Saturday, November 30, 2013

Cleveland Orchestra: Marin Alsop Conducts Barber Schumann, and Copland

Barber: Essay No. 2, Op. 17
Schumann: Piano Concerto in A minor, Op. 54 (David Fray, piano)
Copland: Symphony No. 3
Marin Aslop, conductor.

Although it has been nearly a month since my last Cleveland orchestra concert, I can hardly think of a program I've so thoroughly enjoyed in recent memory, not to mention one of the more adventurous programs by Cleveland Orchestra standards... I can only home for more.

The program opened with Samuel Barber's Essay No. 2 from the early 1940s. A beautiful piece, of starts with the wide open planes before shifting to a very angular and somewhat punchy scene that clearly evokes images of the hustle and bustle of an active city in constant motion, while near  the end  tapping from and timpani bring premonitions of marching to war.

I wasn't quote as captivated by Schumann's Piano Concerto -- partially because the couple in front of me were both texting through most of the piece though the first movement was delightfully light and wispy like freshly baked bread and pianist David Fray matched the orchestra's passion. Upon taking his seat in the and adjacent box following the Schumann, Mr. Fray graciously posed for photos with a few box holders, and upon learning that they were donors to the orchestra encouraged "Keep supporting the orchestra - it is a gem; nothing like it in the world".

The third and final piece on the program was one I've been hoping for for quite a while and looking forward to for several months -- Aaron Copland's Symphony No. 3 including a reformulation of the prolific Fanfare for the Common Man. Before beginning the piece Ms. Aslop touched briefly but humorously on a few key aspects of the piece, including snippets played by the orchestra -- I sincerely hope that the orchestra considers incorporating these few minutes of wisdom into future classical concerts.
On to the music -- the first movement was played with and conveyed a sublime passionate energy. The second movement was no less passionate, but was more evocative of a buoyant small-town celebration. The third movement began with a high register -- Ms. Aslop referred to it in her opening remarks as one "only dogs can hear" -- and very reserved compared to the brash end of the second movement. I could be mistaken, but I could swear I also picked up hits of Appalachian Spring wafting around. The third movement seamlessly gave way to the third where the Fanfare emerges in brilliant beauty, and is passed around the orchestra tansformed and fades away while the music remains strong and festive with the strong image of soaring gulls.


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