CityMusic Cleveland launching season full of adventurous programs (preview)
Zachary Lewis, The Plain Dealer, October 10, 2014
CLEVELAND, Ohio -- In music, rushing is generally a no-no. Then there's CityMusic Cleveland, where speeding of a different kind is a mission.
A nimble institution with big ambitions, the chamber orchestra views its new season as a brisk run in a new direction, one many others can't imitate.
"We're a small organization, but we're actually moving faster into the future," said composer Avner Dorman, the group's music director. "We don't want to keep doing the same old thing."
Indeed, monotonous is the last thing anyone would call CityMusic's upcoming season of free concerts around Northeast Ohio. Set at a host of new venues and stocked with adventurous programs, the year readily supports Dorman's claim.
Start with the opener. In addition to Mozart's "Haffner" Symphony and Dvorak's Wind Serenade, works spotlighting specific sections, the program also contains Dorman's own Saxophone Concerto, as performed by Timothy McAllister, a titan of contemporary music and of the instrument in general.
Described by Dorman as a place "where progressive jazz meets new music," the 2003 score exemplifies the composer's own search for a new direction. It also pairs naturally with Haydn's "Farewell" Symphony, in which the musicians famously exit the stage.
"For any composer, you have this tradition that is daunting, and wanting to do something new all the time," Dorman explained. "You're always looking for a third way."
The season finale also ventures into a genre other than classical. Just as last year's March program celebrated local refugees, this year's addresses child homelessness. Only this time, the work will come from a well-known pop singer.
Who exactly will be penning and performing "A Child's Prayer" isn't yet known or being made public. Dorman, though, was quick to note that the work will be written in partnership with composer Josef Bardanashvili, and thus will amount to more than a pop star accompanied by orchestra.
"It won't just feel like it's been transferred from one medium to another," Dorman said. "It's going to be a very special concert."
Many ensembles, around the holidays, craft programs of carols, Baroque music, or Handel's "Messiah." Not CityMusic.
After scouring the repertoire for something fresh that also spoke to the region's ethnic community, Dorman settled on "Missa Criolla" by Ariel Ramirez. One of the first masses in recent times written in Spanish, the 1964 work – based on Argentine folk music – will showcase the choir of La Sagrada Familia Church in Cleveland.
"Christmas concerts are like a field of landmines," Dorman said. "You can easily step on the wrong one. This I thought it would be a great alternative."
The remaining program in March takes CityMusic into new geographical territory, rounding out the season with a survey of musical Scandinavia. Along with Grieg's "Peer Gynt" Suite No. 1, the program features violinist Adele Anthony performing the Nielsen Violin Concerto and the Symphony No. 4 of Estonian minimalist Arvo Part.
"It's the best kind of program," Dorman said. "You're learning something new, and yet you want to hear the music. I think we're managing to push the envelope in a way that's still satisfying."