CONSIDERED OPINION OF THE CLEVELAND ORCHESTRA CONCERT OF 1 OCTOBER 2009
Hanspeter Kyburz: touché. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Concerto for Piano and Orchestra No. 17, K. 453. Antonín Dvorák: Symphony No. 5 in F major, Op. 76, B. 54. (Laura Aikin, sop.; John Mark Ainsley, ten.; Leif Ove Andsnes, p.; Franz Welser-Möst, cond.)
Ah, the common domestic squabble—how it enriches our lives! Well, our musical lives, at any rate. Devotees of different genres can pick their own favorites. Admirers of purely orchestral music might opt for the double-fugue fracas in Richard Strauss' Symphonia domestica. Broadway aficionados might prefer the petty sniping in "Country House"—a marvelous tune added to Stephen Sondheim's Follies for its 1987 London revival. At the other end of the musical and emotional spectrum, there's Robert Fripp's "NY3." The venomous argument incorporated into its musical texture is the real McCoy—an actual family blowup recorded through the wall of Fripp's New York City apartment.
Fans of the newest of new music, meanwhile, can point to Hanspeter Kyburz's touché—a scene for soprano, tenor, and orchestra which received its U.S. premiere at Sunday's Cleveland Orchestra concert. Its domestic antagonists assail one another in twenty minutes of decidedly cryptic dialogue constructed by Kyburz's wife Sabine Marienberg. It's not a text that works particularly well on the printed page. In their program note, Kyburz and Marienberg cite the influence of Beckett, among others. But a better analogue might be the Virginia Woolf of The Waves, so abstracted from the concrete world are touché's characters. Fortunately, Kyburz's vivid musical imagination and the committed performances of soprano Laura Aikin and tenor John Mark Ainsley bring the work somewhat closer to earth. Ainsley, mind you, can sometimes seem a little stiff, especially when the work requires him to speak rather than to sing. But that may be in part due to the proximity of Aikin, who positively glitters with rage.
Sunday's matinee program combined touché with Music Director Franz Welser-Möst's realization of the Dvorák Fifth Symphony. And while the Fifth is not nearly as often heard as numbers seven through nine, Welser-Möst doesn't in the least treat it as a bush-league work. His interpretation of the final movement in particular emphasizes its sharp edges and surprising shifts in tone. This is Dvorák which anticipates Mahler: incisive, high-strung, and sonically spectacular to boot.
Pianist Leif Ove Andsnes joined the orchestra for the third work on the program: Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 17, K. 453. Over the last few years Clevelanders have become accustomed to Mitsuko Uchida's Mozart performances—exquisite examples of micro-engineering, the inflections of each and every note meticulously calibrated. Andsnes gives us something rather different: Mozart viewed from a greater distance, with salient interpretive gestures scaled up a bit in size, though rarely obtrusive.
Which version to prefer? Forced to make a choice, I'd take Uchida—but we're lucky to have Andsnes as well. Either perspective has its limitations. And in the end, as Phyllis Stone, that veteran of the domestic wars, says in Sondheim's Follies, "One makes bargains with one's life. That's what maturity amounts to."
I'm Jerome Crossley for WCLV 104/9.
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