Saturday, April 18, 2015

The Cleveland Orchestra: All-French - Ravel's Bolero

Ravel: Le Tombeau de Couperin, op. 35
Saint-Saens: Cello concerto no. 1 in A minor, op. 33 (Gautier Capucon, cello)
Schmitt: La Tragedie de Salome symphonic suite.
Ravel: Bolero.
Lionel Bringuler, conductor.

As you may have noted, I've become far more selective with my Cleveland Orchestra attendance -- and bank account has certainly reaped the rewards but the side effect is it felt a little weird coming back to Severance tonight.

As of intermission, though, I was quite satisfied with my choice, and this was the most enjoyable Cleveland Orchestra concert from recent memory. On the beginning of this Ravel-sandwich of a program, his Le Tombeau de Couperin (Memorial to Couperin) was pure delight from the first movement that evoked the energy of an bustling European city with an art deco lens, while the second and third movements captured a more suburban spring feeling, perhaps with the stereotypical 50s housewife and children, before the festive and insistent final movement.

The clear imagery of the first piece on the program was countered by the second - Saint-Saens first cello concerto. While it was musically unobjectionable (and for the first time I found myself thinking, "Wow, this piece sounds French" [after having forgotten the "All French" title attached to the program) it didn't make a strong connection with me as far as emotion or imagery.

Likewise, Schmitt's symphonic suite from La Tragedie de Salome struck me as distinctly French and and a nice energy to it but didn't really connect with me.

As we reached the bottom of the Ravel sandwich the impossible-not-to-love Bolero closed out the program and as much as I tried to sit still I couldn't help tapping my fingers or toes (once I stopped one, I involuntarily started doing the other before finally admitting defeat and letting go to the musical pulse.


Saturday, April 11, 2015

Cleveland Classical Guitar Society: Vladmir Gorbach

Llobet: Variaciones Sobre
Scarlatti: Sonatas K. 239, K.87 and K.27
Bach: Suite BVW 997
Aguado: Andane and Rondo No. 3
Piazzolla: Cuatro Estaciones Portenas
Gianastera: Sonata Op. 47
At Herr Chapel, Plymouth Church UCC, Shaker Heights

Rachel and I are back from Paris, and I'm just back from a trip to Orlando and I'm delighted to see that Spring is finally arriving in Cleveland. With the beginnings of spring, comes the last concert of Cleveland Classical Guitar Society's final concert of the 14-15 Intentional Series. Tonight's concert rook place in Herr Chapel, a more intimate venue than the main sanctuary that has hosted the previous concerts.

The first piece on the program, Variacones Sobre, was also one of my favorites with a light and soothing air where I just closed my eyes for the majority of the piece and let the notes settle on my ears, perfect as the daylight faded. Following were three sonatas  composed b Scarlatti; the first reminded me of a busy European street scene, while the later seemed more somber and lonely. The Bach Suite, the last before intermission, though musically interesting, unlike the earlier pieces was more abstract and difficult for me to relate to specific emotions.

Following intermission, Aguado's Adante and Rondo No. 3 was inspired by the musical themes of the day in the early 19th century, but like the piece that preceded it, I had a hard time forming a specific relationship to it.

The next piece though, Cuator Estaciones Portenas with four movements and originally for a five piece band, was delightful and relatable, though somewhat muddy early in the piece, it took on a marching, almost militant feeling in the middle and a lively feeling with a good beat at the end of the piece.

The last piece on the published program, Ginastera's Sonata Op. 47, featured what seemed to be a quite a bit of unusual technique and skill, but didn't really captivate me.

The encore, on the other hand, "Carillon" (I didn't catch the Italian composer's name) had a heartbeat combined with amazing subtlety, and Rachel commented that the sound reminded her of a hammered dulcimer.


Monday, March 23, 2015

lincoln et Rachel à Paris quatre jours (Monday)

I think Rachel and I both learned our lesson last trip in overplanning, so this trip has a much more relaxed schedule.

This morning we awoke, lounged for a bit, visited an ATM (BNP Paribas is in Bank of America's Global ATM network -- so no fees for me) in the next building over to restock our cash supplies, along the way encountering the happiest little ATM I've seen -- why can't American ATMs have personality?

Cash in hand we headed out to Centre Pompidou and explored the exhibits for a bit -- while enjoyable, nothing really screamed "love me" or "commit me to memory" -- I'm glad we went, though.

Following our visit, we attempted to get our "Required Foreign McDonald's Visit" (RFMDV) in but were faced with a kiosk that -- despite claiming to speak English, was wholly intuitive and we couldn't figure out how to actually access the menu (any attempt to dismiss the "special offers" just resulted in it asking for us to insert our credit card). Since we were in an area that seemed to have an abundance of restaurants, we decided to postpone the RFMDV and perused a couple menus before finding a tiny little restaurant that sounded good... and in fact was good.

We returned to the hotel to drop off our souvenirs and decided while we were playing tourists that we would go out to Marne-la-Vallee to visit the entrance to Disneyland Paris. Though not quite tourist enough to actually spring for the admission, we did visit the gift shop. [Some day I think I'd like to visit the parks, however, having grown up in original Disneyland territory and having plenty of other Parisian sites to see... visiting this park will wait for a future visit.

We stopped by a Monoprix (Supermarket meets Kohls is the best comparison I can come up with at the moment) purchased some snacks and more or less promptly collapsed into bed


Sunday, March 22, 2015

Lincoln et Rachel a Paris trois jours

Being Sunday, Parisians take things much more slowly than the remaining six days of the week -- and either the US or London -- Rachel and I decided to do the same, talking a very leisurely start to the morning eventually heading to the Musee Des Egouts De Paris (Museum of the Sewers of Paris) which was an interesting look under the streets of Paris and certainly aromatic -- though, as one may expect, not in a good way (it certainly reduced the cost of lunch afterwards...)--as a technical minded person the dirty history was quite interesting.

Since the photos below ground didn't really turn out (and let's be honest, do you really want to see someone else's raw excrement floating on a rapidly moving  without also having the experience of smelling it), here's a photo taken across the bridge from the entrance -- the Flame of Liberty with the Eiffel tower in the background -- according to Wikipedia it's a full-size replica of the flame in the hand of the Statute of  Liberty

We found lunch at a small cafe slightly off the tourist beaten path but with the Eiffel Tower lurking in the distance and setting out for our second underground experience of the day -- a fair distance away -- the Catacombs de Paris, an immense subterranean network of caves re-purposed centuries ago to hold intricately stacked bones from deconsecrated cemeteries taken over by the needs of the living in an expanding Paris of the time.

This attraction was the first time we encountered a major queue during our visit -- waiting about an hour above ground to get through the turnstile to get below ground. Though I have a weak stomach generally, I was really surprised that I wasn't really affected by seeing thousands of bones, skulls, and the like stacked so carefully on both sides of a passage that at times seemed like it would never end. It is interesting to consider that these bones have been lying in place here for in some cases over two hundred years.
After we left the home of the dead and returned above ground to the land of the living we walked some side streets before finding ourselves back at the RER/Metro station that delivered us to this neighborhood and decided that -- with a distinct chill and ominous clouds in the air -- that we would return to the hotel and find something to snack on along the way.


Saturday, March 21, 2015

Lincoln et Rachel a Paris deux jours (Saturday)

This morning I was a little groggy when I woke up and thanks to a 10am "Behind the Scenes Tour" of the Eiffel Tower there was little time to drift back to sleep.

The Eiffel Tower This Morning
Getting ready and heading out we discovered the entire city covered in fog, or as it may more accurately be, smog. Pollution levels were reported to be so bad that officials declared public transit would be free for this weekend to discourage driving. It was incredibly cold but uneventful as we made our way from La Defense to La Tour Eiffel and had a fascinating tour of the elevator machinery along with other elements of the tower's history (Including the colors that it's been over the years, from red to army green to today's gray).

Our tour included an elevator ride to the 2nd platform of the tower which had spectacular perspective -- but thanks to the (f|sm)og, it was impossible to see more than a few blocks in any direction [l'arc de triomphe was faintly visible in the background], so Rachel and I decided to postpone buying a ticket to the top of the tower.

Owing to the haze and cool temperatures, we returned to the hotel to drop off our souvenirs and see if we had any warmer clothing with us (I was cursing my refusal to pack any kind of headwear because it "won't be that clod"). Along the way we stopped by "Quick" for lunch where a multilingual kiosk allowed us to order without embarrassment and enjoy a quick bite to eat. Adjacent to the hotel, we stopped into a market called Monoprixe -- I was planning on buying a Coke, but I was shocked to discover they had Mountain Dew (my morning caffeine of choice -- which I was not expecting to find in France) although the taste more of sugar water than the flavor of the American variety.  

After a brief respite in our room, we noticed that the haze was lifting and the temperature warming so we decided to explore our environs -- our hotel, the Hilton Paris-La Defense, is directly adjacent to La Grande Arche de la Défense, so we started by walking that area and climbing the immense stairs at the mouth of the arch -- and from there we noticed that the Arc de Triomphe visible and the haze nearly entirely lifted.

Hopping on an RER A train it was a quick underground ride to the station and emerged to find the arc directly in front of us.. and we quickly decided to shell out the 9.50 euros for the climb to the top... and boy can you feel the thighs burn after ascending the 150+ feet of stairs to the peak, but the views from the top were well worth it.

(Click for Large) Panorama from the top of the Arc de Triomphe -- La Grande Arche and our hotel is at the end of the Avenue Charles de Gaulle (Center) 
Working our way down from the top, we decided to try walking Avenue Charles de Gaulle back to our hotel and it was a very pleasant 5.1km (~3.16 mile) walk with plenty of scenery along the way, including a chocolateir that was almost too much to resist and a bakery that proved too much to resist.

[The hotel internet connection is a bit spotty so I apologize for not having more photos]  


Lincoln et Rachel a Paris un jour (Friday)

Today marks the fourth anniversary of Rachel and my first date and out second year of marking the occasion with a vacation overseas -- this year it is a week in Paris, France.

Last year's trip was to London and I loved every minute of it. (Honestly, I could see myself living there and it quickly displaced Manhattan (NYC) as my #1 "If I could live anywhere and money was no object..." -- this year, leading up to our departure I was more than a little nervous, largely owing to my complete lack of proficiency with French (or any language other than English for that matter).

Despite having taken a year of French in High School and two or three semesters of French in college, 'Excusez-moi, je ne parle pas bein francais" remains the only coherent sentence I can form in French... and to be honest, I feel like a bit of will suffice... for heading to a foreign country not being able to speak or understand the language. And I was getting myself psyched out with all of the "What ifs" ("How do I deal with Customs?")

Notre-Dame Cathedral, our first
major tourism stop
Rachel and I had an uneventful trip from the Cleveland to Charles de Gualle via Chicago -- although I had a horrible time falling asleep on the trans-Atlantic flight -- arriving at about 10am Paris time Friday morning.

My biggest concern with customs quickly passed when I approached the booth, said "Bonjour" and the immigration officer didn't even look at me and barely looked at my passport before stamping it and handing it back to me without uttering so much as a word to me. Passing immigration we made our way to baggage claim, where our bags were promptly delivered and we exited the terminal to board the first of three trains to our hotel -- without encountering another official along the way. Someone had told me that it was easier for an Americ
an to get into France than it was to get back into the United States and thus far I concur whole heatedly -- without even having to fill out a customs form, I think it was easier and faster (including waiting for luggage) to get out of Charles de Gaulle than the last time I landed at Cleveland Hopkins.

Arriving at the airport train station Rachel handled purchasing our rail passes and we were on our way into metropolitan Paris. We had some fun when we transferred to a train going the wrong direction but after a quick correction we found ourselves at Cint, a shopping center our hotel is attached to. However, finding the hotel was slightly more challenging.

Spotting an information desk, I approached -- "Bonjour" "Bonjour..." Ok, High School french, how do I ask for the Hilton. I panicked "Parle-vois anglais?" "Yes" she smiled. "Where is the Hilton?" "Through the Tunnel" "Merci" "You're welcome."

Arriving at the hotel's front desk, a similar experience though realizing I had not a chance at asking for an early checkin in French -- "Bonjour, Monsieur." "Bonjour, parle-vous anglias?" "Yes" and off we were.

After freshening up for a bit and relaxing -- but resisting the temptation to sleep -- in the room, Rachel and I headed out to visit Notre Dame cathedral -- a beautiful edifice, and we happened to be inside during the processional and beginning of a 3pm mass. Our visit to Notre Dame, and our mass atteandance, complete we set off for an early dinner. One of Rachel's coworkers had recommended a resturant near by, however after checking out the menu nothing seemed to my (picky) taste... Luckily two doors down we found a delightful and tiny restaurant with a menu a bit more to my taste.

"Bonjour" "Bonjour... would you like to eat or to drink?" and from that point our restaurateur spoke entirely in English (even answering "Merci" with you're welcome) -- the food was good and in conversation our waiter mentioned that he was happy to speak English because "you learn it in school and have to practice it" and he doesn't want patrons to feel obligated. I'm becoming convinced that the stereotype of the Parisian that refuses to speak English is entirely outmoded."

After dinner we walked along the Seine for a bit before returning to our room and falling asleep relatively early.


Saturday, March 14, 2015

Cleveland Orchestra: Beethoven's Seventh Symphony

Francescone: Cobalt, Scarlet: Two colors of dawn
Liszt: Piano Concerto No. 2 in A major (in one movement) (Jean-Yves Thibaudet, piano)
Beethoven: Symphony No. 7 in A major, Op. 92
Fabio Luisi, Conductor

As a programming note, starting Thursday Rachel and I will be in Paris (or as Hilton refers to it "Paris, Paris, France") to celebrate our fourth anniversary of dating. If anyone has any suggestions for "off the beaten path" sites to see, things to do, or even people to meet -- please send me an email at L at (Also, if you happen to know a cheap way to upgrade our transatlantic flights on United to BusinessFirst...that would also be greatly appreciated)

I have to admit that I was less than excited about the modern piece that opened the program -- Francescone's Cobalt Scarlet -- especially when given the rousing "not as bad as it could have been" from someone who heard Thursday's performance of the piece. But while the slow passages started as interesting and ephemeral (despite some of the nuance being lost in the noise of a shuffling and rustling audience that was still getting settled as the first notes were played) and became more tiresome and lumbering, the fast passages were fascinating and as exciting as a cinematic chase.

Liszt's Piano Concerto as a single movement was lyrical and mournful in general -- full of technique but not really engaging my ear, though passages with a solo cello were heavenly -- I think I could have listened to just that portion of the piece for hours on end, and I had a similar reaction to the fluttering flute later in the piece


Saturday, February 28, 2015

Cleveland Classical Guitar Society: Gaelle Solal

Bach: Partita No. 2 BWV 1004
Traditional Turkish: Drama Koprusu 
Traditional Turkish: For the yellow flowers (added)
Albieniz: Piezas Caracteristicas, Op. 92, No 12: Torre Bermeja, Serenata
Gismonti: Palhaco
Nazareth: Brejeiro
Gismonti: Agua E Vinho
Sadinha: Lamentos Do Moro
Two encores, titles unannounced.
Gaelle Solal, guitar.
At the Plymouth Church, UCC

Before tonight's concert began, Rachel thought she spotted an idol in the audience -- and she may be sitting next to me  rereading one of his collections next to me as I'm writing this -- but she was too respectful to see if she was correct -- but I had the distinct honor of seeing her (normally ultra reserved) go uber fan girl -- hitting some octaves I didn't think she was physically capable of before this evening.

Anyway, getting on to the main event, the guitar has a wonderful ability to bring immediate warmth to a room -- and on yet another chilly Cleveland evening, where it was 17 degrees when we left the house -- spiritual warmth is always appreciated. Ms. Solal also gave particularly informative and elucidatiory introductions to the pieces she so adeptly played.

The first half of the program consisted entirely of the five movements of Bach's Partita No. 2 -- which through their different tones (warm and sedated then sprinting, a Sarabanda that seemed to capture the loss of a close friend, to the lighter Giga and 64 variations in a Ciccona) made me think of this as a musical answer to the stages of grief.

Following intermission, two traditional turkish pieces (one on the program, one added) brought a distinctly Eastern European tone to the hall, and was one of my favorites from the program.

Albeniz's Torre Bermeja was more mellow, and Girmonti's Palhaco was moe metitative. Nazareth's Brejeiro brought more energy and was a bit of chirpy, jaunting fun -- also one of my favorites from tonight's program. For as light and happy as Brejeiro was, Gismonti's Agua E Vinho was almost depressingly sad. As a counterpoint, Sardinha's Lamentos Do Morro had more (at the beginning, pulsing) energy than any other lamentation I can recall hearing.

Ms. Solal presented two encores, titles unannounced but with wonderful dedications -- the first to the musical outreach program, and the second to her Cleveland hosts.


Sunday, February 15, 2015

Heights Arts Close Encounters : Bach, Bartok, Beatles

Bach; Air from Orchestral Suite #3, BWW 1068
Poetry Reading: Kathleen Cerveny: Mended Dreams, a pantoum
The Beatles: Blackbird (arr. Steven Laven)
Bartok: String Quartet #6 (1939) Mvt. 3 Mesto
Bach: Oh Sacred Head Now Wounded Chorale from St. Matthew Passion, BVW 244
The Beatles: Yesterday (arr. Larry More)
Bach: Brandenburg Concerto #5 in D, BVW 1050, Mvt. 1 (arr. Merle Isaac)
Bartok: String Quartet #6 (1939) Mvt. 3 Burletta 
Bach: Sonata in C-Major for Violin Solo, VBW 1005, Mvt. 3 and 4 (Isabel Trautwein, solo violin)
Bach: Art of Fugue, Contrapunctus I
Poetry Reading: Cerveny: Fire and Frost, a villanelle
The Beatles: And I Love Her (arr. Laven)
Bach: From Depths of Woe I Cry to Thee Chorale from cantata BVW 38
Bartok: Dance from Maramos (#32)
Poetry Reading: Stafford: You Reading This Be Ready
Lennon: Imagine (arr. Laven)
Kathrine Bormann and Isabel Trautwein, violin; Sonia Bratten Molloy, viola; Tanya Ell, cello (all members of The Cleveland Orchestra)
At Kalman and Pabst Photo Group's Studio, Midtown Cleveland.

I've been in love with Kalman and Pabst Photo Group's midtown studio space since the first time I wandered in several years ago and I've always wondered how it would sound as a live music space. This season stars aligned in a major way -- not only did the talented crew from KP generously donate their talents to produce the beautiful imagery used to promote this season's concerts but they also graciously hosted us in their studio this afternoon for the second concert of this season.

Today's sold out concert was a unique journey matching three eras of music -- starting with J.S. Bach, skipping forward to Bela Bartok and finishing with the music of The Beatles arranged for string quartet grouped intelligently as musical tastings and with poetry readings interspersed.

Aside from highlighting the versatility of these fantastic musicians through the diverse musical selections, with insightful commentary linking each set of pieces and musical theory and execution -- particularly humorous was when Ms. Bormann related her experience digging behind the music while learning Debussy under the direction of a Russian instructor.

Though the music was as delightful as a whole -- and I don't really consider myself a fan of the Beatles -- I did particularly enjoy this group's performance those pieces reminding me, conceptually of Vitamin String Quartet, a rotating quartet that records string arrangements of popular music.


Saturday, January 31, 2015

Cleveland Orchestra: Tchaiovsy's Fifth Symphony

Sibelius: Pohjola's Daughter, Op. 49
Prokofiev: Violin Concerto No. 2 in G minor, Op. 63 (Vadim Gluzman, violin)
Unannounced encore for solo violin (Vadim Gluzman, violin)
Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 5 in E minor, Op. 64.
Hannu Lintu, conductor.

Approaching the box office this evening -- a full 90 minutes prior to the concert start time -- I was a little surprised to find a completely full house -- not even a single standing room ticket to spare. Luckily, I already had a ticket though far from my "usual" (low-numbered) boxes. I was in Box 22, Seat F for tonight's concert, on the right side of the house, practically on stage [only one box sits closer].

I was a little apprehensive because the sound in Severance Hall changes dramatically based on where you are in the hall and while I've never been in Box 22, I'm not fond of the way the orchestra sounds when heard from boxes 16 or 18 and I feared the effect would be worse. That was most certainly not the case with tonight's concert where the orchestra sparkled with a resonance I can't recall from recent performances.

With the extreme intimacy -- being practically on stage -- I found myself with a view of the conductor's face and facial expressions (in profile) while shaping the sound of the orchestra that I've not been able to see from the more traditional seating locations, and honing in on the movements and indeed sounds of individual musicians. My only problem with tonight's concert was entirely my fault, to borrow a cliche "I couldn't hear the orchestra for the musicians".

To that end, the resplendent pizzicato of the second movement of the violin concerto and the delicious entirety of the unannounced encore played by Mr. Gluzman were certainly highlights.


Saturday, January 10, 2015

Cleveland Orchestra: Franz Welser-Most Conducts Mozart and Ravel

Mozart: Symphony No. 41 ("Jupiter") in C major, K.551
Ravel; Daphnis and Chloe: Choreographic Symphony In Three Parts (with the Cleveland Orchestra Chorus, Robert Porco, director)
Franz Welser-Most, conductor.


2015 will be the year where I become far more opportunistic regarding which Cleveland Orchestra concerts I choose to attend, primarily due to a number of unfortunate changes artistically and administratively -- the most unfortunate of which being the extension of Franz Welser-Most's contract with the Orchestra -- as well as a number of resignations and retirements from within the artistic and administrative staffs, and a increasingly demanding professional workload -- I no longer feel the level of engagement with the orchestra that I once did.

Tonight's performance of Mozart's Symphony No. 41 left me sitting thinking of all of the things that I could have been doing with the time I had set aside to attend the concert, not to mention the money used to purchase the ticket. Running down I think any of them -- including changing the oil on my car -- would have been a better use of my time. Mr. Welser-Most's rendition was un-engaging and dispassionate that rather than taking me to a different world, as a great concert will do, I had to struggle to keep my attention on the piece rather than, say, the laundry I could be doing.

I've often said that the reason I enjoy live classical and detest listening to recorded classical is the dynamic range and exchange of energy that you get from the live orchestra -- I got neither of those tonight.

During intermission I pondered my predicament -- I generally like Ravel whereas I tend to lean indifferent to Mozart -- I decided with how miserable I was feeling toward the first piece and despite the investment in the ticket, I would be far better off just heading home to do laundry. And I feel good about that decision.

I think the lesson learned from tonight, and in the spirit of being more opportunistic (with the side benefit of saving some money for our trip to Paris in March) I will not be attending next week's concert -- nor, do I expect, other concerts conducted by Mr. Welser-Most in the near future. I am optimistic about the concert on January 24th (including Pictures at and Exhibition)