Saturday, October 26, 2013

Cleveland Orchestra: Fate and Freedom

Beethoven: Symphony No. 5 in C minor, Op. 76
Shostakovich: Symphony No. 10 in E minor, Op. 93
Franz Welser-Most, conductor.

This week has been disruptive to say the least -- while I spent the majority of the week in Palm Beach and am preparing to head to Richmond for a full week tomorrow, all amidst the emotional devastation brought upon many close to me by the news of David Franklin's--er..."recklessness" as one friend put it.

Though I arrive home lat last night, I'm heading to Ricnmond tomorrow afternoon and between valuing wwhat time I have at home and the relative disfavor with which I hold Mr. Welser-Most's conducting plus my lack of enthusiasm for Beethoven, had the program been presented Shostakovitch first I likely would have called it during intermission 

I'm glad that wasn't the case, however, as Mr. Welser-Most seemed particulally relaxed and avoided the overly-restrained, stiff, feeling that I get too often. Instead the.Beethoven was wonderful full-bodied and immersive, completely pulling me into the supple piece. While the first movement was vigerous and full of young life, the second had a mich more tender and loving feeling. The thord and fourth movementa meanwhile had a more timid, soft spoken feeling before erupting like a superhero tearing off his disguise.

The Shostakovich, was on the other hand, significantly less captivating primarily for the overwhelming bleakness -- like a Cleveland winter, mostly depressing with little spots of sunshine.  The intense strings brought a profound sense of foreboding and the militaristic feel if the secon movement. The third and fourth movements had a very tentative and cautions feeling to them.


Thursday, October 24, 2013

The Cleveland Museum of Art: A mess is spilling over

Ok, so I don't know that I have much to add to the "discussion" on the topic but I do need to vent a bit, especially with the 'facts' as they seem to be unfolding.

From the rather abrupt resignation of the museum's former director for "personal" reasons it was clear something was up, and it was disingenuous of the museum board to even half-heartedly attempt to cover it up. In fact, knowing some of the players in the story something didn't really feel "right" starting near the end of March and certainly after the unfortunate demise of one of the key players in this unfolding saga.

I am more than a bit, erm, pissed at the moment. Of the three Directors of the Cleveland Museum of Art that I've known since moving to Cleveland, David Franklin was the first that I respected -- and the first that I sense respected all patrons more or less equally. Of course, that respect has evaporated.

Timothy Rub was, during the tenure that coincided with my living in Cleveland was uninspiring and not particularly charismatic in my experience -- at museum events I definitely got the sense that he wasn't interested in acknowledging, much less talking to a patron unless he or she brought a significant amount of money to the table. He seemed absolutely ambivalent about engagement, particularly engagement in "my" demographic. I was not sad to see him leave for Philadelphia.

Deborah Gribbon, as interim director following Tim Rub's departure likewise didn't really inspire -- but as an interim director, staying the course and not making any radical departures from the norm during their term is expected -- in effect, serving as a trustee for the next director.

David Franklin, however, was very approachable and engaging including helping to champion both research and writing among curatorial staff and a number of innovative projects like Gallery One and Column and Stripe -- an organization working on engagement for 'my' demographic and brought to fruition in no small part through the efforts of the other key player in this drama.

When the resignation was announced, thus, I was disappointed -- we finally had a director that I wanted to see stick around for a while, and while I had my suspicions that something was amiss, I couldn't imagine it was this significant.

So I hope that the next director will share many of the same positive qualities that I perceived of Mr. Franklin while having much better discretion. Though it seems many are eager to blame the underlying relationship issue entirely on the man, it takes two to tango. Enough said.

What has me even more pissed off is how incredibly poorly (and dare I say unethically) The Plain Dealer has handled this story -- failing to disclose the conflict of interest posed by having their publisher on the board in the original story, naming the (deceased) other party to the "scandal", and dragging her family into it without adding any value to the story, and just plain idiotic soundbytes from the museum's board. Add to that, the way some museum staff have been approached for comment strikes me as just a little creepy. It's like reading a mashup of the worst parts of Fox News and MSNBC combined.

Anyway... I hope that the museum's search for a new director yields an engaging, passionate, individual quickly who can see the museum through it's impending centennial and ensure the museum's reputation as a world-class center for art and research is restored and strengthened. I am eager to see the museum put this unfortunate episode (or rather mini-series) behind it.

(Revised October 25th to add clarity)

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Cleveland Orchestra: Jakub Hrusa Conducts: Haydn, Dvorak, and Janacek

Haydn: Symphony No. 60 ("I'll distratto")
Dvorak: The Golden Spinning Wheel, Op. 109
Janacek: Taras Bulba, Rhapsody for Orchestra
Jakob Hrusa, conductor

Coming back from Richmond this afternoon I wasn't so sure I was going to make or to tonight's concert -- my bed was sounding mighty attractive and United Airlines operational reliability (Read: ability to get me where I expect go at roughly the time I expect to be there) has been particularly lousy of late [how an airline can "misplace" an entire airplane at an airport is beyond me, but I digress]

But here I am, or rather was in Severance Hall -- starting this post during intermission so that I can find sleep sooner when I return home. The first piece on the program, Hadyn's six-movement symphony with a title translating to "The Distracted" was an apt start for my return. Over the course of 25 moments, though I was occasionally distracted it generally held and recaptured my attention with a variety of emotional responses -- from noble to "festive with a bit of mystery". The fourth movement presto was impressive for the sheer control of bow speed and the number of precise notes coming forth rapid fire succession. The fifth movement adagio was particularly meditative and when I closed my eyes a note seemed to drift across the stage.

The second piece on the program my favorite by a narrow margin -- also about 25 minutes was Dvorak's The Golden Spinning Wheel. While calling a half-hour of music a "tone poem" seems like a bit of a stretch, those who know me, or who have been reading for any length of time know the Dvorak is among my favorite composers and this piece, including tinges of toe-tapping folk music was no exception.

The last piece on the program, Janacek's Taras Bulba, a "rhapsody for orchestra" was most surprising. While the first and third movements were captivating, the second movement with a repetitive four note stinger gripped me, both for it's crisp delivery across the string sections and sense of familiarity (I swear I've heard it in a television program theme) held me in suspense throughout the piece.

I'm down to Miami next week -- sadly not at the same time as the Cleveland Orchestra's residency -- then back to Richmond and New York. I need some time off the road.


Saturday, October 12, 2013

Cleveland Orchestra: Franck's Symphony in D Minor

Faure: Suite from Pelleas and Melisande, Op. 80
Britten: Serenade for Tenor, Horn, and Strings, Op. 31 (Richard King, horn; Matthew Polenzani, tenor)
Franck: Symphony in D minor
Marek Janowski, conductor.

After spending most of the past two weeks* on the road (first, not-West Palm Beach, Florida, then Wilmington, North Carolina) I was hoping for am awe-inspiring concert to bring me back home -- and get my mind off the
1-trip-a-week schedule for the next four weeks (Richmond, Palm Beach, Richmond, and New York).

Such a concert, unfortunately the Orchestra did not deliver tonight. While enjoyable it was mostly lacking in spice and came out tasting rather bland; not much different than a rote performance entombed in a CD recording.

For example, the opening Suite was plesant with its pastoral-but-occasionally-spritely sound bit it was rather lifeless. Britten's Serenade did not fare much better. Though Mr. Kings playing -- especially the solo opening a d closing movements played from off stage were delightful to listen to itndodnt really have the air of anything special.

Things turned a bit more engaging through the first two movements of the Franck -- much less rote and more passionately played, but the third movement was the most enjoyable of the evening with a bold and festive signature hat seemed more forceful and more enjoyable to listen to each time it was repeated.