CityMusic Cleveland is a mostly volunteer-driven, but highly-professional chamber orchestra with a most unusual mission. It brings marvelous music to the community as a gift – no admission fees! Supported by numerous foundations, city councils and the churches in which the group plays, the goal is to share great music of the ages with all ages of listeners. Even babies, who are welcomed, either in a church nursery or just to stay with their parents during the concert. The orchestra considers Fairmount Presbyterian Church in Cleveland Heights as home base, so it is the site of the first concert of each touring series. The sanctuary at Fairmount has amazing acoustics, partially due to all the wood on the walls which offsets the stone ceiling and gothic arches throughout. The sound is warm, and not at all dry, yet there is little reverberation time.
Some of this quality may be due to the placement of the musicians—mostly rather close-quartered in the chancel, with only a few on the floor at the front of the sanctuary. This arrangement leaves a bit to be desired visually, but the sumptuous sound more than makes up for it.
This program featured guest conductors—yes, two of them. Danail Rachev led the opening work, Mendelssohn’s Overture to the Fair Melusine, which rippled merrily along, accurately portraying the watery scene of the legendary and romantic tale. Melusine was a mermaid six days a week, and warned her lover not to try for that seventh day, but curiosity got the best of him, and so he lost her forever. Mr. Rachev was firm and decisive in his conducting of this happy and reasonably familiar music. He also was in charge of the final work on the program—a brisk reading of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 2 in D, Op. 36. According to the composer this work should mostly be played ‘fast’ or ‘very fast’ and happily, the musicians were more than equal to the task. They were ultra-responsive to the conductor, who drew precision and delicacy from them, alternated with periods of robustness as required. It was a fresh and vibrant performance.
The other conductor on the program was also the soloist—cellist Matt Haimovitz in Haydn’s Cello Concerto in C. Most of the orchestra was seated behind him, but they seemingly had no difficulty at all in following his head or body movements. His cello—a 1760 Matteo Gofriller—delivers a warm, rich sound, and the acoustics allowed his masterful articulation to shine on every note, no matter how fast it was played. He had no trouble whatever in projecting over the sound of the other string players, and, at times, he established a terrific visual and musical intensity with the concertmaster, Michi Wiancko.
As is the custom with CityMusic Cleveland, a slightly longer than normal intermission features a reception at which musicians and audience-members mingle and chat while perusing the art on display for the occasion. For this performance, the show-cased artist was Sarah Curry.
The next series of concerts will be March 28 through April 1. Detailed information – locations, concert times [which differ] and phone number for child care reservations – is available at their website.
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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CityMusic Cleveland strives for more as it approaches its 15th season Story and photography by Michael C. Butz On a sweltering and stormy evening in mid-May, the Shrine Church of St. Stanislaus presented a special Saturday night service, of sorts. It was a program that typically takes place only four times a year at the […]