Friday, May 11, 2012

Cleveland Orchestra: Stravinsky's The Firebird

Kodaly: Dances of Galanta
Shostakovich: Cello Concerto No. 1 in E-flat major, Op. 197 (Alisa Weilerstein, cello)
Unannounced Encore for Solo Cello (Alisa Weilerstein, cello)
Roussel: Suite from The Spider's Feast [Le Festin de l'araignee]
Stravinsky: Suite from The Firebird [1919 revision]
Lionel Bringuier, conductor

You can tell the general way a concert is going by the number of smiles you see on the box level at intermission; tonight people were absolutely beaming. At the end of the concert, leaving my box at the end of the evening I passed a gray-haired gentleman who, to no one in particular, remarked "wow, that was inspiring".

And indeed it was. For the fifteen-minute, five movement Dances of Galanta I was transfixed; played without pause I didn't realize that it was a multi-movement piece until referring to the program at the end of the piece. The first half of the piece strikes as a series of picturesque vignettes lead from the winds and beginning with ear catching work by Franklin Cohen's clarinet and shifting to other winds enthusiastically supported by the rest of the orchestra. As the end of the piece approached the full sound and energy of the orchestra was brought forth and I caught myself toe-tapping at times.

Next up and tonight's winner, Shostakovitch's Cello Concerto No. 1 with the solo part played by native Clevelander Alisa Weilerstein.  As the arc of the piece progressed my ear made me think of a lovers' quarrel. The first movement starts with a harsh repetitive sequence of notes in the cello and answered by the orchestra, perhaps the beginning of an argument. The second movement is toned down and instead of aggression has a romantic sound, particularly amongst the section strings; perhaps trying to sooth an upset lover. The third movement, on the other hand, is an extended performance by solo cello passioned and in increasing speed and coherence. Bringing the piece to a close, soloist and orchestra come back together though with a slightly sarcastic sense -- perhaps not quite ready to trust each other again.

I'm pretty sure this is the closest my eyes have come to outright watering in Severance Hall.

Next, Ms. Weilerstein offered an unannounced encore in the form of a delightfully rich solo piece.

The programming after intermission was good but not quite as compelling with the new-to-me Suite from The Spider's Feast, a six-continuous-movement program beginning with the prelude and entrance of the ants, dance of the butterfly and funeral of the mayfly. Though this is the story of a butterfly trapped in a spider's web I didn't really get a sense of urgency on the part of the struggling butterfly and the power of the marching ants was only fleeting.

Concluding the program, a 1919 suite from Stravinsky's The Firebird, which, per the program notes, premiered about three weeks after and mere miles away from The Spider's Feast. Though not as provocative as that composer's Rite of Spring, it has compelling moments -- though like the last time I heard the piece, I didn't particularly care for the first two movements with The Infernal Dance of King Kaschei and Bercuese ("Lullaby") being the most interesting.

The program repeats on Saturday at 8, and Sunday at 3. Friday a subset of the program (including the Cello Concerto and Firebird suite is presented as part of a Fridays@7 event including pre- and post-concert activities.

As the Severance season winds down, over the next two weeks on Saturdays May 19th and May 26 bookending a performance at Carnegie Hall, the Orchestra will be presenting Salome as Opera-in-Concert.


1 comment:

  1. The encore was the Bourree from Bach cello Suite no. 3