Monday, July 30, 2012

Cleveland Orchestra: Time for Three

[The program for this concert can be found at the end of the post]

I know The Cleveland Orchestra doesn't bill itself as a pops orchestra, but when they reach out and find the shining place where classical and pop intersect it reminds us that Clevelanders are lucky to have such a versatile ensemble here. People who know me know my iPod is light on Classical music -- "I can't stand listening to recorded classical or live pop/rock" is a common elevator synopsis of my listening habits.

Having only 37 hours in Cleveland across two weeks -- returning from a week-long trip late Saturday evening an departing for another week-long trip early Monday morning -- I had considered skipping Blossom this weekend, but if I had I would have missed what is, so far, easily my favorite concert from the 2012 Blossom season thus far.

Featuring Time for Three (Zach De Pue and Nick Kendall, violins; Ranaan Meyer, double bass) tonight's concert fused classical influences, and of course, the talents of the Cleveland Orchestra, with more modern influences -- always entertaining and at times reminding me of works by Vitamin String Quartet and Vanessa Mae, with the energy and passion that you can only get from live performance.

Though I have five pages of quick notes in my notebook on the concert, since I have an early morning tomorrow, we'll do the highlights version:

Opening with the theme from Big Country the orchestra set a broad stage of sonic America painted with fine texturing and it was the first of several times during the concert where I imagined listening to the piece while staring out at the American plains through an airplane window pasing overhead at 30,000 feet.

Next was the combination of Shenandoah/Foxdown. Starting with just Time For Three the Shenandoah portion was toothachingly sweet but the Foxdown brought in the orchestra and a toe-tapping hoe-down with energetic punctuation from the orchestra.

An addition to the program, Ciconna in Winter featured recognizable snippets of Bach and  in many ways reminded me of a less-techno version of Vanessa Mae's Bach Street Prelude, though no less enjoyable. The Pops Hoe-Down, for the orchestra only, followed and had a very Disneyesque quality to it -- I almost want to say over saturated and optimistic -- along musical references  to Pop goes the Weasel.

The only piece on the program I didn't care for was the Concerto for two Violins which had some musical humor but acoustically rather messy. While the orchestra was sitting out it was interesting to watch the players expressions -- some were in bewildered amusement, others were displaying mild horror.

Later in the program, two movements from the beautiful American River Suite, reportedly composed for tonight's conductor. Majestic Valley was a beautiful sweeping panorama of a valley at sunset or sunrise and reminded me of one of my favorite pieces in the Cleveland Museum of Art's collection, Frederic Edwin Church's Twilight in the Wilderness. River at Play brought a cool breeze through the pavilion and mad me think of a glider soaring over a crystal clear river [something I might be doing next week in Oregon with Rachel depending what other plans we come up with]

Copland's The Promise of Living from The Tender Land, a made-for-TV project turned staged opera made an appearance on the program -- while Copland is one of my favorite composers [and I wish the Orchestra would  preform more works by American composers in general and Copland in particular] I wasn't familiar with this work and though it was a bit more depressing than the rest of the program it was still a treat to hear.

Other highlights included With or Without You, The American Suite No. 2 (Including Hallelujah...making me think of Vitamin String Quartet's tribute to Paramore's Hallelujah).

The concert ended with Jay Unfar's Ashokan Fairwell, which brought back memories of music used in a special on PBS about the west that I've been trying to identify forever. As  the notes settled over the Cuyahoga Valley and dusk set in it was a  fantastic and touching way to end a concert as the music mixed with the chirping of  crickets, the occassional animal call, and the tooting horn from a nearby train (I"m assuming the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad-- I coul have sworn I heard an  "All Aboard" announcemente too) and I could leave Blossom with visions of the sweeping beauty of America, as I prepare to fly over so much of it tomorrow.


The full program:
Moross: Theme from Big Country
Meyer: Shenandoah/Foxdown (arr. Hedges)
Unkown: Ciconna in Winter
Traditional: Pops Hoe-Down (arr. Hayman)
Bach: Concerto for Two Violins (arr. Time for Three)
Monti: Csadras (arr. Time for Three and  Hackman)
Flaherty: from American River Suite (Majestic Valley and River at Play)
Meyer: Ecuador (arr. Brohn)
Mullen and Bono: With or Without You (arr. Hackman and Time for Three)
Brahms: Hungarian Dance  (arr. Time for Three)
Copland: The Promise of Living from The Tender Land
The American Suite No. 2
- Meyer: Wyoming 307 (arr. Hackman and Brohn)
- Meyer: Forget About It (arr. Hackman and Brohn)
- Cohen: Hallelujah (arr. Time for Three)
- Rouse: Orange Blossom Special (arr. Time for Three an Nero)
Unfar: Ashokan Fairwell
The Cleveland Orchestra with Time For Three
Steven Reineke, conductor.

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