opera Theater: Ariadne aud Naxos (Strauss)

A question for anyone involved in the production/design end of opera: Why do you insist on hanging surtitles at such unreasonable heights? (go ahead and post a comment or email me directly at l at

Particularly in the case of Cleveland Institute of Music's Kulas Hall where there is only one seating level with a relatively shallow pitch I can figure no reason -- other than the desire to inflict a literal pain in the neck -- why the tallest singer was roughly 6' yet the surtitles were displayed at about 24'. This extra 18' of empty space made it impossible to watch the singer's body language and follow the story simultaneously. The set was visually interesting.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: I'm not particularly well qualified to judge opera based on my relative lack of exposure. The following observations are those of a lay person in the truest sense.

Generally, I thought the first act was uneven, particularly as far as the female singers were concerned. The second act was more even, but felt interminable as far as pacing was concerned. One singer in particular made what I felt was a weak entrance in the first act but, on sum, possibly delivered the most impressive individual performance. Given the fact that these are college students the individual performances were quite impressive.

The music was generally well played, but nothing really caught my ear aside from the overture and entr'acte...most of my attention was spent ping-ponging between the surtitles and action on stage.

Total running time, approximately 2:45 including intermission.


Sunday, February 21, 2010

Franklin Cohen and Friends (First Unitarian Church of Cleveland)

In Memory of Lynette Diers Cohen (1948-2003)
Hindemith: Clarinet Quintet, op. 30*
A Rememberance from Alexander Cohen
Bach: Giga from Partita #3**
Bach: Largo from Sonata #3**
Bach: Sonata in C Minor for Violin and Keyboard***
Weber: Clarinet Quintet in B-flat Major, op. 34
* - Franklin Cohen, clarinet; Isabel Trautwein, Sae Shirigami, violins; Joanna Patterson, viola; Tanya Ell, cello.
** - Diana Cohen, violin.
*** - Diana Cohen, violin; Stanislav Khristenko, piano.

I had heard about this concert last weekend before the Heights Chamber Orchestra concert. As a fan of Mr. Cohen's playing, the name alone was enough to get me through the door, add a handful of very talented Cleveland Orchestra musicians who joined him and you have a solid foundation for a great concert. But we're getting ahead.

Before the sanctuary opened for seating the narthex, isolated by heavy wooden doors was filled with the rich sounds of energetic rehearsal and conversations amongst guests about the memory of Lynette Cohen, the late wife of Mr. Cohen. It was obvious that she was warmly regarded and deeply missed by the assembled, as stories were traded with a smile, a wink, and a nod.

Mr. Cohen remarked in advance of Hindemith's Clarinet Quintet that despite his considerable experience, he had never heard let alone played the piece. Listening to the piece's complexity and demands on the clarinetist it's easy to understand why it would be seldom preformed--also impressive is that, with the exception of a single note, the first and fifth movements are exact mirrors of each other, though the third movement was probably my favorite.

Percussionist Alexander Cohen read a stirring commentary originally written by his mother.

Completing the splendid musicality of the Cohen family, the impressively accomplished and quite talented Diana Cohen played the solo largo from Bach's third sonata, and the Sonata in C-minor. I was stunned by the incredible clarity and delicate passion with which she played both pieces, the latter accompanied by Mr. Khristenko on piano. The largo was quite stirring, and the counterpoint between keyboard and violin in the sonata couldn't help but conjure images, if slightly, abstract, of a dance between the instruments. It was particularly interesting contrast for me compared to last night's Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 in Akron. I was a bit disappointed that the Giga from Partia #3 was cut, but appreciated Ms. Cohen's explanation of the significance of Bach to the program

The program ended with what Ms. Trautwein described as the dessert course in Weber's Clarinet Quintet, with the clarinet the clear focus of the work and the strings largely left as accompaniment; the fifth movement rondo was a particularly uplifting way to end the concert.

During the following reception it was once again abundantly clear how, some six years later and on the eve of her 62nd birthday, Mrs. Cohen is remembered by the community, with her husband and children providing a particularly touching tribute through an afternoon of well-played music.


Saturday, February 20, 2010

Akron Symphony: Schubert and Steel

J.S. Bach: Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 in G major, BVW 1048
J.Not-S. Bach: Concerto for Steelpan and Orchestra
Unannounced Steelpan-solo encore
Ave Maria for Steelpan and Orchestra encore
Schubert: Symphony No. 9 in C Major, D. 944, "The Great"

The title of tonight's program caught my attention when it showed up in one of my weekly Ticketmaster emails, with good weather I decided to take the opportunity to venture to Akron's E. J. Thomas Hall for the first time. I wasn't particularly impressed by the venue's acoustics--feeling like when the violins were playing at full steam the remainder of the strings were nearly inaudible from my seat--and the hall has quite possibly the most uncomfortable seats I've encountered for a classical music presentation. The venue is surprisingly intimate, however.

The musicians didn't appear on stage until moments before the concert started; I understand the practice is common in Europe, but I found it a bit disappointing: The cacophony of sounds of the orchestra members tuning, practicing, warming up is my point of meditation for the week, where my mental palette is cleansed in preparation both for the concert and the week ahead.

But the Akron Symphony delivered an interesting program mixing old with new and revealing the steel drum, or steelpan, as a true musical instrument. Both pre-concert lecture and post-concert Q&A featured music director Christopher Wilkins and the extremely humble, very talented steelpan player Liam Teague.

The staging for J.S. Bach's Brandenburg Concerto was interesting -- the cellists were seated surrounding the conductor while the violins and violas stood behind the cellists. I can't say where I've heard it before, but I've certainly heard it before, and I loved the point and counterpoint present throughout.

Jan Bach's Concerto for Steelpan and Orchestra took the more traditional orchestra staging but added a very nontraditional instrument: The steelpan, which conjures images of calypso, yet, as demonstrated by Mr. Teague, is extremely versatile. There was some playful musical banter between Mr. Teague and one of the percussionists, marking I think the first time I've laughed out loud in the middle of an orchestral piece. At one point in the second movement, there is some frantic string and pan playing that evoked the motion of running to catch a flight.

Perhaps due to the acoustics, Schubert's Ninth Symphony (which, as discussed during the pre-concert lecture can be found numbered as the 7th, 8th, 9th, or even 10th) didn't make a home on my favorites list, strongly preferring his Trout Quintet, op. Post 114, D. 667, as recently heard at CIM. I was impressed, however, by Mr. Wilkins' ability to conduct the piece without having a score in front of him.

Overall, though, the Akron Symphony delivered good value and was worth the drive.


Friday, February 19, 2010

Cleveland Orchestra: Fridays@7: Musical Obsession

Wagner: Overture to Renzi
Wagner: Prelude and Love-Death from Tristan and Solode
Wagner: Prelude to Act III of Lohengrin
Wagner: Prelude to Act I of Lohengrin
Wagner: Prelude to Die Meistersinger
Wagner: The Ride of the Valkyries from Die Walkure
Post-concert music with Simon Shaheen, Joel Smiroff, Jamey Haddad

Based on the last iteration I was a bit concerned that the Fridays @ 7 format may have jumped the shark after only three installments. I am happy to report that that concern was premature.

While I'm becoming used to hearing great music, it's rare that music is so engaging as to be hypnotizing, even more rare to have that event happen twice in one month, let alone the same evening. Such was the case tonight, with the Orchestra's opening Overture to Rienzi and the first piece played by the band and Joel Smirnoff (of which I missed the title) in the Grand Foyer after the orchestra's concert.

The remainder of the orchestra's program was quite enjoyable-- the Overture to Renzi and Prelude to Act III of Lohengrin being my new discoveries of the evening, and Ride of The Valkyries being quite possibly the first classical piece I heard specifically as classical (and setting up my bad habit of referring to the composer as wag-ner instead of vog-ner).

The music of Simon Shaheen didn't quite rise to the level of Beat the Donkey but was nonetheless enjoyable, especially the highly energetic violin playing of Joel Smirnoff, CIM's President--considering that institution's staid reputation I was impressed to see him jamming and toe-tapping away. Returning the after concert music to the foyer was an excellent decision and you could feel the energy -- both music and conversation -- pulsating through the room.

The only negative was that I already have the sensation that Prelude and Love-Death from Tristan and Isolde is over-preformed, disheartening considering I've only heard the piece once before -- four months ago.

The next Fridays @ Concert promises flamenco Friday, April 30th, 2010.
At this point I think I'm giving Mozart's Cosi Fan Tutti a pass, but if you're interested act quickly--it looks like there are relatively few seats remaining.


Sunday, February 14, 2010

Heights Chamber Orchestra:

Bizet: Prelude from L'Alesineent Suite No. 1
Chopin: Piano Concerto No. 2 in F minor, Op. 21
Bizet: Movements from L'Arlesienne Suites 1 and 2 (Carillon, Intermezzo, Minuet, and Farandole)

I attended this evening's concert with a friend; she lit up when she saw Bizet on the program and asked me if I was more partial to Bizet or Chopin; answering honestly at the beginning of the program I had no partiality; come the end of the program, I was firmly in the Bizet camp.

The piano concerto was beautifully played, but the piano had a tendency to drown out the rest of the orchestra at times and there were a few not quite perfect notes from the strings.

All of the Bizet pieces sounded somewhat familiar, but Carillon and Farandole from L'Arlesienne sounded particularly familiar-- in reviewing my notes, I see that Farandole was on the Cleveland Orchestra's Christmas concert program; it was equally enjoyable at this performance.


CIM/CWRU Wind Ensembles

University Circle Wind Ensemble
Mueller: Concerto for Violin, Piano, and Wind Ensemble (Premiere)
Hokoyama: Color of August
Bach (arr. Hunsberger): Tocata and Fugue in D Minor.

CWRU Symphonic Winds
Farmer: Beyond the Medow Green
Tucker: Gabrieli's Trumpet
Hokoyama: Spirtual Planets

Cleveland Youth Wind Symphony I
Hokoyama: Fanfare
Sparke: The Four Noble Truths
Kabalevsky: Overture to Colas Bregunon
Hanssen: Baldres March
Bourgeois: Celebration

Today Severance Hall played host to three wind ensembles featuring some incredible young talent. Several of the pieces seemed particularly cenematic -- Celebration, Fanfare, and Spiritual Planets to be specific, and were quite enjoyable to listen to. Likewise, Gabrieli's Trumpet and the concerto for violin, piano, and wind ensemble were fun to listen to.


Saturday, February 13, 2010

Cleveland Orchestra: Mahler "Unfininished Symphony"

Happy Birthday, Mr. Boulez!

Mahler: Adagio from Symphony No. 10
Mahler: Des Knaben Wunderhorn (The Youth's Magic Horn)
Happy Birthday for Orchestra

An amazing performance celebrates Pierre Boulez's 85th birthday. As a counterpoint to a post earlier this week, I am not generally one for adagios, preferring works with a faster tempo. But the structure of the adagio from Mahler's unfinished Tenth Symphony, kept things interesting; the piece was certainly a bit haunting very much soulful. Part of the intrigue for me came from the opening with only violas playing to the closure with a single pluck from the strings, as if to say "I'm done"

My feelings towards Des Knaben Wunderhorn are decidedly mixed; I thought it was well performed particularly with a nice balance of vocalist-to-orchestra but with the exception of Revelge (Reveille) I didn't find myself particularly enveloped by any of the movements. Revelge has an interesting, almost manic, texture and I was impressed by the strings, particularly their use as a subtle percussive resource.

This was another concert that highlighted why live classical and recorded classical really can't be compared--there was tremendous dynamic range from the incredibly quiet light tapping of bows during Revelge to the sustained trumpet note during the adagio.

The evening finished with a few remarks from Messrs. Welser-Most, Hanson, and Boulez and with an orchestral rendering, perhaps the best I've ever heard, of Happy Birthday. I was struck by the fact that 45 years ago Mr. Boulez made his American orchestra conducting debut in the same room.

This evenings concerts were being videotaped, with a rather impressive number of apparent seat kills. I'm not sure when this may see the light of day, but I may be visible in the audience (on the box level, stage right, with a violin lapel pin) if anyone wants to attempt to play a game of "Where's Lincoln".


Friday, February 12, 2010

CIM Faculty Recital: "Mozart and Company"

Sergei Babayan, piano, delivers a delightful evening of relaxing music. Plus: Concert Etiquette reminder

Mozart: Fantasia in D Minor, K. 397
Mozart: 12 Variations on French Song, 'Ah, vous drai-je Maman' in C Major, K. 265
Haydn: Sonata in E Minor, Hob. XVI: 34
Mozart: Sonata in C Major, K. 279
Haydn: S0nata in C Minor, Hob. XVI: 20
Mozart: Sonata in B-flat Major, K. 281
One encore; unknown title and composer.

I wound up at CIM tonight largely by accident: I had been on the fence about attending an event at the Cleveland Museum of Art, and couldn't find any sign of it when I got there, so after spending some quality time in the galleries I moved across the circle to CIM.

The piano as a solo instrument is problematic for me; while there's a large range of possible notes without another instrument to provide some contrast after a while the sound of hammers hitting strings begins to sound the same to my ear. That said, the pieces on tonight's program were beautifully played my Mr. Babayan; something seemed familiar about Mozart's 12 Variations.

Haydn's Sonata in E Minor was pleasing, and when I closed my eyes I could have sworn that there were two instruments in the room. The first movement allegro from Mozart's Sonata in B-flat was rousing. The encore, which was announced from the stage but I could only hear "Sonata" was quite lively and my favorite from the evening.

Now... I hate to say this, and as a far-from-perfect concert goer myself, I probably shouldn't say this, but with events at recent concerts I can't help myself. As a courtesy to your fellow audience members:

- Make sure your cell phone is on vibrate. Not "wake the dead ring", not vibrate and ring, just vibrate. Or off. Before you enter the concert hall. If you forget... and, unlike myself, actually have people who call you, silence the phone immediamente. Then turn it off. Vibrate is no longer an option.

- Cease all conversation as soon as the conductor takes the stage or the musicians start. I paid to hear them, not you. If neither you or your neighbor is interested in hearing the music, why are you here?

- Do not unwrap candy during a piece. If you must, do it quickly. Do not spend 90 seconds making wonderful snap, crackle, and pop noises as you roll the packaging back and forth through your fingers unless that's in the score. Likewise, bags of M&Ms, skittles and similar candies are a bad idea in the first place, but absolutely should not freely be passed back and forth.

- Refrain from fiddling with electronic gadgets during a performance. Yes, I know; I get a little twitchy when I'm in one of the boxes at Severance with no WiFi coverage, and I'm pretty sure Mixon Hall is a giant Faraday cage... but my PDA goes in my pocket when the concertmaster appears, and doesn't come out until the house lights are back up. The little screens dancing around the venue aren't as distracting as the previous items but it is still an unnecessary distraction.


Thursday, February 11, 2010

Playhouse Square: In the Heights

Based on my most recent experiences with Playhouse Square (the borderline-tolerable Wicked and the utterly abysmal, I-still-feel-like-I-was-ripped-off-and-will-gladly-tell-everyone-I-know Chicago) I entered tonight's performance of In the Heights--after much initial inner debate about even attending--with bated breath...and a vodka and coke to be safe.

While the performance wasn't was reasonably entertaining. I had the irresistible urge to tap my toes through much of the show though I was largely--yet not entirely--able to keep the head-bobbing in check.

Technically, I noticed at least two missed/late mic cues early in Act 1 for Nina (Arielle Jacobs), which were reasonably well-covered by sheer vocal power. A large part of my complaints for both Wicked and Chicago were out of control orchestras. While the intelligibility of the vocals, especially during the opening In The Heights could have been helped if the band were a touch quieter or the vocals a touch louder, it was well within the limits of tolerably.

The set was one of the most visually intriguing I've seen recently; roughly on par with that of Spring Awakening but far easier to figure out on first glance.

The bilingual curtain announcement was both amusing and a sign of things to come -- I'm sure appreciation for the show is increased for those who speak Spanish, but I don't feel like I missed much. Story wise, it's a show about a microcosm that is a New York City neighborhood and the relationships of the people in it. I didn't leave with any major revelations, nor did I feel like a better or worse person at the end, but I was entertained. I'll take that.

I'm still trying to figure out if I can buy a Jump Back Ball ticket in good conscience.


Wednesday, February 10, 2010

CIM Faculty Recital: "Gala Alumni Recital"

A bitterly cold evening outside gave way to a warm evening inside Cleveland Institute of Music's Kulas Hall.

Mozart: Quintet for Piano and Winds in E-flat major, K. 452
Mozart: L'amero, saro costante from Il re Pastore
Schubert: Die Forelle, op. 32, D 550 (The Trout)
Schubert: Der Hirt auf dem Felsen, D 965 (The Shepherd on the Rock)
Schubert: Quintet in A Major for piano and strings, op. Post 114, D. 667 (The Trout Quintet)
With Linda Jones, piano; Marla Berg, soprano; Terry Orcutt, oboe; Alix Reinhardt, clarinet; Lauren Moore, horn; Tod Jelen, bassoon; Paul Kanto and Peter Salaff, violin; Lynne Ramsey, viola; Stephen Geber, cello; Jeffrey Bradetich, bass.

Bear with me for this random thought... While I was in New York I caught the new(ish?) musical Next to Normal, which I enjoyed at the time and have developed more of an appreciation for since purchasing the original cast recording* -- anyway, one of the songs, Everything Else, includes the lyrics:
Mozart was Crazy. Flat F___ing Crazy. Bat S__t I hear.
But his music's not crazy. It's balanced, it's nimble; it's crystalline clear.
There's harmony, logic; you listen to these. You don't hear his doubts, or his debts or disease.

Which happened to be running through my head while I waited for this evening's program to begin.

The program was played, and in the case of L'amero and Der Hirt sung, passionately -- and was quite enjoyable to listen to. However it wasn't until the scherzo of Schubert's Qunintet that my ear really perked up, reinforcing the notion that I've never met a scherzo I don't like and making me realize that perhaps the only tempo I (generally) like more than an Allegro is Presto.

My recent challenge with the learning to play the violin has been my near complete inability to maintain any semblance of a steady tempo while practicing. Through that filter, Peter Salaff's playing for Mozart's L'amero, saro constante caught my eye and ear with his ability to match the vocalist's tempo, including holding sustained notes.

*- I've also developed an unhealthy addiction to the string melody to Masquerade from Phantom of the Opera, but that's an entirely different post.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Science Cafe Cleveland: Developing Latent Fingerprints: The Real CSI

I got a rather strange call from my violin teacher late this morning... She had heard about and thought I might be interested in a series of events called Science Cafe Cleveland, sponsored by the CWRU chapter of Sigma Xi.
On the fence about attending because it takes place at the Great Lakes Brewery Tasting Room, and the West Side scares this East Sider, and I really needed to get some time in practicing my violin I decided to go. I knew I was in the right place when, at the doorway, intermixed with the rich aroma of freshly-brewed beer I heard what sounded like the foundations of a heated debate about the new Google phone. Luckily that's about as geeky as the night got.

Tonight's topic "Developing Latent Fingerprints: The Real CSI" with Dan Winterich, Senior Special Agent, Crime Scene Unit, and Michelle Snyder, Forensic Scientist, Latent Print Unit, both of the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification & Investigation proved to be very interesting, opening with a very brief PowerPoint presentation and leading to an open forum with three rules (raise your hand, it's ok to ask questions or make statements, and no jargon)

Some great questions were asked, and great answers were given. The audience was fantastically diverse as well. It was a very relaxed atmosphere (the full bar certainly helped matters; though I felt a bit like I was committing heresy when I ordered a vodka and coke [what can I say, I'm not a beer person]) and it didn't seem like anything was off limits.

I'd recommend trying the program to anyone -- the next one will be March 8th and is cryptically titled "Ohio Glaciers".


Saturday, February 6, 2010

Cleveland Orchestra: Messiaen, Ravel, Debussy

Capping off a week of great performances with an evening of musical ecstasy brought to life by the Cleveland Orchestra and Pierre Boulez.

Messiaen: L'Ascension, four meditations symphoniques.
Ravel: Piano Concerto in G major*
Ravel: Piano Concerto in D major for the Left Hand*
Debussy: Iberia from Images
Pierre Boulez, conductor; *- with Pierre-Laurent Aimard, piano.

Last week, while in New York I heard Mr. Boulez conducting the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. It wasn't until I returned from that trip that I realized that this week's performances by the Cleveland orchestra would be under his While that performance was completely acceptable it was nothing particularly memorable; I commented that I felt that it was lacking a certain je ne sais quois.

Tonight's performance with the Cleveland Orchestra had that missing je ne sais qouis and then some. It was quite simply mesmerizing. While I was apathetic toward the first movement of L'Ascension, but from the second movement on each movement of each piece was better than the last. The music was beautifully textured from beginning to end.

I had heard the Piano Concerto for the Left Hand at Blossom in 2009 and I wrote favorably about it at the time. Tonight's performance was absolutely captivating and exceeded my already high expectations. The remainder of the program was new to me, and I was impressed. The Piano Concerto in G Major was energetic (with my particular favor to the third movement), and you were enveloped by the atmosphere of the city throughout the each of the movements of Debussy's Iberia.

The lady seated next to me in Box 2 was a pleasure to chat with and was likewise thrilled with the program, predicting a Grammy for the CD that will come of this weekend's concerts.


Friday, February 5, 2010

Heights Arts: House Concert: Frankly February (Post #100)

An evening of beautiful music in the barn at Dunham Tavern Museum.

Mozart: String Quartet in C-major, KV. 157*
Boccherini: Quintetto Quarto (no. 4) in A-major for Oboe and String Quartet, G. 434
Britten: Fantasy for Oboe, Violin, Viola, and Cello, Op. 2
Bach: Concerto for Oboe and Violin in C-minor based on Concerto for 2 Harpsichords, BVW 1060
Balmages: Phantom Tangos for String Orchestra*
Frank Rosenwein, oboe; Miho Hashizume, Mari Sato, Isabel Trautwein, violins; Kirsten Docter, viola; Josue Gonzalez, cello.
*- With the Newton Quartet: Serena Shapard, William Wang, violins; Nadia DeGeorgia, viola; Henry Shapard, cello.

As I've noted before, the Heights Arts house concert series offers a fantastic way to hear musicians who are at the top of their professional game in an intimate and unusual environment. Tonight's concert being no exception took place in the warm barn at the Dunham Tavern Museum on Euclid -- a venue that I didn't know existed despite having driven by the location countless times, and stood in nice contrast to the blowing snow visible through the barn's windows.

In addition to the professional musicians (including three members of the Cleveland Orchestra, three CIM faculty members, and once CIM student) the Newton Quartet, consisting of four talented 5-6th graders, joined the program, playing the first piece independently and joining the older musicians for the last.

I always think it's interesting to hear what musicians have to say about their craft and the music that they're playing. Ms. Trautwein, made some particularly apt comparisons between growing through music and cultivating a garden; Mr. Rosenwein provided a bit of insight to the not-so-glamorous life of an oboist (who knew they made their own reeds?); and Ms. Hashizume provided some information on the differences between the baroque and modern violin, and how that affects the sound.

The lady seated next to me came specifically for the Concerto for Oboe and Violin, and I'm certainly enjoyed the allegros from the piece; I think my favorite from the evening was Britten's Fantasy, and Phantom Tangos is a very close third.

It's particularly worth noting the amazing combination of talent that came when young met "old" for Phantom Tangos at the conclusion of the evening, well-played by all.


Clyde's Bistro and Barroom, Cleveland Heights, an Addendum

A few weeks ago I wrote favorably about my initial experience with Clyde's Bistro and Barroom in Cleveland Heights. Last night I returned and had another fantastic experience.

This time I was on the bar side of the restaurant which as a distinct, yet equally enjoyable, atmosphere compared to the dining room. The evening of my visit you could feel the energy and bartender Angie was on her toes every moment of my visit ("It keeps me thin," she commented). While I'm not normally one for "courses", I added a house salad, substituting Cesar dressing. It was one of the best salads I've had in a very long time. The Delmonico Steak was as good as my previous fillet.

You can tell a lot about a restaurant by the check: A so-so restaurant you invariably find yourself begging for the check; a place that's in a hurry to get rid of you will drop the check before you've dropped your fork. A good restaurant, though, the check comes at precisely the right moment; such was my experience on Thursday.

I also had the privilege of meeting Vivian, and Brian and chatting with Clyde. You can tell that he's a restaurateur who knows and enjoys what he's doing... and who also knows the importance of having staff who enjoy their work and atmosphere -- the atmosphere is real, not manufactured chain-restaurant kitsch.


Wednesday, February 3, 2010

CIM Orchestra: Dvorak and Stravinsky

Tonight I heard the Cleveland Institute of Music Orchestra beautifully play two of the most stunning pieces I've heard.

Dvorak: Concerto in B-Minor for Cello and Orchestra, op. 104 (Mark Yee, Cello)
Stravinsky: Le Sacre du Printemps (The Right of Spring)
The CIM Orchestra - Carl Topilow, Conductor

In no simpler words, I felt like crap today after not feeling all that well Monday or Tuesday... so I stayed home and in bed most of the day. Luckily by the time my 7:00pm violin lesson -- my first in two weeks due to travel -- rolled around I was feeling much more myself. I also happened to notice the 8:00 performance at CIM on my calendar and figured I'd try to make a go of it.

Two amazing yet diametrically opposed pieces made it well-worth the gamble, and leaving me with a fantastic feeling. Dvorak's Cello Concerto almost immediately conjured images from his Symphony From The New World which preceded the concerto by two years. Looking into the history of the piece, there's some connection between the principal cellist for the debut of New World and the nucleus of the concerto. Mark Yee along with the rest of the orchestra turned in a fantastic performance; the first movement was my clear favorite, while the second was enjoyable, the third was a little too sorrowful for my tastes.

Mr. Topilow provided a an introduction to Stravinsky's The Right of Spring including some well-chosen excerpts and some humor from an English Horn and then launched into 37 minutes of musical bliss. Here again, though, I strongly preferred Part I (Adoration of the Earth) to Part II (The Sacrifice), which was quite dark.

There is some amazing talent in that building....


Monday, February 1, 2010

New York: Recap

I'll return you to my regularly scheduled blogging this Friday with the Heights Arts House Concert, and Saturday with the Orchestra (Interestingly, Mr. Boulez is conducting this weekend's concerts -- something I didn't realize until I found the postcard in my mailbox yesterday). For now, the recap of New York, from the comfort of my own sofa.

The last set of pictures is here, pictures from the full set are over there.

Overall: Really, New York is one of the most amazing cities on the planet and certainly the most amazing I've visited thus far. There's an infinite variety of things to do, see, hear, touch, feel. I can't wait to go back (and if I ever win the lottery, my first stop would be to buy a pied-à-terre in the City. Just next time I'm not going in the middle of January.

Lodging: Stayed at both the Waldorf-Astoria and the Hilton Times Square. The Waldorf was nice, but superficially so; the Hilton is in a great location, had fantastic views, great rooms, and an incredibly accommodating and personable staff. My next trip will definitely include the Times Square location if the rates are in the ballpark.

Transportation: The NYC MTA is an amazingly efficient and wonderfully comprehensive network, of which I only sampled a small portion. The $27 7-day unlimited ride MetroCard is quite possibly the best bargain in New York, and the MTA NYC Subway staff are some of the most courteous and helpful transportation employees I've encountered. The lone exception would be the R train Saturday morning where not only were the doors closed with a large number of passengers still trying to board, yours truly included, but the doors were closed without warning, and on a tourist who was halfway through the doors at the time (with an arm and leg outside the car) -- and didn't reopen them (Specific descriptions here, here, here, and, described by my mother as hallucinogenic, here).

Theatre, Music, Dance: Phantom Of The Opera, the New York City Ballet, Next to Normal, and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra at Carnegie Hall. All tremendously entertaining in their own ways, and all with very full houses. Of course TKTS made prices for Phantom and Next to Normal reasonable.

Art, Culture, Randomness: The Metropolitan Museum of Art and Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum and Central Park, The Museum of Modern Art and Seghal's This Progress at the Guggenheim, possibly the most thought provoking piece of art I've encountered. Last but not least is MTA's Arts For Transit with art sprinkled throughout the stations... and opening your mind to look for art in places that you aren't expecting, like this and this.

Despite using HHonors points to pay for my three nights at the Waldorf, according to preliminary credit card statements and cash on hand, as a single traveler I contributed somewhere between $700-800 to the New York economy, about 20% more than my original expectation. It was worth it.