NOT YOUR USUAL HOLIDAY CONCERT: CITYMUSIC CLEVELAND @ FAIRMOUNT PRESBYTERIAN 12/2 CoolCleveland.com: December 10, 2008
One of the nicest holiday gifts was presented last Tuesday at Fairmount
Presbyterian Church when CityMusic Cleveland and conductor James
Gaffigan presented their Not Your Usual Holiday Concert. If one
wanted another name for this concert, it might be "an evening of
delicious bon-bons." Most of the eight pieces that comprised the program
are very seldom heard, which is not fair -- to the music, or audiences.
They're delightful and deserve to be heard much more often! Bravo CMC
and Mr. Gaffigan.
The opening work, March for the Turkish
Ceremony by Jean-Baptiste Lully, also served to close the program, as
after two encores of beloved Christmas Carols, the ebullient conductor
announced. "Let's do the Lully again, I love that piece so much!" and
so, we heard it again, and it was every bit as delightful as the first
time around. The vigorous work, which featured lots of percussion
(mainly cymbals) was originally incidental music for Molière's play Le
A touch of holiday cheer was provided by
the women of the orchestra who mostly wore long gowns in vibrant colors,
adding an extra bit of brightness to the cold, dark night. The
performance of Rossini's Overture to La Cenerentola was preceded by a
short demonstration of Rossini's famous crescendo technique. As does
most of his music, this, too, bubbled with wit and charm throughout.
The wind players were given a chance to show off in the finale
of Charles Gounod's Petite symphonie, providing perky and frisky notes
highlighted by crisp articulation. It was delightful.
surprise for most listeners, I suspect, was the final work of the first
half – music for the play Belshazzar's Feast by Jean Sibelius. If this
had been a contest to name the conductor, I venture to say that unless
one had previously seen the music, there would have been no winner. Who
knew that the cold, aloof Sibelius from cold Finland could write such
warm, exotic and sometimes mystical music? It was totally charming.
There were four movements featured here: Oriental procession, another
sort of 'Turkish' march; Solitude, a sinuous and lyrical interlude that
exuded longing with a gorgeous duet for viola (Jessica Oudin) and cello
(Keiko Ying); Night Music, which gave Heidi Ruby-Kushious (principal
flute) the chance to define 'nocturne' with soothing and tranquil music
of mystical inclination, and Khadra's Dance, which paired the winds in
delightful duets (or sometimes solos) that were warm and exotic and
definitely not Scandinavian!
During intermission, members of
the very large audience chatted, ate a variety of wonderful cookies and
inspected the art photography of Shaker artist Diane Schwartz.
Every child who takes piano lessons will at some time, play the Turkish
March of Beethoven. Again, this is incidental music for a play – The
Ruins of Athens. As festive and joyous as it was, at the conclusion, Mr.
Gaffigan announced "Let's do that again—only faster!" So they did. This
version, perhaps a third faster than the first time around, was really
Arcangelo Corelli provided the only 'real' Christmas
music on the formal portion of the program -– his Christmas Concerto, Op.
6 no. 8. The nine movements alternate fast and slow tempos, beginning
and ending with a fast vivace. One movement (I was so enchanted I lost
count, sorry) was very like a moto perpetuo. Mr. Gaffigan drew lush
sonorities from the orchestra as he conducted without a baton.
After acknowledging that his favorite composer is Franz Schubert, the
young conductor then led a romantic and tuneful performance of
Schubert's Entr'acte (Andantino) from the play Rosamunde. Little is
known of the play itself, but several pieces of music survive. Bill
Kalinkos, principal clarinet, Rebecca Schweigert, principal oboe and Ms.
Ruby-Kushious contributed beautiful solos.
For whatever reason
that Humperdinck's opera Hänsel und Gretel is affiliated with the
Christmas holiday season (a warning to misbehaving children, perhaps?),
nevertheless, it abounds with wonderful melodies that live on their own.
The Dream-Pantomime is perhaps the most often played, but this time we
heard a different and equally enjoyable selection -– the Knusperwältzer
(Gingerbread Waltz). This is the music that is played when the witch
tries to inveigle the slightly sleepy/dopey Gretel to 'come into my
house.' With that sort of lively music as accompaniment, the old bat
should have had a house full of happy children!
Because we were a good
and appreciative audience, we were offered an encore—-a traditional
carol. A member of the audience was allowed to choose from the
conductor's book, and it was a great choice—-Joy to the World. Following
that was Hark! The Herald Angels Sing. And then, Mr. Gaffigan, with a
big grin, went into repeat mode, and we heard the Lully again. And we
all went home, very happy, indeed.
The week of February 18
through 22, CityMusic Cleveland presents two of the greatest
masterpieces of Chamber Music Literature: Schubert's Cello Quintet in C
Major, D. 956 and Mendelssohn's Octet in E-flat Major, Op. 20. Guest
artists will join with CityMusic musicians for the event. For specific
dates and venues or to reserve free child care, visit the website
From Cool Cleveland contributor Kelly Ferjutz artswriterATroadrunner.com