Cleveland Orchestra/Franz Welser-Möst – Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony & Ravel’s Alborada del gracioso, Valses nobles et sentimentales, and La valse

Symphony No.6 in F, Op.68 (Pastoral)
Miroirs – Alborada del gracioso
Valses nobles et sentimentales
La valse – poème chorégraphique

Cleveland Orchestra
Franz Welser-Möst

Reviewed by: Suzanne Torrey

Reviewed: 5 October, 2014
Venue: Severance Hall, Cleveland, Ohio

Franz Welser-Möst and the Cleveland Orchestra in Severance Hall, Cleveland, Ohoi. Photograph: Roger MastroianniThe Cleveland Orchestra opened its 2014-15 Season in Severance Hall with the announcement that it has extended Music Director Franz Welser-Möst’s contract to 2022. Accordingly, his tenure will reach at least twenty years and will extend beyond the orchestra’s centennial Season in 2017-18.

Beethoven’s ‘Pastoral’ Symphony opened the concert, and it showcased the orchestra at its very best. The perfectly balanced woodwinds – Franklin Cohen (clarinet), Joshua Smith (flute) and Frank Rosenwein (oboe) – were well supported by the strength of the strings. I enjoyed Welser-Möst’s brisk tempos.

The audience consisted of a number of conservatory students – the Cleveland Orchestra has a very active campaign in place to allow students to attend performances at special rates. There were quite a number of students sitting around me, swaying in time to the spritely rhythms. When the Pastoral came to its restrained close, the young people were smiling and talking enthusiastically about their teachers who were members of the orchestra. Some got up to visit but the young woman sitting next to me suddenly realized that she and her friends would be playing on that same stage the very next month and told me that she could picture herself as part of this wonderful orchestra one day. Thatis the legacy of the Cleveland Orchestra and their efforts to encourage young audiences.

Franz Welser-Möst. Photograph: Roger MastroianniThe program after intermission was Ravel, starting with Alborada del gracioso, which began life as one of a set of five pieces, Miroirs, for piano, but which the composer orchestrated a decade later – in 1918. The name implies a morning song, designed to wake lovers, and performed by a jester. Two sections of raucous dance music frame a lengthy melody, the bassoon, in the able hands of John Clouser, was the star of this performance.

Playing the remaining two pieces, Valses nobles et sentimentales and the contrasting La valse was an interesting creative choice. The luxuriant orchestrations, celebrating the glory of the waltz and then lamenting its passing through the destruction of World War One, allowed these works to be molded and polished until they shone brilliantly. Everything came together – with guidance from a master-craftsman conductor and Cleveland Orchestra musicians perfectly on their mark.

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