Sunday, July 27, 2014

Cleveland Orchestra: Broadway Standing Ovations

Arr. Every and Barton: Overture: Broadway Divas
Wildhorn and Bricusse: This Is The Moment from Jekyll and Hyde (Crawford)
Bernstein and Sondheim: Maria from West Side Story (Keegan)
Arr. Barker: Love Duet Medley (Bianco, Crawford, Keegan)
Wilson and Hayman: Seventy-Six Trombones from The Music Man (Orchestra)
Schwartz: Defying Gravity from Wicked (Bianco)
Arr. Everly: Leading Men Medley (Crawford, Keegan)
Bernstein, arr. Peress: Overture to West Side Story (Orchestra)
Kinder and Ebb arr. Gibson: Chicago Medley (Orchestra)
Hansard and Irglova arr. Everly: Falling Slowly from Once (Bianco, Crawford)
Webber and Hart: The Music of the Night from the Phantom of the Opera (Keegan)
Schoenberg, Boubill, Natel, Kretzmer arr. Barker: Selections from Les Miserables (Bianco, Crawford, Keegan, Remke, Chorus)
Jack Everly, conductor; The Men of the Blossom Festival Chorus, Robert Porco, director; Christina Bianco; Ben Crawford; Ted Keegan; Ron Remke)

It was like Jekyll and Hyde this evening trying to get from Cleveland Heights to Blossom-- leaving my house I had the windshield wipers going fast and had to dodge a number of closed roads, but approaching blossom the skies cleared and the jacket in was wearing seemed positively foolish.

The first half of tonight's concert was similar -- while it was clear our orchestra wasn't being particularly challenged there were parts of the concert that were eminently enjoyable to listen to (the selection from Chess in the Leading Men Medley; most but not the entirety of Defying Gravity from Wicked) there were other parts that were nearly painful (such as the nasaly-to-New Jersey moments of Ms. Bianco's early parts of the Love Duet Medley), and on balance was largely meh -- the uninspired and overly burnished vocal performances generally outnumbering the captivating and inspiring.

As I posted the above from my phone during intermission, I sincerely hoped that the second half of the program would salvage the evening. Unfortunately -- having made it home safely -- I have to say it did not. While I despise Chicago the musical -- it's a contributing factor to the why I haven't returned to Playhouse Square in a few years -- the medley from Chicago combined with The Music From the Night as highlights, though I have to say my favorite selection was the excerpt from Chess in the Leading Men Medley. 

For those highlights though, you have to subtract selections from Les Miserables which were full of vocal over reach, and the Ms. Bianco's Divas Impressions which beyond the initial and moderately tolerable Julie Andrews bit was pure agony that could not end quickly enough and killed whatever good will I had toward the program. 

If this were at Severance Hall, I'd give it a "Meh" overall, but given the effort to get to Blossom and the price premium (~$40) attached to this concert over over typical Blossom pricing... I can't even rate it as high as a "Meh". 


Saturday, July 19, 2014

Cleveland Orchestra: A Taste of Spain

Bizet: Suite from Carmen
Saint-Saens: Violin Concerto No. 3 in B minor, Op. 61 (Karen Gomyo, violin)
De Falla: The Three-Cornered Hat (complete ballet music) (Emily Fons, mezzo-soprano)
Bramwell Tovey, conductor.

Between work obligations (with the related travel) and a desire to just have a lackadaisical summer I'm being note selective in my Blossom attendance this summer... And on my drive down from Cleveland Heights I found myself wondering about this choice -- with light drizzle for the drive and me donning a jacket at Blossom for the first time I can recall.

The first half of the program was quite interesting -- opening with a suite of six selections from Bizet's Carmen, the familiar March of the Toreadors launched things with an impressive tempo, and the harp and flute leading into the strings for the Intermezzo was intoxicatingly relaxing. The Habanera, another well known selection, had a certain air of mystery, and the Dance Boheme had a folksy rustic dance air before picking up tempo.

I had a hard time getting into the second piece on the program, Saint-Saens's third violin concerto. While delicate and relaxing, I didn't find the piece engaging, and the change in mood of the third movement was jarring. My initial impression was that it would be a great piece for a warm summer evening - bout not a tepid one.

Mr. Tovey provided a wonderfully humorous introduction to De Falla's The Three Cornered Hat. I'm finding I particularly enjoy music intended for dance for its fluid movement and (usually) clear musical story and this was no exception with about 35 minutes of more or less continuous music with a range of mostly humorous and enjoyable music. 

About three readers will appreciate that pleasant coincidence that Mr. Tovey is the music director of the Vancouver (Canada) Symphony -- and this week I confirmed that I'll be returning to the beautiful city of Vancouver late summer or early fall for a project. Once dates get pinned down, I shall have to see if he's conducting on his home turf while I'm in town. 


Friday, July 4, 2014

Blossom Festival Band: A Salute to America

(The full program can be found below)

My personal tradition since moving to Cleveland has been to attend Blossom's Independence Day festivities. This year marked my ninth year attending, and Rachel and my's third year and enjoying the Blossom Festival Band under the direction of Loras John Schissel, an able conductor and a Senior Musicologist from the Library of Congress.

(Incidentally, since I pick up a few hits from the DC area around this time each year, Rachel will be interning with the Library in Washington DC in August and September -- if anyone knows someone whit a spare bedroom or couch available for rent rent in the area please drop me a line at lincoln at lincolnincleveland dot com.)

I had an unplanned trip to New York on Tuesday and had planned on returning Wednesday afternoon, but due to the wonders of United's reliability, about 6 hours after I first started trying to get back to Cleveland I just changed the flight to a 6am Thursday morning -- meaning that I was awake starting about 3:30. Not being a morning person to begin with, by the time concert time rolled around I was basically in a perpetual state of yawn. (You know you're too far gone when the cannon fire in the 1812 Overture doesn't stir you...)

The program was the typical fare -- patriotic pieces with a few more Sousa pieces than I'd personally like-- and you'll find my reactions to many of those pieces in my prior posts about the annual patriotic tradition.

Worth particular note, however were Copland's Variations on a Shaker Melody and Anthony O'Toole's arrangement of George F Root's The Battle Cry of Freedom. I learned from Mr. Schissel's introduction of Variations on a Shaker Melody that it's parent piece (the ballet Appalachian Spring - also a favorite of minewas a commission by The Library of Congress for Martha Graham  The Shaker Melody is also known by its first few lyrics ('tis a gift to be simple, 'tis a gift to be free...) and the variations were interesting in their treatments of this from delicate and understated to bold, forceful declarations.

Meanwhile, Anthony O'Toole's treatment of The Battle Cry of Freedom -- receiving what is believed to be the first public performance with these concerts -- stated "elegiacal" (to borrow Mr. Schissel's description which I fully endorse) but took on a cinematic and triumphant swell about midway through the piece and became more of a declaration of future freedom the respect for past freedoms that seemed to mark the first half.

Mr Schissel's own November 25, 1963 had an intense and somewhat haunting drum beat

There were at least two encore pieces following the official end of the program, however, I was far too tired to stay and enjoy.

Key (arr. Schissel): The Star-Spangled Banner
Gomes: Overture: II Guarany
Sousa: Federal
Copland: Variations on a Shaker 
Root (arr. O'Toole): The Battle Cry of Freedom
Gould: Pavanne
Sousa: March: Jack Tar
Rodgers: Symphonic Synthesis: Victory At Sea
Goldwin: On the Mall
Sousa: Semper Fidelis
Sousa: Humoresque on Jerome Kern's "Look for the Silver Lining"
Schissel: November 25, 1963
Traditional: March-Past of the U.S. Armed Forces
Tchaikovsky: Overture: The Year 1812