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by Daniel Hathaway

VANSKA-OsmoNot every wind that blows into Cleveland from the North is a bone-chilling polar vortex. The boreal breeze that accompanied the 80-degree weather on Thursday evening, May 8, was a refreshing one that brought Finnish conductor (and newly reappointed Minnesota Orchestra music director) Osmo Vänskä to Severance Hall with striking symphonies by his countrymen Aulis Sallinen and Jan Sibelius in hand. The Grieg concerto, featuring frequent guest pianist Garrick Ohlsson, added another Scandinavian voice to the evening.

Sallinen’s Symphony No. 1, written in 1970-1971, was a late but fascinating addition to the program. In one movement over the course of fifteen minutes, the composer obsesses in a highly organized way with the note F-sharp and its related key of F-sharp minor. Beginning statically with a viola solo (Robert Vernon) joined by second violin (Stephen Rose) that devolve into a persistent motive over cello and bass recitative-like lines, the initially cool mode grows warmer and crests with an entry by the brass into a climax topped off by a catchy rhythm on the wood block. Read the rest of this entry »

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by Daniel Hathaway

TakacsQuartetSmReferring in a recent interview to the Brahms-Haydn-Brahms program the Takács String Quartet cooked up for their March 19 Cleveland Chamber Music Society concert with Garrick Ohlsson (and repeated the following evening at Lincoln Center), violist Geraldine Walther exclaimed, “Who would have thunk it! But it actually does work and it’s a really satisfying concert to hear.”

The unusually large crowd in Plymouth Church last Tuesday evening agreed enthusiastically with that assessment as the Takács and their distinguished piano colleague dug deeply into the structure and substance of Brahms’s Quartet in a, op. 51, no. 2, Piano Quintet in f, op. 34 and Haydn’s Quartet in B-flat, op. 76, no. 4, sculpting performances that rank among the most distinguished and compelling of the CCMS season to date.

The two Brahms works are fascinatingly dissimilar — the quartet lyrical but abstract, the quintet craggy and visceral. The Haydn — especially in the magical hands and bows of the Takács — provided a delicious entremet and made for just about as much fun as you could possibly have at a chamber music concert. Read the rest of this entry »

by Daniel Hathaway

TakacsQuartetThe Takács String Quartet, originally formed in Budapest in 1975 and since 1986 in residence at the University of Colorado at Boulder, will return to the Cleveland Chamber Music Society series on Tuesday, March 19 at 7:30 at Plymouth Church in Shaker Heights.

Pianist Garrick Ohlssohn will be the special guest for Brahms’s Piano Quintet in f, op. 34. Also on the program are Brahms’s Quartet in a, op. 51, no. 2 and Haydn’s Quartet in B-flat, op. 76, no. 4.

Compared to other long-standing groups, the membership of the Takács Quartet has been remarkably stable over its 38-year history. British violinist Edward Dusinberre took over the driver’s seat in 1993 and another British musician, Roger Tapping, replaced the original violist in 1994. Tapping was succeeded in 2005 by Geraldine Walther, who left her post as principal violist of the San Francisco Symphony to join the quartet. We spoke with Walther by phone in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Read the rest of this entry »

by Mike Telin

Note: this performance was eventually cancelled due to illness.

PerformanceOhlsson-Garrick2 agreements between artists and presenters usually contain a cancellation clause that addresses “acts of God.” And the rescheduling is usually contingent on finding a date that is agreeable to both the artist and presenter. Luckily for Northeast Ohio audiences, when hurricane Sandy forced the cancellation of pianist Garrick Ohlsson’s Oberlin Artist Recital Series debut, his performance was quickly rescheduled.

On Tuesday, February 12 at 8:00 pm in Finney Chapel, Garrick Ohlsson will make his debut on the Oberlin Artist Recital Series. Ohlsson’s program includes Brahms’s Rhapsodies, op. 79, Liszt’s Fantasia on Ad Nos, Ad salutarem undam, S. 259, Scriabin’s Two Pieces, op. 57, Étrangeté, op. 63, no. 2 & Vers la Flamme, op. 72 and Chopin’s Fantasy, op. 49 and Scherzo, op. 31 (all original tickets will be honored). Read the rest of this entry »

by Mike Telin

AfterOHLSSON-Garrick winning the 1970 Chopin International Piano Competition, pianist Garrick Ohlsson has built a reputation for being a musician of magisterial interpretive and technical prowess. Beginning on Thursday, January 10 in Severance Hall, the celebrated pianist will join The Cleveland Orchestra under the direction of Franz Welser-Möst for three performances of Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 2 in G Major.

Boasting a repertoire of over eighty concertos, it was not until this past fall that Ohlssohn gave his first performances of Tchaikovsky’s lesser known concerto. And while he admits to having some initial reservations about the piece, Ohlsson says he has grown to like the concerto very much. We reached the always engaging pianist by telephone at his home in San Francisco. Read the rest of this entry »

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