Sunday, August 10, 2014 was a lovely night at Blossom. The temperature was pleasant, the lawn was filled with brightly colored blankets, a few candelabras, kids ran and rolled down the gentle hills. The pavilion was nicely filled. On stage was the Cleveland Orchestra, playing the beautiful sounds of Stravinsky, Haydn and Felix Mendelssohn.
Conductor Jerry Kahane quickly established a connective rapport with the orchestra with his quiet, but demonstrative conducting style. Reaching out with a flat hand, palm down, he often grabbed the air and pulled in the sound of a specific instrument or section of the ensemble. At other times his hands floated like free floating clouds to create a soothing flow of music. His animated body often bounced with the music, keeping time to the rhythm.
Igor Stravinsky’s “Suite from Pulcinella” was ballet-like in its lilting melodies. Traditional in its format, it contained some modernistic sounds. Written for a smaller orchestra, the arrangement omitted clarinet and tuba, creating a light sound. The nine movement piece, as advertised, was “elegant and courtly,” with inserts of jolly interludes.
“Violin Concerto #1 in C major, was as close to perfection as could be expected of the F. Joseph Haydn composition. Clad in a bright blue and black geometric patterned shirt, Peter Otto, the orchestra’s First Associate Concertmaster, like the orchestra, played his 1769 crafted G. B. Gaudagnini violin with crispness and precision. In the high spirited composition, the orchestra often introduced a theme, which was then elaborated upon by the soloist.
Mendelssohn’s “Midsummer Night’s Dream,” is based on the composer’s long acquaintance with Shakespeare’s comedy, which young Felix supposedly read as a boy. Originally written when he was seventeen, he expanded the overture into a full set of music half a lifetime later by writing twelve short pieces based largely on themes from the earlier overture. Containing sounds from a lullaby to a wedding march, the popular piece is both delightful and pleasant.
Mendelssohn’s “Symphony #4 in A major, Opus 90, was written while the composer was on a trip to Italy. He called the composition, “the jolliest piece I have so far written.” And, jolly it is. From the extroverted opening movement, the composition delights. Both the conductor and orchestra seemed to relish creating the encompassing sounds, especially the fourth movement, which echoed of Italian folk music.
Upcoming experiences at Blossom include Yo-Yo Ma (August 16) performing Edward Elgar’s “Cello Concerto.” On August 23, the chorus, orchestra and soloists perform Carol Orff’s “Carmina Burana,” and on August 30, Labor Day weekend welcomes kids to share the magical experience of Blossom and the orchestra with tunes such as “The Little Mermaid” and “The Wizard of Oz.” Add to that family-friendly activities and a post-concert fireworks show.
For information and tickets to orchestra offerings go on-line to clevelandorchestra.com.
(Musical comments by Alexander L. Berko, Cleveland Institute of Music preparatory graduate, winner of the Baldassarre Competition, and composing student at the Jacobs School of Music/Indiana University.)