Sunday, February 26, 2012

Cleveland Orchestra: Schubert's C-Major Symphony ("The Great")

Von Weber: Overture: The Ruler of the Spirits, Op. 27 
Mendelssohn: Violin Concerto in E minor, Op. 64 (Arabella Steinbacher, violin)
Unannounced encore (Bach Sonata No. 3 in C Major (Mvt. III)) (Arabel Steinbacher, solo violin)
Schubert: Symphony in C major ("The Great") D.944
Marek Janowski, conductor.

I have to admit that on the heels of last week's concert (discussing with fellow concertgoers over the past week, the word "disappointing" was lobbed almost as frequently as "terrible") I took my seat in Severance Hall with bated breath. Fortunately, this week's concert found its way closer to the other end of the spectrum.

The Overture to The Ruler of the Spirits was a brief piece that set the concert off to a dramatic, somewhat boisterous beginning before calming and returning with a bit of angst with an exclamation from the timpani regaining any attention that had wandered and keeping it through the end of the piece -- which ran only about five minutes.

Violinist Arabel Steinbacher joined the Orchestra for the first time for Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto. While I typically and prefer to observe and focus on the ensemble's playing, in the case of Ms. Steinbacher, this was difficult to do. Dispensing with the typical orchestral exhibition, the soloist is flung to the forefront from the first notes and remains there through most of the three movements. The first two movements were passionately executed with a sense of elegant delicacy combined with strong passion in the first movement before turning to a more mature, lyrical, feeling for the second. In the third movement my initial feeling was of a despondent violin supported by an understanding orchestra, it turned into a humorous monologue carried on by Ms. Steinbacher's violin with support from the ensemble.

Following the enthusiastic standing ovation given to Ms Steinbacher's performance, the violinist returned to the stage for an unannounced encore -- a fellow patron identified it as most likely Bach in E minor, but was unsure of the specific piece -- regardless, the performance was tender and gripping.

The concert ended with -- and no understatement here -- Schubert's Symphony in C major, sans number and titled The Great, unquestionably the star of tonight's program. Though Winter has finally arrived in Cleveland, the warm sounds of the first movement reminded me of my frequent strolls throughout Cleveland during the warmer months -- well paced, and constantly moving with points of  intrigue along the way. The second movement moved more from a leisurely stroll to a more rigid march propelled by oboe before the strings relieve the tension with a lyrical pause from the strings. I started to think that my walk metaphor had failed listening to the third movement (Scherzo: Allegro vivace - Trio) but instead it survives: Like my stop along the way in the Museum's galleries, this movement provided pause for reflection and meditation. Finally, the piece and the concert ended with an expressive exhalation where hints of the sights, sounds, and meditations of the previous three movements come back, but hold nothing back in terms of scale or expressiveness.

Lincoln (Updated 27-Feb to include title of encore piece. Thanks to reader "Curiosity" for the tip.)


  1. The encore was the third movement of Bach's sonata no. 3 in C major

  2. Great, thanks for filling in the blank!