Saturday, January 19, 2013

Cleveland Orchestra: Joshua Bell plays Beethoven

Widmann: Lied [Song] (for Orchestra)
Bartok: Dance Suite
Beethoven: Violin Concerto in D major, Op. 61 (Joshua Bell, violin)
Franz Welser-Most, conductor.

 The Cleveland Orchestra announced earlier this week that it had broken previous ticket sales records -- and that trend continues with a weekend full of performances featuring The Orchestra with Joshua Bell, including tonight's completely-standing room and all--sold out concert.

The audience response to the Widmann was rather tepid, as was Mr. Pruecil and Mr. Welser-Most's initial appearance on stage*. Though historically I have been at best cool if not frigid to Widmann's compositions I rather liked this piece. A single movement running about 24 minutes in this performance, it had a sense of dark murkiness not unlike the fog hovering over a swamp under a full moon. Other highlights included a somber dance-like scene and a couple particularly bold, almost explosive, outbursts of pizzicato. It should be noted that it seemed the audience was particularly restless before, during, and after this piece, including a rather loud conversation that caused the maestro to delay the start -- well worth it given the very subtle nature of the first few bars

The second piece on the program would turn out to be both the shortest and my favorite from the evening -- the six movements of Bela Bartok's Dance Suite, played without pause, amount to only about fifteen minutes of music. In that brief time the texture was varied from a heavy ("Russian" and "Soviet" were the first two words to enter my mind) and but still lyrical sense, to a tender embrace first pulled in by the strings and recriporcated by flutes. The "heaviness" gives way to a flighty, light, feeling -- including what I want to call a peasant song, again coming out of the winds -- with a sage but weary elder in the form of solo viola.

Violinist Joshua Bell was clearly a major draw for this weekend's concerts, and while both the orchestra and soloist did a magnificent job and made both the music and interaction seem effortless, but I didn't find the piece nearly as captivating as I did Bartok's Dance Suite. Though generally gently lyrical and flowing with an elegant intensity with some festive highlights, it generally felt eternal. I'm wondering if part of that eternal feeling may have been exacerbated by what seemed like overly rounded edges in the Beethoven.

All in all though it was definitely a concert worth hearing


*- I think for the first time I was the first to begin applauding Mr. Pruecil's stage entrance before the tune -- I can't say I've ever felt quite that awkward.

No comments:

Post a Comment