Saturday, April 7, 2012

Cleveland Orchestra: Mitsuko Uchida Plays Mozart

Mozart: Piano Concerto No. 9 ("Jeunehomme") in E-flat major, K271
Mozart: Serenade No. 11 in E-flat major, K375 (for wind octet)
Mozart: Piano Concerto No. 21 in C major, K467
Mitsuko Uchida, piano and conductor.

It seems many Clevelanders are fans of the collaboration between pianist Mitusko Uchida and the Cleveland Orchestra. It's becoming clear, however, that I am not in that camp. While my reaction to tonight's concert was less polar than in 2010 (In other words, I didn't contemplate leaving early) but it certainly wasn't a concert that felt substantial, compelling, worthwhile, or worthy of the pomp that the Orchestra attaches to these performances.

And tonight's audience was off -- perhaps under the influence of the full moon -- seeming particularly rigid generally. In a performing arts first I was completely surprised when a young man and his (apparent) mother seated in the box next to me not only proceeded to pull out a video camera to record a portion of the performance but did so noisily and with little regard for the audience members around them. (Once mention was made to ushers at intermission it didn't happen again...but I've never seen it happen before. I understand several other audience members complained)

Anyway, starting with Jeunehomme the playing by all involved seemed effortless, though the first movement didn't hold my attention (though I do think while my mind was wandering I may have come across the solution to problem I've been noodling about at work for a while). The second movement had a slow dark beginning with a "dawn" of sorts bringing a gentle brightness seemingly emerging though concluding with a bit of remorse. The third movement, my favorite single movement from the evening whit a bubbly energy that was both swiftly executed and bright.

The Serenade was a unique experience and my favorite piece from the program, featuring eight of the Orchestra's winds and highlighting the skill and relationship of the musicians the opening notes sounded so close to the notes of a piano that I had to scan the stage to assure myself that there, indeed, was not a piano being played. Though a bit breathy at points, the general feeling held through the piece. In a letter, quoted in the program note, Mozart noted "It has won great applause too and on St. Theresa's night it was performed in three different places: for as soon as they finished playing it in one place, they were taken off somewhere else and paid to play it.".

Though the first three movements were great, I particularly enjoyed the fourth and fifth movements where a very light (described as "folk like simplicity") caught my ear in the short fourth movement and the transition to a more sophisticated but still pleasing sound.

Closing out the program, with Piano Concerto No. 21, the first movement again had trouble holding my attention (this time, alas, I didn't have any eureka moments), the second movement, was delightful beginning with a regal--either ceremonial or religious--feeling and adding a sense of mystery through the plucked low strings. The thrid movement was less awe inspiring however a dialogue -- or perhaps interrogration -- between the piano and winds caught my ear.

The Orchestra is touring the West Coast next week (and I would be lying if I calimed not to have had the thought of stalking them -- or at least sneaking in for their San Digeo stop), but I hope when they return to Severance at the end of April the presentation is more compelling.


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