Wednesday, September 15, 2010

CIM Orchestra: Dvorak/Schumann/Mahler

Dvorak: Slavonic Dance in C Major, Op. 72, No. 7
Schumann: Piano Concerto in A Minor, Op. 54*
Mahler: Symphony No. 1 in D Major
Carl Topilow, conductor; *-Martina Filjak, piano.

I continue to be impressed by the caliber of CIM's Orchestra, and just weeks into the new academic year the audience at tonight's concert was treated to a performance that worthy of Severance Hall.

The evening started when my friend**, her coworker, and myself ventured over to Sergio's University Circle -- a restaurant I've been wanting to try for a little while. When I made the reservation I mentioned that we were pre-concert dining, and the staff was quite helpful with getting us in, fed, and out in reasonable time without feeling rushed. A great dinner and a bottle of Riesling later we walked back to Severance, where after a brief hiccup with a ticket we found our seats.

My typical preference for Severance seats are seats A, B, E, or F in boxes 2-12, though I've also found the center of the Dress Circle to afford a sublime listening experience. I've often wanted to try the front legs of the Dress Circle's "U" and tonight we found ourselves on the house left side -- generally great sound, though through the acoustics of the hall, the balance of the sound leaves the basses a little more prominent and the violins a bit muted than I generally prefer.***

This slightly skewed balance, however, was a challenge easily overcome by the Cleveland Institute of Music opening the concert with the delectable but short Slavonic Dance. Lest ye think that classical works are de rigueur long, this spritely dance was over before I had fully grasped it. Last season I had heard both CIM and the Cleveland Orchestra's wonderfully illuminating Musically Speaking performance of Dvorak's From the New World (Symphony No. 9) -- and this past weekend Classical Revolution included his American Quartet. This, I think, was the first of Dvorak's works I've heard that wasn't inspired by or related to one of his trips to America -- but the more I hear, the more I have to list Dvorak among my favorite composers.

Following the dance was Schumann's opus 54 piano concerto, played by the wonderfully talented Nartina Filjak. I loved hearing this piece and watching her fingers dance the keyboard -- our seats offered a perfect vantage of this action. Quite a few individual passages caught my ear but the piece as a whole it didn't move me in any compelling way.

Belying my impression of what the 'typical' audience would be, profuse inter-movement applause appeared in this concerto as well as Mahler's symphony. Purists may find this objectionable, yet this strikes me as a sign that new audiences are finding and appreciating the music: Always a good thing.

Mahler's Symphony No. 1 capped off the evening in a spectacular way. Once again the piece -- in ways almost too numerous to be enumerated -- highlights why classical music is best heard live. Although the persistent calls of cuckoo and hunt in the first movement seemed to be a bit redundant, as the theme emerged the texture of the piece was beautiful. Particularly impressive, to my ear, was how cleanly notes were sustained for seemingly impossible duration by the violins. I think the second movement earned its place as my favorite from the evening -- described in the program notes as a "a dressed-up version of the Austrian peasant dance known as the Landler" -- it was both full of energy and fun to listen to (I'll confess to a little toe-tapping here).

Though I just called the second movement my favorite, the opening lines of the third movement -- with a solo bass opening the movement and solemnly filling the hall -- deserves note. The movement struck me as entirely depressing: The note to myself I scribbled on the cover of the program sums up the feeling it evokes: "Funeral March".

The third movement transitioned into the fourth without pause and announced with a cymbal crash that easily woke anyone who may have been lured into sleep by the solemn nature of the previous movement. I got the distinct feeling that the orchestra was doing battle triumphant against some unseen evil.

**- Still the same great just friends friend; if you happen to know anyone interested in giving me a dating whirl... I'm not hard to find ;)
***- It's interesting that when I was in Box 12 -- on the opposite of the hall -- for a Cleveland Orchestra concert last season, I noted the inverse effect, and I'm a fan of bright violins.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Lincoln! I too felt the same way about the pieces... *loved* the Dvořák & the Mahler was AWESOME! The Schumann didn't really move me much either.

    Btw, Dvořák's b-day was last Wed., & that piece you mentioned from last season ("From the New World") is still online streaming at