Saturday, October 9, 2010

Cleveland Orchestra: Rhapsodic Rachmaninoff

Brahms: Symphony No. 3 in F major, Op. 90
Rachmaninoff: Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, Op. 43 (Kirill Gersetin, piano)
Ravel: La Valse.
Semyon Bychkov, Conductor

The orchestra delivered a delicious three course meal of sound this evening, starting with dessert in the form of Brahms's third symphony.

On my way into the hall I bumped into some friends and some acquaintances who I haven't seen since the last Severance Hall Season (since Saturday is my "regular" night and my last two concerts have been Thursdays this isn't surprising). Settling into my seat, I wasn't sure what to expect.

I can't put my finger on it, but the entirety of the Brahms appealed to my every sense; watching the orchestra while letting the musical waves soak on my ears. A newly minted favorite thus far this season.

During intermission one of the acquaintances that I bumped into said that the pianist may challenge me. In Rachmaninoff's Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, the first several variations the orchestra was beautiful but the pianist left me uninspired; I was reading the program when the piano solo began for Variation 18. My head involuntarily popped up and tilted like a dog hearing a silent whistle. The solo beginning this variation was beautiful, but when joined with the delicate power of the orchestra's strings it was soul-cleansingly beautiful. (If "Variation 18" doesn't ring any bells, try this...but it's nowhere near as beautiful or powerful as it was live)

The concert ended with Ravel's La Valse ("The Waltz")... the beginning was quite muted and one heard only hints of a waltz; the program notes say it better than I can: "At first the scene is dimmed by a kind of swirling mist, through which discerns, vaguely and intermittently the waltzing couples. Little by little the vapors disperse, and the illumination grows brighter, revealing an immensely ballroom filled with dancers..." -- while the dimmed fog didn't really do anything for me, once the fog lifted and the music swelled, the we got another amazing performance to round out the evening.

Some pieces seem to be of interminable duration; other pieces fly by. This concert consisted entirely of the latter -- returning home just after 10pm it as though the concert had started mere moments before.



  1. Interesting juxtaposition of Brahms and Rachmaninoff on the program, as Rachmaninoff detested Brahms' music - especially his piano music, which he didn't consider "Klavier-massig" (worthy of the piano).

  2. Interesting -- Learn something new every day. I didn't realize that there was aingst Rachmaninoff and Brahms; I may have to look into that!

  3. There was a real antipathy between Russian and German composers for much of the 19th & 20th Centuries. I believe Rachmaninoff's distaste for Brahms music was descended from the Brahms/Tchaikovsky feud.