Saturday, February 16, 2013

Cleveland Orchestra: Herbert Blomstedt Conducts Beethoven's Seventh

Nielsen: Symphony No. 3 ("Sinfonia expansiva") (Ellie Dehn, soprano; Michael Kelly, baritone)
Beethoven: Symphony No. 7 in A major l, Op. 92
Herbert Blomstedt, conductor

[I have to note that next Weekend, the Cleveland Orchestra is performing Dvorak's From the New World -- one of my favorite pieces in the orchestral repertoire]

Even before Cellist Tanya Ell presented Mr. Blomstedt with a bouquet during the ending ovations, it was clear that this Orchestra and Mr. Blomstedt share a special bond.

While Beethoven's seventh symphony was faultless and delightful to listen to, I didn't feel as effortlessly drawn to it as Carl Nielsen's Symphony No. 3 which opened the program.

That piece, last played by the Orchestra two months before I was born in 1984 (29 years ago if you don't want to do the math), is the kind that makes you wonder why it isn't played more often. This was also one of the rare pieces where the Orchestra's musicians traditionally stoic expressions gave way to a palpable sense of enjoyment while playing the Sinfonia Espansiva.

The Sinfonia was an ever-changing array of emotions and ear-catching sounds: The first movement packs a conclusion that literally hit me in the chest. The second packed off-stage vocals, sounding far off and almost ephemeral in a chant without words pared with pastoral strings and what could be called "happy chirps" from the back of the orchestra (this was my favorite movement from the evening because of how ethereal the sum of the parts became). The third movement is a bit on the depressing side, being more solemn and almost bitten out, but that despair gives way. The fourth movement has the sound of an anthem with some nationalistic undertones.

Hopefully, it won't be another 30 years before the Cleveland Orchestra performs this piece a fourth time. (And while I'm putting in requests-- Copland's Appalachian Spring, please?)


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