October 18th, 2017
By Zachary Lewis, The Plain Dealer
CLEVELAND, Ohio – To Avner Dorman, CityMusic Cleveland’s season opener next week is more than just another series of concerts.
It’s a chance to reconnect, in arguably the deepest possible way, with an old and dear friend, to honor a mentor he said shaped his artistic identity and set him on a path to success.
“Every year, I feel like I appreciate him more,” said Dorman of composer John Corigliano, whose concerto from “The Red Violin,” as performed by violinist Tessa Lark, is the centerpiece of a series of free concerts Oct. 18-22 at venues around the region.
“My time with him made all the difference in the world. There’s a lot of stuff I learned from him. Of all the composers who teach, he’s the one I most wanted to study with.”
Dorman, artistic director of CityMusic, is far from alone in that sentiment. Corigliano, who turns 80 next year and will attend one of the performances in Cleveland, is one of the most highly regarded and decorated composers of our time, and has had significant influence on many, including Dorman, with whom he spent three years at the Juilliard School.
Perhaps that’s why he’s also one of the few composers with a work like “The Red Violin” Concerto in his catalog, a contemporary piece that has enjoyed both a prominent role in a mainstream film and an active life after its premiere (in this case, in 1998). Indeed, “The Red Violin,” which also won an Academy Award, is one of those rare works by a living composer that can be said to have entered the standard repertoire.
One the one hand, Dorman explained, the concerto makes salient use of modern techniques, such as indeterminacy and disjointed tempi. At one point in its finale, before falling into alignment, orchestra and soloist accelerate at different speeds. On the other, it’s almost neo-Romantic in its sumptuous lyricism and orchestration.
“Few concertos of our time do what this piece does,” Dorman said. “It’s an incredible combination of these two worlds. It’s a privilege to do this piece.”
That the rest of CityMusic’s season opener highlights Schumann is no accident. Dorman included both the composer’s “Rhenish” Symphony No. 3 and little-known Overture to the opera “Genoveva” in conscious but indirect efforts to further honor his mentor.
The “Rhenish” Symphony, Dorman said, speaks to Corigliano’s academic side. Like the work of his mentor, Schumann’s Third Symphony is deeply and clearly rooted in the traditions of Baroque music, especially Bach. It’s also not performed as often as it should be, given its quality, Dorman said.
The “Genoveva” Overture, meanwhile, is a nod to Corigliano’s envelope-pushing, to the forward-thinking nature of his music. Although penned in 1850, the overture sounds to Dorman like a work from the early 20th century, and yet to him boasts a certain mass appeal.
It’s so direct, so ahead of its time,” Dorman said. “There’s so much to explore in it, but it’s also interesting for a broad audience. It’s just not the sort of thing most [composers] do…I feel like this is a similarity [to Corigliano].”
The link between Dorman and Corigliano isn’t the only relationship being celebrated this week. At the start of its 14th season, CityMusic Cleveland is also delighting in the deepening connection between the orchestra and Northeast Ohio, and themselves.
One upcoming program focuses on Beethoven. Another, on Mozart’s playful Sinfonia Concertante and Schubert’s Symphony No. 3. Still another, titled “Two Faiths: One Spirit,” highlights accordionist Merima Kljuco and her groundbreaking work ”Sarajevo Haggadah: Music of the Book.”
Meanwhile, the group itself, like Dorman’s respect for Corigliano, is only growing stronger. Houses are full, and the musical bar keeps rising.
“There’s clear development,” Dorman said. “We’re getting into more and more detail all the time. There really is something to be said for cohesion.”
What: Avner Dorman conducts Corigliano and Schumann
When: 7:30 p.m. Wednesday-Friday, Oct. 18-20; 8 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 21; and 5 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 22.
CityMusic Cleveland is a professional chamber orchestra that performs free concerts throughout Northeast Ohio,often accompanied by exhibits of local artwork.
Since exploding onto the scene in 2004, CityMusic Cleveland has won cheering audiences with beautiful music, brilliantly performed in familiar neighborhood settings.
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