Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Cleveland Museum of Art: Concert in the Galleries (@ClevelandArt, @CIM_edu)

Britten: Three Movements (I, II, IV) from Suite for Harp (Jennifer R. Ellis, harp)
Handel: Andante Allegro from Harp Concerto in B-flat major (Jennifer R. Ellis, harp; transcribed by Carlos Salzedo for Solo Harp)
Scheidt: Selections (5) from Passamezzo (Paula Maust, organ)
Tian-Hua Liu: Bird Whispering in the Mountain (Yu-Cheng Lin, ehru)
Hai-Huai Huang: River Water (Yu-Cheng Lin, ehru)
Hai-Huai Huang: Horce Racing (Yu-Cheng Lin, ehru)
Klughardt: Quintet, Op. 79 (Hyunji Kim, flute; Chistopher Connors, oboe; Drew Sullivan, clarinet; Anthony J. Slusser, bassoon, Samuel Hartman, horn)
in Galery 201 (Sarah S. and Alexander M. Cutler Gallery), 1916 Building, Cleveland Museum of Art.

The Cleveland Museum of Art, in collaboration with the Cleveland Institute of Music and the historical performance program of Case Western Reserve University continues a series which brings students of those institutions, toting beautiful music, accompanying the art that graces the Museum's walls. The series continues the first Wednesday of every month until May, 2012.

Tonight's concert started at 6pm -- a little too early for me to escape from the office and make my way to the museum before the concert started. Luckily Rachel was in the area and staked out two stools for us. Arriving in the 1916 building after parking and journeying through the tunnel I let my ear draw me to the music. I found the empty stool next to Rachel in the front row while Ms. Ellis was performing the Britten Suite, a portion of which may have been the most ominous I've heard the harp -- what I typically think of as a "lighter" instrument -- play with a little bit of a theme that seemed "twilight zone-ey" for lack of a better description.

In Ms. Ellis's introduction to the second piece she helped the audience to understand the difficulty of playing the Harp Concerto on instruments of Handel's era, and explained the purpose of the harp's pedals -- 7 pedals, one for each note on the musical scale, each with three stops Flat-Natural-Sharp. The selected movement twinkled and resonated in the galleries such that the paintings on the wall behind seemed to come to life.

Following, Ms. Paula Maust, played five of twelve selections from Samuel Scheidt's Passamezzo. From Northern Germany we were warned of a Baroque-sounding  counterpoint and  that each of the selections shared a common chord progression. As the selections were played -- on an interesting looking organ from the Museum's collection (CMA has musical instruments in its collection!?!? How did I miss that one?) they sounded remarkably different -- some ominous and dark, others brighter. Not generally a fan of organ music, I found this interesting and pleasantly brief.

Though tonight's concert was generally of lesser-performed instruments, Ms. Yu-Cheng Lin offered a most unconventional (for Westerners) instrument -- the solo Ehru. A two-stringed bowed  instrument it bears a resemblance, in a long-lost cousin sort of way, to the violin, and its sound is a bit sweeter than a fidde, and it nearly instantly evokes an Asian connection. Though the three collectively were my favorite set from the evening, the first Bird Whispering in the Mountain composed by Tian-Hua Liu was my favorite with a delightfully romantic character.

Closing out the program, Klughardt's Quintet, Op. 79, was the only ensemble piece and was described as "Schumannesque". The second and third (Allegro vivace and Andante grazioso, respectively) movements were my favorites from the piece with a lighter, almost lilting that seemed pastoral and relaxed in the second movement providing a welcome relief from the dark and ominous Allegro non tropo first movement. The third movement was as relaxed and enjoyable but seemed almost regal at points. Unfortunately, there was an odd resonance or acoustical effect in the gallery -- or at least from my location in the gallery -- which  made the fourth movement a bit difficult to listen to.

Now that there's a regular series of formal presentations would I be pressing my luck if I asked for guerrilla presentations? ;)


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