Sunday, April 11, 2010

Cleveland Philharmonic: Liva conducts Brahms and Tchaikovsky

Brahms: Concerto for Violin, Cello and Orchestra in A minor, Op. 102
Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 1 in G major, Winter Dreams, Op. 13
Victor Liva, conductor
with Isabel Trautwein, violin; Tanya Ell, cello
at Cuyahoga Community College Metro Campus Auditorium.

I described the musician's body language at last night's Cleveland Orchestra concert as "'gloomy'/'death in the family'". Upon taking the stage as guest artists for this afternoon's Cleveland Philharmonic Orchestra concert, Ms. Trautwein announced that their performance of Brahms Concerto would be dedicated to the memory of violinist Leon Lazarev, a 25-year Cleveland Orchestra member who unexpectedly passed Saturday morning. I extend my condolences to his family--both immediate and musical.

Ms. Trautwein is one of my favorite string players, and I hold Ms. Ell in similar esteem. When I learned of today's concert I was particularly interested: Having heard their playing as members of TCO and across several more intimate chamber music performances I was eager to hear their talents in the concerto form. I was not to be disappointed. Wonderfully supported by the Cleveland Philharmonic Orchestra, the piece starts dominated by a dark cello and progresses into a wonderfully light dance-like sound (the program notes identify this "belonging to the gypsy idiom") as parts work their way around the string section. The third movement (vivace non troppo) was partiticularly cheerful and my favorite from the program.

Tchikovsky's first symphony, Winter Dreams, lacked the distinctive "boominess" that has been present in his other works that I've heard preformed (think, for example, the cannon fire in The Year 1812, Festival Overture)... While it was certainly easy to visualize the winter themes present in the piece, there were several moments where the sound struck me as "squeeky", and perhaps due in part to my grandiose expectations for Tchaikovsky it seemed a bit mellow for my tastes.


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