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ENSEMBLE DAZZLES IN FIRST OF FREE CONCERTS
The Plain Dealer: October 13, 2006
CityMusic Cleveland has a welcome habit of spoiling concertgoers new and otherwise. Under music director James Gaffigan, the ensemble not only gives free concerts. It also galvanizes the works they face.The opening concert of the orchestra’s third season Wednesday at Fairmount Presbyterian Church in Cleveland Heights found Gaffigan to be his energetic and observant self, caressing phrases and drawing articulate, disciplined playing from his musicians. He led a varied program of pieces mostly by masters early in their careers.

The only score from a composer further along in life was a suite from Sibelius’ incidental music to “Pelleas et Melisande.” Each section describes a character or situation in luxuriant and atmospheric sonic terms, the Finnish composer’s distinctive style evident at every point.

Gaffigan provided Sibelius’ evocative pictures with keen shaping and detailing. String tone, despite the small number of players, was rich, and the winds sounded fresh. The English horn solos depicting Melisande were played with tender eloquence by Elise Belk.

Mendelssohn’s “The Hebrides,” also known as “Fingal’s Cave,” almost had to contend with rain falling on the church’s roof. But the music’s storminess drew attention from the real thing, as did Gaffigan’s dramatic sensitivity and Amitai Vardi’s poetic clarinet.

What a blissful time conductor and players had in Rossini’s “The Italian Girl in Algiers” overture. Rebecca Schweigert’s handsome oboe solos showed the girl to be crafty and savvy, and the mirth was extended by Heidi Ruby-Kushious’ frisky piccolo, George Sakakeeny’s limber bassoon and the orchestra’s control in that delicious Rossini crescendo.

Finally, there was Schubert’s Symphony No. 3, the product of an inspired teenager. Gaffigan stressed the work’s sunny spirits and expressive generosity. The string slides in the finale were irresistible. Oboist Schweigert, clarinetist Vardi and bassoonist Sakakeeny again made stellar contributions. Overall, an electrifying meeting of music and musicians.

The program repeats at 8 tonight at St. Noel Church in Willoughby Hills, 8 p.m. Saturday at the Shrine Church of St. Stanislaus in Slavic Village and 7:30 p.m. Sunday at Westlake Schools Performing Arts Center.

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

© 2006 The Plain Dealer
© 2006 cleveland.com All Rights Reserved.

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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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