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.

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