Saturday, November 10, 2012

Cleveland Orchestra: Franz Welser-Most Conducts Beethoven and Scriabin's Poem of Ecstasy

Beethoven: Symphony No. 4 in B-flat major, Op. 60
Pintscher: Chute d'Etolies (United States Premiere, Michael Sachs and Jack Sutte, trumpet)
Beethoven: Grosse Fuge in B-flat major, Op. 133
Scriabin: The Poem of Ecstasy, Op. 54
Framz Welser-Most, conductor.

From the first piece on today's program, Beethoven's Symphony No. 4 I had great hope for tonight's program -- it was marvelously textured and -- though I may be reading too closely -- could almost trace the progression of youth: From the mischievous  introduction that tiptoed around the hall before surging and being a bit more overtly playful. Next was the feeling of romance, courtship with a few flares of drama, concluding with what might be described as a courtier running his fingers through a lover's hair courtesy of the strings, before concluding in a little bit of loss and despair.

Sadly that is where enjoyment of the concert ended. The next piece on the program, Matthias Pintscher's Chute d'Etoiles -- receiving its United States premiere with this weekend's performances -- was downright painful and is best described as a bad combination of "Subway train with bad brakes" meets "Apocalyptic Horror Film Soundtrack". The trumpet work, featuring two of the Orchestra's members was interesting, mixing sounds that evoke a muted jazz scene, adult "talking" from Peanuts cartoons, and most frequently the tubes from the Blue Man group -- but that was the only highlight from an otherwise insufferable piece.

I had hoped that following intermission the second Beethoven, Grosse Fuge would return the positive vibes from the program's opening, but it and the Poem of Ecstasy both seemed two dimensional and flat, not really earning Mr. Welser-Most's full involvement, much less that of the audience, though the climax and release at the end of Poem of Ecstasy was well executed. My applause following these three pieces was one of the few times I found myself applauding out of a sense of obligation rather than genuine admiration. Based on the rather apathetic applause it seems the majority of the audience was similarly unmoved.


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