Saturday, March 27, 2010

Cleveland Pops Orchestra: Cirque de la Symphonie

The program for tonight's performance can be found at the end of this post.
As the weekend approached I found myself trying to choose which of among four concerts I was going to attend tonight; one was ruled out pretty quickly, one was ruled out because I didn't feel like driving to Akron, and one was ruled out because the same group will be performing a house concert (that will be attending) tomorrow.

What was left was this, the first non-New Years Eve Cleveland Pops Orchestra concert that I've made it to. I had high expectations -- and a bit of anticipation for this performance. Unfortunately, where there were some bright spots, taking the concert as a whole, my expectations were not met.

The Cirque visuals accompanying several pieces were well performed but didn't meet the expectations I have for something associated with the Cirque du Soleil empire. While I hate to use the word "amateurish", because the performers clearly aren't, the selection and flow of performances seemed to be more of a sideshow level.

The persistent applause during those performances, without regard to the orchestra's music, made it difficult--if not impossible--to apply any kind of critical listening to the music, essentially relegating the orchestra to the role of "talented, probably expensive, background music". This was particularly true of the fourth movement from Shostakovitch's fifth symphony; taken out of context from the first 3 movements and relegated to the role of second fiddle on stage, it lacks the power and drama that it deserves (and that makes it enjoyable)

So, that's what I didn't care for. On the bright side:

Ms. Alexis Floyd, winner of the 2009 Jean L Petit Memorial Music Scholarship, and the orchestra delivered a fantastic performance of Astonishing from the Broadway musical Little Women. Sisters, pianists, and honorable mention winners in the same competition, Stephanie and Megan Lee, played Saint-Saens Carnival of the Animals. The seventh movement (Aquarium) was particularly enjoyable, and almost haunting -- I have to swear that I've heard it before, but I can't place it.

Send in the Clowns from A Little Night Music, with Clarinet by Carl Topilow was enjoyable to listen to, as was Waltz from Carousel.

Immediately after intermission a synopsis of the Pops' upcoming season was announced--it sounds like it will be good.


Wendel: Under the Big Top
Bizet: Gypsy Dance from Carmen
King: Barnum and Bailey's Favorite
Rimsky-Korsakov: Dance of the Tumblers from The Snow Maden
Saint-Saens: Carnival of the Animals
Tchaikovsky: Dance of the Swans from Swan Lake
Howland & Dickstein: Astonishing from Little Women
Rodgers: Waltz from Carousel
Sondheim: Send in the Clowns from A Little Night Music
Shostakovich: Movement IV (Alegro non troppo) from Symphony No. 5 in D-minor, Op. 47.

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