Akron Beacon Journal [Ohio]
By Elaine Guregian
The Cleveland Orchestra and music director Franz Welser-Mˆst have garnered some rapturous reviews on their European tour, which ended Friday [27 August] with a performance in Dublin. More reviews will be available later, after they appear in print and, in some cases, are translated. Here's what three critics have had to say.
Ellen Kohlhaas of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung noted, "Welser-Mˆst clearly works very hard on the gestural details of the musical process, which thus gains a great deal in narrative power. This is a significant enrichment for an orchestra previously considered somewhat cool and super-virtuosic. The Cleveland Orchestra, which seems to have reached an unsurpassable level of competence during the 86 years of its existence, is humble enough to set out on a new adventure of different musical viewpoints under its new boss. The two works of the Wiesbaden (Germany) program offered an ideal proof for this."
Kohlhaas made a point of discussing the ambitious programming: "At the orchestra's second international tour with the new music director, which is taking them to festivals in the Rheingau, in Lucerne, Edinburgh and Dublin, the first striking thing is the fortunate departure from the usual tour confections. Next to Rossini, Haydn and Schubert, the orchestra plays Shostakovich's Fifteenth Symphony, (and) presents the world premiere of Sir Harrison Birtwistle's orchestral piece Night's Black Bird. The tour began in Wiesbaden with a very meaningful combination of two not all-too-frequently performed compositions, both rather demanding and enigmatic for players and listeners alike: Debussy's gravity-defying 'poËme dansÈ', Jeux, from 1913, and Mahler's Seventh Symphony, only eight years older, a truly powerful, sometimes even overpowering work."
Kohlhaas concluded, "We can understand the evolution towards modernity even more if we take into consideration other works written around the same time ... One cannot rule out that The Cleveland Orchestra thought along these lines, greatly enriching the historical perspective."
Kenneth Walton of The Scotsman, reviewing the orchestra at Scotland's Edinburgh International Festival, said the orchestra was "in a class of its own." He elaborated: "First, there's the unbelievable perfection. From front to back desk, from leader to triangle player, this is an orchestra that carries no passengers. The string attack is even right across the board, the brass and wind punch out delicate staccatos with unbelievable accuracy."
Walton continued, "Welser-Mˆst actually does very little in performance. He simply helps his Formula One outfit negotiate the corners."
Michael Tumelty, covering the orchestra in Edinburgh for The Herald, wrote, "For many years I have been arguing that the Cleveland Orchestra is America's greatest orchestra, and one of the world's finest ensembles. In the first of their three Usher Hall concerts last night, with Austrian music director Franz Welser-Mˆst conducting, I heard not one note to contradict that view."
Tumelty continued, "The quality of playing throughout the band was out of this world, with one of the Cleveland's wondrous trademark characteristics on display: did you notice that this is an orchestra which does not shout?"
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