CityMusic Cleveland - official website


Celebrations are almost always fun. Saturday evening's concert by CityMusic Cleveland with soloists and Quire, the new chamber vocal ensemble, was no exception. So what were they celebrating? Two things, actually. This week's concerts marked the end of the fifth season for this exuberant group. Not coincidentally, it also marked the fifth straight year the versatile chamber orchestra (which charges no admission fees, ever, surviving on grants and other contributions) has ended their fiscal year in the black! Hooray for them!

Anyway. One of the really neat things about CityMusic's philosophy is presenting the same concert over 4-6 days in different venues around the city. So, if you miss one night, there are usually others for you to catch up with them. It's also neat to see the various venues in which they perform. The Shrine Church of St. Stanislaus is a truly gorgeous edifice, although the acoustics can sometimes be tricky. This time they pretty much always cooperated, sending an abundance of beautiful sounds out over the audience. I think every available seat was filled.

Music Director James Gaffigan chose two joyous works for this concert: Mozart's Symphony No. 41, (K. 551) known as the 'Jupiter,' and Mass No. 2 in G major, D. 167 of Franz Schubert. The concert also marked the orchestral debut of Quire Cleveland, the new chamber choir directed by Peter Bennett. To be sure, this partnership should be highly encouraged! In addition, three young soloists from Oberlin also appeared in the latter work. More about that in a bit.

The Mozart was light and airy, with notes skittering out of the flutes and violins to waft their way around the large sanctuary. No matter how delicate they were, they were each entirely audible, due in part to the short reverb time for instrumental notes. (It's sometimes different for vocal efforts.) Considering the age of the composer when the music was written (32) and the young age of the conductor, one could certainly say this was a young man's music. In fact, Mr. Gaffigan danced around the podium to the sinuous rhythms of the first movement. You can't fault him, it was very difficult to sit still.

The Menuetto was positively bouyant, with the winds tripping lightly down a chromatic scale under the strings. The finale was triumphant and majestic, clarifying the title 'Jupiter.'

Schubert was all of 18 when he wrote his second Mass. What a slacker! The performance, however, was terrific, aided as it was by the crystalline clarity of soprano soloist Chabrelle Williams. Every note seemed entirely effortless as it floated over the orchestra and chorus to lovely effect. Although their parts were not as large, tenor Roy Hage and baritone Matthew Hayward acquitted themselves equally well.

The 18 choristers sang as one person, with amazing diction and pitch. Of course, Schubert was known as a supreme melodist, and he certainly demonstrates that quality in this work. At times, he wrote especially ethereal and peaceful music which prompted sighs of contentment from the listeners.

In response to the enthusiastic applause, Mr. Gaffigan and his musicians gave us an encore. Ave verum corpus by Mozart was lighter than air. And then, he bounded out to the podium again, flashed his notorious grin and announced 'You have no choice. I want to do it again.' I suspect we'd have all sat happily listening, had he chosen to do it another dozen times.

CityMusic Cleveland will announce their sixth season soon. Details will be on their website

From Cool Cleveland contributor Kelly Ferjutz