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AUDIENCE CHEERS CITYMUSIC CLEVELAND, WITH NO STRINGS ATTACHED
Plain Dealer: February 22, 2008

CityMusic Cleveland goes out of its way, literally, to make sure that classical music is for everyone. The chamber orchestra plays free concerts throughout the region, drawing listeners who are longtime music fans and those who may be testing the classical waters.

One of the marks of success is the enthusiasm with which audiences respond. During the first of its “Strings Attached” programs Wednesday at Cleveland’s St. Vitus Church, the orchestra was applauded after both the first and second movements — and, of course, at the end — of Mozart’s “Eine kleine Nachtmusik.”

“There’s more,” music director James Gaffigan merrily announced before going back to work mid-Mozart.

The program was another CityMusic charmer, played only by the orchestra’s exemplary strings, even without Gaffigan in one instance. Grieg’s “Erotik,” a tender love song rather than bit of sonic scandal, wove its lyrical spell with the strings providing sweet coherence while their conductor sat in the audience.

 

Three of the program’s works came from the beginning of the 20th century, when the foundations of music were beginning to rumble in the minds of several Viennese composers, including Schoenberg. His “Transfigured Night” doesn’t go all the way in terms of harmonic radicalism, but the language travels beyond even Wagner’s chromaticism in its evocation of Richard Dehmel’s poem about a couple coming to terms with conflict.

The score is one of Schoenberg’s most lustrous, with myriad shimmering and pointed effects to illuminate the text’s emotional and moonlit atmospheres. Gaffigan, a former Cleveland Orchestra assistant conductor and current associate conductor of the San Francisco Symphony, explained the piece first, leading his ensemble in excerpts.

Once they dug into the complete score, originally for string sextet but offered in the expanded chamber-orchestra version, Gaffigan and company wove a fabric of shimmering sonorities. The narrative unfolded as a haunting conversation, with silken solo turns by concertmaster Michi Wiancko, violist Jessica Oudin and cellist Keiko Forrey. Gaffigan’s combination of passion, flexibility and control allowed Schoenberg’s music to exert its deeply felt soul.

The strings lent rich detailing to the short Intermezzo by Franz Schreker, a German composer who excelled in neo-Romantic luxuriance, and applied crisp, suave artistry to Mozart’s beloved serenade.

And there’s more. CityMusic repeats the program at 8 tonight at Willoughby United Methodist Church, 15 Public Square; 8 p.m. Saturday at St. Stanislaus Church, 3649 East 65th St., Cleveland; 2 p.m. Sunday at Fairmount Presbyterian Church, 2757 Fairmount Blvd., Cleveland Heights; and 8 p.m. Sunday at Westlake Schools Performing Arts Center, 27830 Hilliard Blvd. Call 216-321-8273.

Donald Rosenberg, Plain Dealer Music Critic
To reach this Plain Dealer reporter: drosenberg@plaind.com, 216-999-4269.


CityMusic Cleveland concerts are made possible by audience contributions.

CityMusic Cleveland

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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