When we at ClevelandClassical.com first discussed writing about our “standouts” of the 2009-2010 concert season, I thought it was a great idea. What could possibly be difficult about this task? However when I really began to think about the 65 concerts that I attended between September 2009 and the first week of June 2010, the simple task quickly became daunting. For me, there are so many reasons for one to enjoy, or not to enjoy a concert. These reasons accompanied by the fact that each organization and or ensemble have their own missions guiding how they choose to fill a role in Northeast Ohio’s vibrant classical music scene, too often led me to feel that I was comparing apples to oranges. Therefore I have chosen to write about my own “standouts” in two distinct sections. First, is an overview of concerts that I feel deserve a big hand of applause, and second, my own picks of complete performances by an artist or ensemble that for one reason or another are still engraved in my musical memory.
I begin by giving hearty congratulations to James Feddek and the Cleveland Orchestra Youth Orchestra, Liza Grossman and the Contemporary Youth Orchestra, Christopher James Lees and the Akron Youth Symphony, and Joanne Erwin and the Northern Ohio Youth Orchestras. I thoroughly enjoyed hearing the performances of these young musicians. They are our future performers and more importantly our future audiences. These ensembles also have a lot to say musically.
Two groups and a festival that I urge you to take note of next season are the Cleveland Women’s Orchestra, the Cleveland Winds, and the WCLV Church Choir Festival. Robert Cronquist and CWO offer extremely interesting programs that showcase young talented soloists. Birch Browning and TCW present repertoire that is as interesting as that of a symphony orchestra. In many cases the composers are well known to symphony audiences. The WCLV CCF is more then worth the price of admission. (Free) It was great to hear, and see so many local choirs singing their hearts out. Congratulations to all of the finalists.
As a person who can be quite cynical when it comes to “audience building” endeavors by orchestras, the two new initiatives by the Cleveland Orchestra, Fridays @ 7 and Musically Speaking are both enjoyable and educational alternatives to the traditional two-hour-with-intermission orchestral concert experience. If you stayed away this season, try them, you’ll have fun.
I hope the Cleveland Museum of Art will consider continuing their Opening Nights Festival. I understand that these concerts were designed to celebrate the re-opening of the Gartner Auditorium, but I like concerts where the stage is shared by a diversity of artists, and the concert on the 14th of April featuring the Opera Cleveland Chorus, members of the Cleveland Orchestra playing “Workers Union” of Louis Andriessen and Baby Dee, of whom I have become a fan, was simply an evening not to forget. A special round of applause to CMA and the Tuesday Musical Association for bringing Max Raabe and his Palast Orchester to Northeast Ohio. The show was artistically intelligent as well as perfectly staged. If you missed it, well perhaps someone will bring Max and company back in the future.
A special thanks to Bill Johnston for his tireless work in the creation of Classical Revolution Cleveland. I look forward to the 2010-2011 events. Finally, for those of you who missed Cleveland Orchestra bassoonist Phillip Austin’s 2010 recital, “Bassoons on Fire” at the Cleveland Music Settlement, you’ll never have another opportunity, as he said this was the final installment of these wildly popular, somewhat off the wall musical events. That is unless someone can convince him that his public wants more.
OK, I guess I can’t put this off any longer; the following are my 10 picks for the 2009-2010 memorable concerts. Again these are complete concerts, not selections.
10. The Rose Ensemble at St. Stanislaus: A well-crafted program that was expertly performed. This vocal ensemble is top notch.
9. The string quartet Brooklyn Rider on the Fuze series of the Tuesday Musical Association and The Akron Art Museum: The program was a live version of their most recent concept recording, and it worked perfectly in the intimate space of the museum.
8. Jason Vieux at CIM’s Kulas Hall as part of Classical Guitar Weekend: Not only is Jason a extraordinary musician, he knew his audience, and they were ready to listen to all that he had to say.
7. Paul O’Dette, on the Chapel Court and Countryside series a Harkness Chapel: O’Dette is a musician who transports you from your seat at the back of the hall onto the stage next to him.
6. Time for Three, Finney Chapel, Oberlin: This musically versatile trio can play anything and play it well, from the Bach Double to Orange Blossom Special to original compositions. Their version of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” was haunting. Did I mention that they are also funny?
5. ‘Soldier’s Tale’ & ‘Catch and Release’ at Fusion Fest: Never has so much been said in so little time. Artistically this collaboration between the Cleveland Orchestra, GroundWorks Dance Theatre and the Cleveland Play House was stunning.
4. Akron Symphony - Gospel Meets Symphony: Congratulations, Gospel truly did meet symphony and together something new was created.
3. Les Délices – Les Petits Violons du Roy, Tregoning Gallery: This is an ensemble with a lot to say about music of the French Baroque, and they say it with a sense of style and class.
2. Jennifer Koh, Finney Chapel, Oberlin: Jennifer is a great violinist. But on this occasion it was her programming consisting entirely of solo works by Bach, Ysaye, Carter, Saariaho and Salonen and the skillful manner in which she approached the music that keeps this performance fresh in my mind. In addition there was an audience waiting to hear something special, and she did not disappoint.
1. The Cleveland Orchestra – Pierre Boulez conducting – Pierre-Laurent Aimard, piano – music of Debussy, Messiaen, and Ravel: Boulez and the Cleveland Orchestra have been a winning combination for many years, however the performance of Messiaen’s ‘Ascension’ was of another world, and Aimard’s performance of both the G major and left hand concertos of Ravel were riveting.