Who knew? If someone told you that Schoenberg’s Transfigured Night is a romance novel written in music, would you believe it? You should, because that’s exactly what it is. The basic plot of a romance novel (trust me on this one) is: boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl. And they live happily ever after. There has to be a conflict, and one of the two persons involved has to get past the problem and decide he (or she) can’t live without the beloved. Read the poem that Schoenberg uses for this music, and it’s just a condensed version of a novel. Really..!
Had the audience not realized that fact, Music Director James Gaffigan made it very clear during his spoken program notes before the concerts this week by CityMusic Cleveland. The program was titled “Strings Attached” and featured four works for only the strings of this wonderful professional chamber orchestra. He not only told us the story of the poem, he had his musicians demonstrate it with illustrative bits of music. This is a great idea, because one knows what to listen for, most especially, and can therefore understand how the piece fits together. In this case, we knew that when the music made a dramatic switch from minor to major key, victory was at hand! It was a rich, lush performance, musically speaking.
To begin the program, there was a mostly-unfamiliar work by Edvard Grieg—Erotik—which belied its name entirely, being more romantic than erotic. It was, in fact, purely gorgeous. Mr. Gaffigan sat this one out; after a brief welcome and introduction, he announced that the musicians would conduct themselves appropriately. They did. All five string voices were clearly distinct in the resonant acoustics of Fairmount Presbyterian Church in Cleveland Heights. (He also commented on the sun pouring through the stained glass windows—a most uncommon sight as CityMusic Cleveland usually plays this venue in the evening, rather than afternoon.)
After a brief intermission, during which the audience was encouraged to enjoy refreshments and the exhibition of photographs by Ryn G. Clarke, it was another mostly unknown work—Intermezzo Op. 3 by Franz Schreker. The short work was treated seriously, and given a lovely performance.
Mozart’s Eine Kleine Nachtmusik brought a question from Mr. Gaffigan to the audience: “What’s the Koechel number?” Of course, several people knew the answer (K. 525) without even looking, to which the conductor responded, “and it goes on after the first movement!” Indeed, there are four delightful movements to this Serenade in G Major. After the most familiar first Allegro, the second afforded us even more Romanze. The Menuetto (third movement) was indeed gracefully performed, with a lovely duet back-and-forth between Michi Wiancko, concertmaster, and Nathan Olson, principal of the second violins. The Rondo finale was as though a bunch of sprites were dancing merrily through whatever space they might inhabit.
If you were unable to attend any of the several concerts throughout the area last week, tune in to WCLV-FM (104.9) or wclv.com on Sunday March 2 at 1 pm to hear a broadcast of this concert.
The next set of concerts by CityMusic Cleveland will be May 6-11, 2008, with Jennifer Koh as violin soloist. Mr. Gaffigan will conduct. For more specifics, visit the website or call 321-8273.
From Cool Cleveland contributor Kelly Ferjutz
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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