CoolCleveland.com: October 17, 2007

CityMusic Cleveland is pure genius. The professional chamber orchestra with a dynamic young music director/conductor performs four series of programs throughout northeast Ohio each season. One series provides five concerts, the other three give six. But it isn’t just the music, which is superbly played, oh no! There is also free child care in most of the venues, and always an exhibit of various artworks by local artists. What’s not to like? Even the most confirmed curmudgeon would have to agree— CityMusic Cleveland is truly special.

Many of the venues are churches, which sometimes works against the music a bit. At the Shrine Church of St. Stanislaus in Slavic Village Saturday evening, only one piece was unable to overcome the very resonant acoustics, but a different placement of the soprano soloist might have had a different result. The encore worked much better with her more towards the audience than in her featured piece.

Music Director James Gaffigan opened the program with a bright and lively rendition of Mozart’s overture to The Abduction from the Seraglio. The middle Eastern influence was most evident in the percussion department with myriad cymbals and small bells accompanying the Austrian composer’s imaginative piece, which also featured a lovely oboe solo.

I’ve been privileged to hear Jinjoo Cho perhaps half a dozen times in the last three or four years, and she never ceases to amaze me. Of course, she has the same effect on everyone else within hearing range of her awesome talent. She and Mr. Gaffigan were absolutely on the same page in this performance of Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto, demonstrating once again her amazing musicality. She plays with an assurance and vigor and passion that would be envied by many adults. You know it’s something special when members of the orchestra are smiling as they play. Of course, it also doesn’t hurt when the conductor is dancing on the podium. The horn solo near the end of the concerto was very well played, although it was a tad loud. (But then, I was near the front; perhaps in the rear it was just as it should have been.)

Angela Mortellaro was the fine soprano in Samuel Barber’s Knoxville: Summer of 1915, one of my favorite works for soprano and orchestra. Set to a prose text by James Agee, the rather languid piece describes a slower-paced, more peaceable era in our society. Ms. Mortellaro stood back a ways, almost in the middle of the orchestra, and from there, her voice could not penetrate the rather bouncy acoustics of the beautiful sanctuary. The orchestral pieces worked fine, but it was very difficult to understand her, although she was articulating very clearly, with adequate emotion and sensitivity.

Ravel’s enchanting Mother Goose suite tells five fairy tales in music: Sleeping Beauty; Tom Thumb; an unfortunate princess who journeys to the land of the Pagodas; Beauty and the Beast and the Enchanted Garden. The muted strings in Tom Thumb were downright eerie sounding, providing more than adequate atmosphere, as did the percussion in the land of the Pagodas. The concertmaster and contrabassoon carried on a charming conversation in Beauty and the Beast.

It was a vastly satisfying evening, which Mr. Gaffigan enhanced by adding an encore that featured both soloists. Morgen, by Richard Strauss, utilized the violin of Ms. Cho and the clear soprano of Ms. Mortellaro to offset the orchestral background in a shimmering tribute to love. It was perfection.

The art on display was by member artists of Artistas Latinos Unidos. To hear what you missed, the program of October 14 will be broadcast by WCLV (104.9 FM)on Sunday October 21 at 1 pm.

The next series of Free for All concerts by CityMusic Cleveland will be December 11 through 16. To purchase any of their four CDs, for information about the music, the venues, or to arrange for child-care, visit the website: http://www.citymusiccleveland.org.

From Cool Cleveland contributor Kelly Ferjutz artswriter@adelphia.net

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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