October 20th, 2016
By Zachary Lewis, The Plain Dealer
BEACHWOOD, Ohio – A diamond in the rough. That’s the image that best describes CityMusic Cleveland’s first performance of the 2016-17 season.
No complaints, in fact only praise, for the actual performances, led by music director Avner Dorman Wednesday evening. About the venue, however, the auditorium at Fairmount Temple, a few critical words need to be said.
Not by accident did the Cleveland Chamber Music Society leave Fairmount Temple; The space simply doesn’t work for classical music. The acoustic environment is as flat and dry as can be, and left CityMusic Wednesday sounding atypically remote, thin and brittle. Convenient for east-siders? Certainly. Fair to great music? Not by a long shot.
Still, even through the sonic barrier, one could sense a quality performance. Everyone from Dorman and the orchestra to guest violinist Sayaka Shoji proved adept both at handling the situation and in navigating familiar scores by Beethoven and Tchaikovsky.
Shoji, appearing with CityMusic for the second time, revealed anew the prodigious nature of her talent. Where many artists apply layer after layer of emotional lacquer to Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto, she allowed the music to speak for itself and wisely focused instead on technical matters, on tone, articulation, and dynamics.
In these, she was rock-solid, all but flawless. Hers was not an unfeeling account, however. On the contrary, Shoji poured plenty of emotion into the music, delivering the opening Allegro with passion, the Canzonetta with haunting elegance, and the Finale with playful joy. An encore would have been in order. So, too, is another visit.
About Beethoven’s Symphony No. 4, little needs to be said. And that’s a good thing, a reflection of how uniformly polished was the performance.
Dorman saw to a reading that was cogently outlined and full of dramatic verve. Unaided by the hall, he still managed to convey the score’s sunny personality, and to elicit oodles of color from the woodwinds and brass.
As it happens, the worst victim of the hall’s poor acoustics Wednesday was “After Brahms,” a short, three-movement suite by Dorman himself. Lost in the room’s drab ether were most of the music’s undoubtedly fine details.
The second and third movements, especially, struck this listener Wednesday as fetching morsels, short but alluring sketches replete with melodic and dramatic material drawn from or in the style of Brahms, and yet anything but derivative. For sure, like the rest of the program, it will be worth hearing again, elsewhere.
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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