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CityMusic Cleveland holds listeners in their seats as artists make dramatic exits (review)
Zachary Lewis, The Plain Dealer, October 20, 2014

The musicians left the stage. The audience stayed firmly put.

That's how well things went for CityMusic Cleveland and music director Avner Dorman Sunday on their season opener at Church of the Gesu in University Heights.

Even as the artists played scores calling for dramatic exits, listeners remained glued to their seats, absorbed by the performances they'd just witnessed. That is, until they stood up to applaud.

Dorman's own Saxophone Concerto was a case in point. An engaging contest between orchestra and soloist, the piece in its local premiere was impossible not to like, especially as rendered by soprano saxophonist Timothy McAllister.

McAllister was interested in one thing: driving jazz licks. For almost the short work's entirety, the artist, aided by drums, tried to dominate, pouring his heart into bubbly, high-energy phrases.

Only the orchestra was having none of it. Willing to play along only to a point, the ensemble accompanied its guest for a while, but kept steering McAllister back into "classical" territory, ultimately driving him off stage. As both a piece of music and a rap on close-mindedness, the piece was highly effective.

There also was every reason to linger through Haydn's "Farewell" Symphony. The famous ending, with players trickling off stage, was as humorous as always. Meanwhile, the performance under Dorman, full of fire and vim, was uncommonly spirited.

Two other works served as vehicles of sheer virtuosity. Rather than humor, Mozart's "Haffner" Symphony No. 35 and Dvorak's D-Minor Wind Serenade allowed the group to display its keen powers of articulation and phrasing.

Even in the reverberant acoustic of the church, CityMusic's wind players brought grace and clarity to the fast-many moving portions of the Dvorak, and shaped its Andante into a smooth dramatic arc. Their Mozart, too was as sensitive and contoured as could be, and – with Dorman at the helm – high on contrast.

At last, of course, the time came for everyone to get up and leave. Unlike the musicians, however, who departed in mock frustration, the audience went home happy.