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by Daniel Hathaway

Luisi-&-Grimaud-(Mastroianni)In a break with tradition, The Cleveland Orchestra has entrusted the first month of its new season to guest conductors. Presiding over opening night on Thursday, September 19, was Fabio Luisi, who took some time off from The Metropolitan Opera on Thanksgiving weekend of 2011 to make a thrilling debut at Severance Hall.

On that occasion, Luisi shaped impressive accounts of two Strauss tone poems and a Mozart concerto with pianist Jonathan Biss. On Thursday, he led a nuanced, characterful reading of Mahler’s fourth symphony and a regal performance of Beethoven’s fifth piano concerto with his frequent collaborator, pianist Hélène Grimaud. (For the Fridays @ 7 concert on Friday, Luisi swapped Mahler out for Schumann’s first symphony, returning to the original program for his third concert on Saturday).

Luisi and the orchestra set the tone for Beethoven’s “Emperor” Concerto with a grandly symphonic introduction. In her first entrance, Hélène Grimaud nearly matched them in power and brilliance. Read the rest of this entry »

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by Mike Telin

LUISI-FabioIn the middle of the season that saw his sudden elevation to principal conductor at the Metropolitan Opera in New York during the long indisposition of James Levine, Fabio Luisi made an impressive debut with The Cleveland Orchestra. He returns to open the Severance Hall season this weekend with three performances featuring Mahler and Schumann symphonies and Beethoven’s fifth piano concerto with Hélène Grimaud, an artist Luisi has known and worked with for many years.

We spoke with Fabio Luisi by telephone earlier this month, just before his debut with the Czech Philharmonic in the Verdi Requiem. “I’m looking forward to my return to Cleveland,” he said at the beginning of our conversation. “The orchestra played so beautifully during my debut concert two seasons ago.”

The concerts on Thursday and Saturday evenings will feature Mahler’s fourth symphony. “I have a long relationship with Mahler’s music,” he said. “It’s something that touches my heart and soul. It is something very special to me.” When asked when he first discovered Mahler, he quickly responds, “I can tell you quite precisely. I was fifteen years old in Genoa, the town of my birth. I was a student and I went to a concert with my girlfriend of that time and it was Mahler’s Symphony #5. It was such a discovery for me because I had never heard a Mahler symphony before and this huge amount of sound and the differences of moods astonished me. And from then on I was a Mahler addict.” Read the rest of this entry »

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