Saturday, August 7, 2010

Cleveland Orchestra: Brahms Symphony No. 2

Ives: From the Steeples and the Mountains
Berg: Symphonic Suite from Lulu
Brahms: Symphony No. 2 in D major, Op. 73
One Unannounced Encore
Franz Welser-Most, conductor.

I was accompanied at tonight's concert by a friend who was experiencing both Blossom and The Cleveland Orchestra for the first time.

Before the concert we met at the Blossom Grille for dinner -- haven never eaten a proper meal on the Blossom grounds, this was a first for me as well. As for food, the grilled 'sandwiches' (in a pita-like shell) served on the patio were reasonably good, though the intended method of consumption--hand to mouth or fork and (table) knife--was a bit unclear (As we were finishing our meal, the next table over had their sandwiches delivered with a steak knife sticking out of the middle, making things a bit more clear). As for value, "real world" pricing is a bit steep; "captive market" pricing wasn't too bad.

The title of Charles Ives' From the Steeples and The Mountains most attracted me to tonight's program. From the title I had expected something bold, perhaps declaratory, and melodic. I was 0 for 3, and the best I can say is that it was only 4 minutes long. With three musicians on chimes, a trumpet and trombone, the dissonance between the instruments left me unclear on the statement.

When last I heard Berg's Symphonic Suite from Lulu, I described it as "a strong contender for my least favorite piece". I've softened slightly, especially given the piece it followed but many of my original sentiments hold true. Interestingly, this time I noticed the program note that the opera from which the excerpts were taken was based on two of Frank Wedekind's plays; my all-time favorite musical, Spring Awakening was also based on a Wedekind play, with pop musician Duncan Sheik as the composer: It's quite interesting how one playwright can serve as the inspiration for two different composers at two different times with wildly different results)

Brahms's Second Symphony was, by contrast, quite enjoyable, particularly the texture of the third and fourth movements dipping into shadows and emerging into a bright, triumphant landscape.

There was one encore, title and composer unannounced, to which I was ambivalent.


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