- Editor - Bill Kenny
- London Editor-Melanie Eskenazi
- Founder - Len Mullenger
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SEEN AND HEARD INTERNATIONAL
The Cleveland Orchestra in New York (1): Franz Welser-Möst, cond., Carnegie Hall, New York City, 16.10.2007 (BH)
Mozart: Symphony No. 28 in C Major, K. 200 (1773 or 1774)
John Adams: Guide to Strange Places (2001)
Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 6, "Pathétique" (1893)
For Mozart’s Symphony No. 28, Franz Welser-Möst and the Cleveland Orchestra were able to crack open the back wall of Carnegie Hall and transport us to Vienna. The glorious sound of the ensemble was evident from the opening bars and never let up. The andante had grace to spare, but the highlight was the menuetto, in which the horns’ exactitude in a repeated figure sounded like a doorbell ringing over and over. The movement is short, but here seemed to end much too soon. In the finale, Welser-Möst and the ensemble took off at a clip that I didn’t think could be sustained, but any fears dissolved in clouds of busily scurrying violins. Imagine the silvery sound of the Vienna Philharmonic, combined with the light, crisp and punchy approach of Harnoncourt, and that’s what Welser-Möst achieved,
With an orchestra twice as large as for the Mozart, John Adams’s Guide to Strange Places does seem to nod to Stravinsky’s Petrouchka, especially in the opening pages laden with chimes and strings. Soon the ensemble moves to a perpetual motion passage, bristling with ticking sounds, followed by an amusing section with the low strings interrupted by sharp percussion outbursts, alternating from the left and right sides of the stage. Some dramatic, jagged brass eventually ebbs away and as the piece hits a low G, it simply stops. Perhaps more than any other piece on the program, this showed off the ensemble’s virtuosity and ability to summon up unusual colors requested by many contemporary composers. What impressed most clearly is the complete and utter stylistic change from the Mozart; one criterion of a great group is a chameleon-like ability to change into a different ensemble for different eras. Even more gratifying was the audience, applauding and cheering loudly at the end and bringing out Welser-Möst four or five times.
Unsentimental elegance made the Tchaikovsky Sixth Symphony all the more moving. Welser-Möst didn’t underline, nor did he need to with the immaculate work from the orchestra. Hearing this piece played so beautifully was sheer pleasure. In the second movement, he adopted a true allegro con grazia, and the cellos, so mellow in the Mozart, were skipping along about as lusciously as it gets. The third movement was notable for its wide dynamic range, from the hushed skittering at the beginning to the broad energy of the march that ultimately seems to sweep away everything that has come before. At the tumultuous conclusion, Welser-Möst kept his arms aloft to discourage applause, even though a bit dribbled out anyway, and plunged into the last anguished lamentoso. Again, a slight reticence here and there contrasted with moments of real passion, and as the final bars faded away, he again prevented applause for a good thirty seconds, until he quietly lowered his arms and the real hollering began.