Saturday, April 3, 2010

Cleveland Orchestra: Dohnanyi and Brahms

Beethoven: Overture to The Creatures of Prometheus
Mozart: Sinfonia concertante in E-flat major, K. 364 (William Preucil, violin; Robert Vernon, viola)
Brahms: Symphony No. 1 in C minor, Op. 68
Christoph von Dohnanyi, conductor.

At yesterday's house concert there was voluminous praise for Thursday's performance of this program -- from Orchestra musicians and audience alike. I was concerned that the performance was over-hyped and wouldn't be able to live up to the expectations that were being set. That concern was misplaced. I, along with a standing-room-only audience (I'm noticing a positive trend in attendance here) was treated to a wonderful performance that lived up to the hype.

I can't say that I "loved" any of the pieces, yet the playing and conducting left nothing not to be loved. The staging of the orchestra for tonight's concert was a tad unusual and a bit disorienting. Visually, the orchestra was lopsided for the first two pieces on the program with the second violins looking rather lonely on the right side of the stage. That visual imbalance, however, had no impact on the sound: The playing was beautifully balanced, and Mozart's Sinfonia seemed nearly perfectly balanced between violin and viola as well as between other sections in the orchestra.

I was slightly underwhelmed by the first movement of Brahms's Symphony No. 1 but the piece quickly picked up, with a particularly strong performance by the winds and a flowing cohesiveness that was mesmerizing. I particularly enjoyed the bursts of playful pizzicato and beautifully flowing string work.


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