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by Guytano Parks

BuchbinderSpringtime was heralded in at Severance Hall last Thursday evening when music director Franz Welser-Möst led The Cleveland Orchestra, soprano Kate Royal, mezzo-soprano Jamie Barton, tenor John Tessier and The Cleveland Orchestra Chorus and Children’s Chorus (prepared by Robert Porco and Ann Usher) in Benjamin Britten’s Spring Symphony. Earlier on the program came Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini with Austrian pianist Rudolf Buchbinder, Sibelius’s Lemminkainen’s Return, and Ryan Wigglesworth’s Locke’s Theatre.

Welser-Möstled a bold and sweeping account of the Sibelius (No. 4, from Legends, Op. 22) to begin the program. Emphasizing the dark, serious nature of its opening bars, he coaxed expressive, colorful sounds from the orchestra, full of rhythmic vigor and effective dynamic contrasts.

Buchbinder played Rachmaninoff’s popular Rhapsody in a straightforward manner, but still full of interest and excitement. Read the rest of this entry »


by Mike Telin

PORCO-RobertBeethoven’s Mass in C is a wonderful piece and under-performed in my opinion — at least in this country,” Cleveland Orchestra Director of Choruses Robert Porco told us by telephone. “And I don’t know exactly why that is. People like to do the Missa Solemnis, which is an entirely different kind of piece and was written some fifteen years later.”

On Thursday, October 31 and Saturday, November 2 in Severance Hall, Franz Welser-Möst leads The Cleveland Orchestra and Cleveland Orchestra Chorus in performances of Beethoven’s Mass in C and Messiaen’s Trois petites liturgies de la Présence Divine. Also included on the program is Beethoven’s Grosse Fugue.

The Mass in C was commissioned by Prince Nikolaus Esterházy II. “He was the same person for whom Haydn wrote his wonderful masses. I only mention this because the late Haydn masses are not performed that often either.”

According to history, Esterházy did not like the work — which caused Beethoven to leave abruptly. “Esterházy wrote letters about how much the piece embarrassed him. People have asked me why he thought that and I can’t really answer that either except that he was very accustomed to hearing what Haydn had written.” In his The Life of Beethoven, (1998) musicologist David Wyn Jones recounts, “Nikolaus later wrote to Countess Henriette Zielinska, ‘Beethoven’s music is unbearably ridiculous and detestable; I am not convinced it can ever be performed properly. I am angry and ashamed.'” Read the rest of this entry »

by Daniel Hathaway

TCO&COCThe Cleveland Orchestra Chorus has had a lot on its plate this month, preparing and performing two major works just two weeks apart. This fine, all-volunteer ensemble — now celebrating its sixtieth anniversary — handily swapped the faux-medieval pastiche of Carmina Burana for the witty, cultured music of The Seasons, turning in a splendid performance of Haydn’s underappreciated, second oratorio under the baton of Franz Welser-Möst on Thursday evening, April 25 in Severance Hall — with a little help from The Cleveland Orchestra and three top-notch soloists.

The suddenly-flowering trees out front augured well for the occasion, which opened with an orchestral introduction depicting “the passage from winter to spring”. That was followed closely by the choral caveat: “Do not rejoice all too soon / for often, wrapped in mists, / winter creeps back again and strews / on blossom and bud his rigid poison.” Apparently, what goes for Cleveland also goes for Vienna. Though all four seasons cycled by onstage, Spring prevailed outside on Thursday night.

In setting Baron von Swieten’s adaptation of a lengthy text by Scots poet James Thomson, Haydn planned a major scene as the centerpiece of each season, calling on the chorus to play joyful, grateful countryfolk in Spring, storm-frightened villagers in Summer, hunters and wine tipplers in Autumn and spinners and storytellers gathered toastily around the fire in Winter. Read the rest of this entry »

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