Sunday, May 8, 2011

Cleveland Orchestra: C.P.E. Bach and Haydn

C.P.E. Bach: Sinfonia No. 4 in G major, Wq. 183, No. 4
C.P.E. Bach: Cello Concerto in A major, Wq. 172 (Steven Isserlis, cello)
(Unannounced encore for solo cello) (Steven Isserlis, cello)
C.P.E. Bach: Sinfonia No. 1 in D major, Wq. 183, No. 1
Haydn: Symphony No. 98 in B-flat major
Ton Koopman, conductor.

Going into Severance Hall this sunny Sunday afternoon I had high hopes based on last weekend's fireworks. I left feeling kind of ambivalent -- on the whole I neither liked nor disliked, loved nor hated the concert. Had this been a normal concert I would have been delighted to hear Mr. Koopman's remarks from the podium, however billed as a Musically Speaking concert they seemed a bit light and insubstantial (on the other hand I found Mr. Koopman's accent posed a bit of a challenge for my overall comprehension)

Opening the concert with a rush of notes and a hint of the effervescence from last weekend's concerts, and the energetic fist movement from C.P.E. Bach's Simfonia No. 4 was among my favorites from the concert, though the second and thid movements didn't really stay with me.

Before beginning the second piece on the program, Bach's Cello Concerto in A major, Mr. Koopman and the orchestra demonstarted a passage from the slow movement played as scored for cello, harpsichord, and flute, each with orchestra and I found it interesting how differently it sounded -- the cello seemed almost whiny, the harpsichord struck me as indifferent, and the flute conjured feelings of wistfulness and longing.

Continuing the marathon of C.P.E. Bach -- J.S. Bach's second son for those who are curios -- I quite enjoyed Mr. Isserlis's cello playing for the Cello Concerto, I didn't get any emotional buy-in for the first two movements; the thrd had a slightly punctuated recurring theme that caught my ear.

Following the conclusion of that piece Mr. Isserlis performed a fantastic unannounced encore with great energy and clarity -- entirely in pizzicato. During the ovation his instrument took the bow which added a nice bit of levity to the afternoon.

Concluding the C.P.E. Bach marathon and the first half of the progrmam was what turned out to be my favoirte piece, Sinfonia No. 1 -- which seemed quite familiar and was almost entirely captivating (though I did start to wander a bit during the second movement (largo). I particularly enjoyed the bold yet punctuated recurring statement made by the cellos, eventually breaking through and developing and enveloping the entire orchestra. Nagging me throughout the piece was the sensation that I know I've heard it before but I can't put my finger on the where, when, or context.

Following intermission, I didn't really get anything musically from Haydn's Symphony No. 98 -- it did move, at least, quickly. Outside of the music, I found it interesting that Haydn was traveling and intent to meet CPE Bach -- only to arrive and find out that he had died several years earlier. As Mr. Koopman noted from the podium, news traveled a little slower in those days.

Slightly unusual for me, next week I'll be hitting the Orchestra on a Thursday instead of my usual weekend -- my dad is coming to visit for the weekend of my 27th birthday and as yet I've been able to convince him to join me in Severance Hall.


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