Cleveland Orchestra/Franz Welser-Möst at Adrienne Arsht Center, Miami – Symphonies – Beethoven’s Fifth & Shostakovich’s Tenth

Symphony No.5 in C minor, Op.67
Symphony No.10 in E minor, Op.93

Cleveland Orchestra
Franz Welser-Möst

Reviewed by: David M. Rice

Reviewed: 28 February, 2015
Venue: Knight Concert Hall, Adrienne Arsht Center, Miami, Florida

Franz Welser-MöstPhotograph: Roger MastroianniThe Cleveland Orchestra’s two-concert “Fate and Freedom” series in Miami concluded with Beethoven’s Fifth and Shostakovich’s Tenth Symphonies.

The Beethoven was given a superlative performance, the Cleveland Orchestra responding with tremendous energy to the challenge set by Franz Welser-Möst’s rapid tempos. The strings played with unanimity and richness, the violas and cellos standing out gloriously in the Andante and all the sections tearing into the fugato passage of the Scherzo with incredible vigor. The woodwinds were at turns pungent and sweetly melodic, with noteworthy contributions from John Clouser on bassoon, and Richard King’s horn solos were right on the mark. Trumpets and timpani were effective without being overpowering, and when trombones, contrabassoon and piccolo joined the fray in the finale, the results were spectacular. The transition from the Scherzo to the last movement’s glorious C major theme is one of music’s greatest moments, and so it was here in the acoustically impressive Knight Concert Hall. This performance of the Beethoven matched or exceeded any I had previously experienced.

After the much-needed intermission, to open Shostakovich’s colorfully scored Tenth Symphony, the cellos and double basses intoned a dark, meditative aura and all of the strings played excellently as their music increased in density. There were excellent solos by Franklin Cohen on clarinet and Joshua Smith on flute, and an extraordinary duet in which Clouser’s bassoon and Jonathan Sherwin’s contrabassoon played a deeply rumbling melody. The entire wind section generated a remarkable sound. After a climactic tutti marked by drumbeats and powerful brass and a reprise of the clarinet theme, the strings took advantage of an opportunity to shine before the music died away softly as two piccolos alternated with pizzicatos.

In the Stalin-caricature Scherzo, Welser-Möst neatly balanced the madly galloping strings and woodwinds against the brass, and he made the most of the contrast with the more-genial mood of the ensuing Allegretto, in which the horns and brass stood out as they repeatedly intoned the composer’s DSCH monogram. Clouser and oboist Frank Rosenwein excelled in the Andante section that introduced the final Allegro, of vivid timbres, propulsive rhythms, and an exciting and invigorating culmination during which DSCH was proclaimed again.

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