CITYMUSIC CLEVELAND AUDIENCES ENJOYS HUGE PAYOFF AT FREE CONCERT Plain Dealer: February 20, 2009
Genius rears its miraculous head at many ages, as CityMusic Cleveland's
program this week acknowledges to blissful effect.
Mendelssohn was 16
when he composed his Octet for Strings. Schubert died at the age of 31,
two months after completing his String Quintet in C major. We can only
weep at the thought of what these creative artists -- and others, such
as Mozart and Gershwin -- might have bestowed upon the world had they
not been taken away too early.
Let's be grateful for what we have. To
hear the iconic Mendelssohn and Schubert works on the same program is
akin to approaching sonic nirvana, especially when played by musicians
who interact almost to the artistic death.
The CityMusic ensemble that
gave its first free performance of the week Wednesday at Fairmount
Presbyterian Church in Cleveland Heights seemed determined to convey the
music's expressive substance as if nothing else in the universe existed
while these scores were in motion.
The program was a revised event for
CityMusic Cleveland, which originally had planned chamber orchestra
concerts this month. But the gods of economy convinced the organization
to scale back for this week's concerts, and all of the participating
musicians -- a blend of orchestra players and notable guests who serve
on the orchestra's artistic advisory committee -- agreed to waive their
(CityMusic officials make assurances that the orchestra, which has
never had an operating deficit, again will be in the black this year.)
In Schubert's C-major quintet, the musicians breathed the transcendent
lyrical lines as one and propelled the eruptive dramatic material.
Violinists Kyung Sun Lee and Catherine Cosbey, violist Eric Wong and
cellists Edward Arron and Keiko Ying treated the sublime slow movement
with prayerlike radiance and fervor.
After an interminable intermission,
they were joined by violinists Zsolt Eder and Peter Salaff and violist
Charles Krenner for Mendelssohn, who packed enough masterpieces into his
38 years to put a cornucopia of composers to shame. His Octet is among
the greatest, as the CityMusic ensemble revealed with refined alacrity.
Was it a bit too elegant and careful? The performance benefited from
Lee's brilliant agility in the virtuoso first-violin part and Arron's
eloquent generosity, and Mendelssohn's tenderness and mystery were
vibrantly defined. But the piece could have used dashes of jovial
mischief, which should arrive as the musicians allow the score's
youthful spontaneous combustion to work its awesome spell.
Donald Rosenberg, Plain Dealer Music Critic
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