THE CLEVELAND ORCHESTRA
FRANZ WELSER-MOST/ RADU LUPU
STRAVINSKY/ MOZART/ ADES (2-1-08)
CLEVELAND ORCHESTRA ENCOMPASSES CLASSICISM
By Lawrence Budmen
The 18th century classicism of Mozart and modernist anarchy of British composer Thomas Ades represent opposite poles of the musical spectrum. But the Cleveland Orchestra brilliantly encompassed both worlds at the second program of the ensemble’s Miami residency on Friday.
While the orchestra pursues a remarkable program of community outreach, its concerts at the Arsht Center remain the major focus of attention and deservedly so. Through the supple refinement and richness of its playing, this group remains the most classical of American orchestras. Collectively, Cleveland arguably may have the best first chair players of any US ensemble.
Music director Franz Welser-Most is a scrupulous interpreter of a wide ranging repertoire with the uncanny ability to illuminate minute instrumental and textural details of complex scores.
Pianist Radu Lupu offered artistry of the highest order in Mozart’s stormy Concerto No.20 in D minor, giving equal weight to the score’ s tempestuous vistas and sublime lyrical outpourings. In the outer movements, the Romanian pianist demonstrated nimble agility and fiery impetuosity, while the Romanze was marked by pianism of exquisite beauty. While he commanded power in reserve, Lupu offered the entire range of dynamics with playing of soft, cascading lightness that caressed the ear. Welser-Most, a patrician Mozartean, offered an alert, invigorating accompaniment.
Ades is a post modern composer whose musical palette ranges from 1920’s big band jazz and swing to the acerbic harmonies of Stravinsky. The Overture, Waltz, and Finale from Powder Her Face was co-commissioned by the Cleveland Orchestra (along with London’s Philharmonia). Based on excerpts from Ades’ 1995 chamber opera, this rambunctious score is a witty panoply of popular dance forms, spiced with Stravinskyan irony. Ades’ mastery of bright orchestral timbres was conveyed in exhilarating fashion by Welser-Most.
Two contrasting ballet scores by Stravinsky opened and concluded the concert. In the Suite from Pulcinella, Welser-Most astutely balanced the composer’s biting dissonance and harmonic astringency with the delicacy and grace of Giovanni Pergolesi’s original melodies. Concertmaster William Preucil’s elegant violin solos were tinged with stylistic echoes of Fritz Kreisler. Frank Rosenwein’s plaintively melancholy oboe solo and Joshua Smith’s mellifluous flute variations led a glorious wind contingent.
Welser-Most turned the Suite from The Firebird into a cyclorama of orchestral wizardry, evoking lustrous sonorities of Russian orchestral color. Stravinsky’ s debt to his teacher Rimsky-Korsakov has rarely been so clearly delineated. The conductor’s skill at building large orchestral climaxes generated visceral excitement while the hushed transition to the joyous finale was magical John Clouser’s evocative bassoon solo set the Berceuse in dreamy motion. Among silken waves of rich string tone , Desmond Hoebig’s velvety cello solo was first among equals.