Saturday, August 24, 2013

Cleveland Orchestra: Beethoven and Schubert

Beethoven: Coriolan Overture, Op. 62
Beethoven: Piano Concerto No. 1 in C major, Op. 15 (Martin Helmchen, piano)
Schubert: Symphony in C major ("The Great"), D.944
David Afkham, conductor

Where has this summer gone? While next weekend officially marks the end of the Blossom season (with Pixar in Concert), this weekend was the last classical concert -- as well as my last concert -- of the season. (While I am actually very intrigued by the Pixar program Rachel and I are heading up to Michigan to walk the Mackinac Bridge and possibly adopt a dog for Labor Day).

On one hand I'm sad to see the season end as it means cooler weather is soon to be on its way, on the other hand I am eager to return to Severance and will not miss the hour-long drive to and from Blossom (usually behind someone attempting to merge onto Route 8 [speed limit: 65] at 16 miles per hour).

Tonight's concert was particularly social including a pre-concert discussion with an orchestra staffer that was most enlightening, and at Intermission I was visited by an Engineering Professor who I've chatted with a couple times at Severance. What's a bit more remarkable is that he and his wife are such fans of the Cleveland Orchestra that they make the three-hour drive from their home in Ann Arbor several times each season to hear the Orchestra live.

Technically all three pieces on the program were great, musically none of the three pieces really compelled me to listen, instead I found my thoughts wandering -- largely to questions of dog logistics.

The ten-minute Coriolan Overture seemed much tamer and more subdued than the average overture but had a beautiful cello ending. The three movements of Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 1 started with a pastoral gentile walk through autumn before a gentile and very tender hymn-like second movement and ending with what was to be my favorite movement from the evening centered around an energetic and very fun main theme.

Schubert's Symphony ("The Great") contrasted the somewhat relaxed "walk" of the first-movement Beethoven with a more austere and contemplative then turning impassioned and determined first movement. The adante con moto second movement was more unsettled and stormy and wandering off course. The third movement with a waltz encapsulated within and would prove to be my favorite from the piece. And by the fourth movement I was simply tired and ready to make a speedy exit from the pavilion to beat the throngs of concert goers to my car.


Saturday, August 17, 2013

Cleveland Orchestra: Joffery Ballet: The Rite of Spring

Gould: Interplay (choreographed by Jerome Robbins)
Adams: Son of Chamber Symphony (choreographed by Stanton Welch)
Khachaturian: Adagio (choreographed by Yuri Possikhov)
Stravinsky: The Rite of Spring (Choreography after Vaslav Nijinsky, reconstructed by Millicent Hudson)
Joella Jones, piano.
Tito Munoz, conductor.

Once again a beautiful late summer evening greater patrons arriving at Blossom Music Center -- and its hard to believe summer is almost over, and there is only one more "true" cancer weekend left at Blossom. (There is a labor day double header of music from Pixar films that sounds interesting, but at this point it seems Rachel and I will be in St. Ignace, Michigan to participate in the Mackinac Bridge walk). Anyway, returning to this evening, I had found my way toy seat early and was settled in -- head down in reading about the advantages of clipless bike pedals -- when about 10 minutes until 8 the dam bust open and a surge of patrons filled the pavilion.

Opening the evening was Interplay, a four movement piece that the program notes claim has no storyline, however, I got the feeling of innocence and playground fun (the movement titles seem to support this) the third movement was slow and sad almost a loss of innocence before turning a slow jazzy (with a thin hint of "making whoopee" wisping up from the orchestra if I'm not reading too much into it) before turning spritely and happy and fast for the fourth movement.

I can have mixed feelings with John Adams work, and Son of a Chamber Symphony would be no exception of the music were to stand alone. Likewise, the dance without music would have fallen into that same void, but the combination of the two (and possibly the number of classical tutus--have I mentioned I'm a sucker for the look of a classical tutu) was beautiful allowing me to switch from eye to ear at whim as my attention span with either was taxed.

The last piece before intermission was the beautiful nine-minute duet Adagio which was, true to its name, a slow piece filled with romance and dance where both seemed to flow effortlessly.

The sole piece after intermission was Stavinsky's The Rite of Spring -- a piece celebrating its centennial this year. The piece has intrigued me since I first heard it performed at the Cleveland Institute of Music (CIM) a few years ago and when I heard about it's turbulent history (causing a "near riot" in the audience upon its premiere for it's -- at the time -- avant garde music and choreography). I've heard the piece performed several times since, but I've never seen it danced. While musically it was a bit less sharply percussive than I've come to expect, it was a beautiful performance and I will say my heart seemed to beat a bit faster and I had to imagine being in the theatre a hundred years ago -- seeing something "new" and unlike the three pieces proceeding it on the program.


Sunday, August 11, 2013

Cleveland Orchestra: Vivaldi's Four Seasons

Rossini: Overture to La gizzar larda [The Thieving Magpie]
Vivaldi: The Four Seasons violin concertos Op. 8 No. 1-4 (Ray Chen, violin)
Mendelssohn: Symphony No. 3 ("Scottish") in A minor, Op. 56
Jahja Ling, conductor.

It was a positively beautiful evening at Blossom. Before the cancer began it was possible to survey the lawn where picnicking families clearly dominated, and a sea of people managed to marks the majority of the green lawn. As the music started, the sea of pavilion latecomers Behring held back by the ushers was likewise impressively immense.
The appetizer for tonight's concert was Rossini's 10-minute overture to La gazza ladra which mixed a military march and a dance -- the piece was enjoyable and reminded me of something but I couldn't -- and can't -- put my finger on what that was.

The main course, if you will, was Vivaldi's Four Seasons...and it was, if you'll pardon the metaphor delectable. While the electric quartet interpretation by the group Bond is a staple on my iPod, I don't think I've ever heard the complete piece played live.

The program notes include a short poem or, perhaps better stated as a  visualization for each of the three movements for each season. Though translations were in English, the program indicates the original Italian was inserted into the score by Vivaldi himself. The execution by both The Cleveland Orchestra and soloist brought those words to life for example the first line in Spring -- my favorite season from the piece -- "...and joyously the birds now welcome her return..." was brought to fluttering, chirping life by Mr. Chen.

The final piece of the program, Mendelssohn's Symphony No. 3 was the closest I've ever come to turning around and flat out telling a patron to shut up and let the people around him enjoy the piece (glaring was ineffective). Indeed, those in the area of the 400 boxes may have thought they were tuned into a baseball style  play-by-play broadcast. While he was obviously very taken by the music -- I'd be tempted to make comparisons to certain, *ahem* adult activities if this weren't a family blog -- it did not help the enjoyment of those around him.

While the first and fourth movements were the most substantial, I found the greatest satisfaction in the second and third movements. The second movement had a distinctly 20th century flavor (despite the piece having been composed in 1829) and what I would describe as hints of a Western film score. The third movement, on the other hand had the sense of tiptoeing through a garden very delicately and with an elegant flair.