Monday, July 13, 2015

Short reviews

AMC has been doing his usual summer trip to the Midwest and Northeast to take in musical events. Here is what has been seen so far:

1.  The Cleveland Orchestra, under Music director Franz Welser-Most, presented a concert as part of the Orchestra's Summer @ Severance series.  If you haven't been to Severance Hall, the Orchestra's home, you should make the pilgrimage.  It has the best acoustics that AMC has ever heard.  It is warm, without  echo or reverberation smearing the sound.  It is as if the orchestra and the listener are the only two in the room.  AMC has heard the Cleveland at Blossom, and it was very very good.  At Severance it is astounding.  The strings have a smooth velvety sound that is precise and assertive. The basses growl and provide the needed foundation for the music, a characteristic that seems to be enhanced by the Hall.  The Hall is beautiful, with a mixture of Art Nouveau and  Art Deco, with many Egyptian revival characteristics also.  It is unique in design, but not so idiosyncratic as to appear tasteless.  It is one of the most beautiful halls AMC has ever seen.  The program began with Messiaen's Hymne.  A very surprising part of this piece is that a solo viola plays with the full first and second violin sections.  As a combination of wonderful playing by Robert Vernon, the work of Welser-Most, and the Hall's acoustics made it possible to actually hear this dialogue.  AMC thinks that would not happen in many places.  A similar surprise was in the Beethoven Piano Concerto 4, where a solo cello plays with the piano.  AMC had never heard them before and it was revelatory. Soloist Igor Levit played beautifully, and in the cadenzas, applied substantial of rubato to very good effect.  The final work was Strauss' Symphonia Domestica.  The Orchestra played beautifully and Welser-Most's conception was strong, with only an occasional lack of forward momentum.  Because the Strauss tone poems are long works, it is easy to get lost in the details, but Welser-Most mostly keep it on track.  In spite of it being a summer concert, the principal players were in the orchestra and it was not a "scaled-down" orchestra.  Good on Cleveland!  There was a cocktail event before and after the concert. Both were well attended.

2.  The Pittsburgh Symphony presented a "Classical BBQ" concert, part of its summer season.  The concert was preceded by- guess what?- a BBQ in the Heinz Hall garden, which is an oasis in busy downtown Pittsburgh.  The event was filled with wall-to-wall people on an evening that had a  Pirates baseball game, a rock festival, and furries convention all vying for attention.  The tickets for the event were $35 each, and permitted open seating in Heinz Hall.  The program featured general "Pops"-like music conducted by resident conductor Fawzi Haimor, who has wonderful stage presence when addressing the audience.  Members of the PSO also addressed the audience to inform about the music, but also to make a pitch for season tickets.  The most impressive work of the evening was the final section of Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture.  It was rousing and reminded AMC of what a crowd- pleaser it is.  Overall, though, AMC was disappointed with the performances.  They were strident, with the admittedly wonderful Pittsburgh brass being way too prominent.  The string lacked body, especially the first violins.  Many of the players appeared to be contractors and it did not seem that there was a full complement of strings.  While a good time seemed to be had by all, the concert was far and away not the best that AMC has heard in Heinz Hall.  There was a post-concert cocktail party that again was filled with people, who enjoyed some very nice local jazz.

3.  The Opera Theater of Pittsburgh presented a recital by Andrey Nemzer, a countertenor.  This is the second such recital AMC has attended featuring this talented singer.  He was accompanied by pianist Nikolay Verevkin for most of the program, which was an all-Russian program.  He was also accompanied by Margarita Zelenaia, who composed four stunningly beautiful songs that Mr. Nemzer sang.  Mr. Nemzer had a few vocal stumbles at the beginning but he is technically and musically talented.  It is odd, however, to hear a countertenor sing love songs.  Some of the music was not written for such a voice and it seemed to diminish their impact.  Mr. Nemzer also has a large stage presence that sometimes hampers his efforts at acting.  But it was a great recital at the beautiful Twentieth Century Club in Pittsburgh's Oakland district.

1 comment:

  1. We recently had our wedding at this place, and we couldn't have been happier. We had a particular vision for our New York city party, and we were given just that. This is a unique space, with an incredible view. Highly recommended!