REVIEW | Cleveland Orchestra A witty welcome for new director
The concert included the world premiere of a piece commissioned by the orchestra.
By ROBERT ROLLIN
CLEVELAND -- Saturday evening marked the Cleveland Orchestra's opening night, a witty and engaging welcoming concert for its new music director, Franz Welser-Most. Welser-Most, a native of Linz, Austria, has conducted many of the world's leading orchestras and has served as Zurich Opera music director since 1995.
The well-paced evening included an especially clever programming plan for the first half. Welser-Most was able to sandwich the lively Glinka Ruslan and Ludmila Overture, a sparkling and colorful 19th-century piece, between a 20th-century work by Varese and an 18th-century symphony by Haydn. The latter two are connected by humorous musical references to the musicians' tunings.
Edgard Varese's "Tuning Up," originally composed for a film, was intended to be a parody of the start of a concert, but the experimental Varese enriched the project, turning the tuning process into a musical pastiche consisting of short quotations of snippets from Beethoven's "Seventh Symphony," "Yankee Doodle," and more, as if the various musicians were warming up without regard to their neighbors.
This amusing piece, reconstructed in 1998 by Chou Wen-chung, a composer friend of Varese's, even included sirens and other noisy percussion in references to the composer's own landmark piece "Ionisation."
Conductor Welser-Most added to the brusque humor by not waiting for applause and proceeding directly into the Glinka, a war-horse overture that remains popular because of its energetic forward propulsion and fine orchestration.
The Haydn Symphony No. 60 completed the comic musical sandwich by having the violins begin the finale with an unconventional tuning, stop suddenly as if realizing an error, and retune!
The symphony, in fact, was written as incidental music to the French farce "The Absent-Minded Man." The act of retuning amounted to a clever conceit indeed, as if the conductor was making a reference to the Varese piece that opened the program.
Welser-Most and the orchestra performed beautifully throughout, negotiating Haydn's clever rhythmic and dynamic nuances with flair and near perfection.
The concert also included the world premiere of French composer Marc-Andr & eacute; Dalbavie's "Rocks Under the Water," commissioned by the orchestra.
The piece uses timbral change to depict rocks, and certain rhythmic patterns, water, in an attempt to symbolize the organic intricacy of renowned architect Frank Gehry's newly completed Peter B. Lewis Building across the street from Severence Hall.
The workmanlike piece suffered from being juxtaposed to Respighi's "Pines of Rome," notwithstanding that both works have connections with nature. Respighi is a master of orchestration rivaling Ravel, and the orchestra brought off the brightly colorful images of children's circle dances, and the inexorable march of the Roman foot soldiers with panache. The darker images of the catacombs and of a moonlit night were equally well interpreted.