Wednesday, October 5, 2011

CIM Orchestra: Smetana/Shostakovich/Sibelius

Smetana: Overture to The Bartered Bride
Shostakovitch: Violin Concerto No. 1 in A minor, Op. 77 (Leah Nelson, violin)
Bizet: March of the Toreadors (from Carmen) (Phil Robinson, special guest conductor)
Sibelius: Symphony No. 5 in E-flat major
Sasha Makila, guest conductor
Kulas Hall at the Cleveland Institute of Music

I try to attend as many of the CIM Orchestra concerts as possible: It's a nice--not to mention inexpensive--way to unwind midweek. When lead by a conductor who's sound I truly enjoy, however, I make a special effort to attend. Tonight's concert, conducted by Sasha Makila was one of the later group of concerts. I had high expectations and was not disappointed.

The program opened with the overture to Bedrich Smetana's The Bartered Bride, which set an exciting tone for the concert: Bold, confident, and expressive. And for the overture particularly, fast. The sense of tentative and uncertain playing that I noted for this season's first concert seems to have disappeared. And I really enjoyed this one.

Next up on the the program Shostakovitch's Violin Concerto, with the young and already-accomplished Leah Nelson playing the violin solo part. While the musicians were red faced and possibly still recovering from the exertion of the overture, the first movement (Nocturne) struck me as slowly dark, almost a graveyard scene, and harps provided the sound evocative of a clock chiming out an hour, while Rachel noted that the violin sounded like a woman crying. The second movement (Scherzo) was more lively and seemed to embody a dialog between the violin and the winds, while the third movement, and specifically the solo cadenza at the end of the Pasacaglia movement feels emotionally charged before leading into the final movement, Burlesca, which generally felt happier, faster, and more optimistic.

After intermission, Bizet's March of the Toreadors from the opera Carmen was conducted by Phil Robinson who won the opportunity via a silent auction to benefit CIM. I have to admit I was on one hand  bit envious of the opportunity, but I fear had I been in that position I would have been frozen under a ton of anxiety. In any event the Orchestra did a fine job with the piece.

Last on the program, Sibelius's Symphony No. 5. Just as Mr. Makila is a conductor whom I enjoy, I enjoy Sibelius's compositions, and the two together was a wonderful way to start the concert. Each of the tree movements had multiple tempo notations and multiple emotions. The first movement, begins calmly; I related it to the gentle sound of sun breaking dawn as the night hands earth over to day, while the end of the piece is climatic and hurried.

If the first movement was morning, the second movment could just as easily be related to the sounds of dusk as the sun retreats from view with a persistant pizzicato, and as the light slips away the listener was treated to the sound of beautiful strings over persistant horns before turning into a dialogue with the winds. Lastly, the third movment begins with a sense of exitement rising from the violins and violsa, before evolving to a slow dance, the sounds of of mourning, and finally trumphant, with a crisply punctuated finale.


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