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Lasting impression

KELLY FERJUTZ listens to the second of two concerts in which Pierre Boulez conducts the Cleveland Orchestra


Oh! Fortunate Emperor to have the Nightingale singing for him. But the audience in Cleveland's Severance Hall was even more fortunate: we heard Laura Claycomb singing that role -- a treat not to be soon forgotten. In fact, the entire concert was memorable, for various reasons.

Thursday evening, 5 May 2005, was the second of two special concerts by the Cleveland Orchestra with Pierre Boulez conducting, in celebration of his American orchestral conducting début 40 years earlier, and his 80th birthday, earlier this spring. There were a raft of soloists -- at times there were almost as many of them as instrumental musicians on the stage -- the Cleveland Orchestra Chorus, and anywhere from four to about 100 members of the orchestra. Plus Mr Boulez, of course.

As we've come to expect from this conductor, the program consisted of new and unusual along with the familiar -- but all from one composer, Igor Stravinsky. New from Stravinsky? Yes. All four works dated from 1913 to 1923, the period when Stravinsky was changing his composition style from traditional to neo-classical, or perhaps, from maximum to minimum.

Eight Instrumental Miniatures are in the mode so easily recognized as spare Stravinsky. He'd composed the easy piano pieces in France in 1921 and then orchestrated them in 1962. They are indeed miniatures, as the entire set of eight take about eight minutes to perform by the pairs of flutes, oboes, clarinets, bassoons, violins, violas, cellos and one horn. The chorus was already seated at the rear of the stage when the instrumentalists walked out in single file, followed by Mr Boulez. There was a hint of Pulcinella here and there, but overall they're deceptively simplistic in appearance. Deceptive because they're not really so, they just sound that way. This was the first performance of this work by the Cleveland Orchestra.

Severance Hall. Photo © Roger Mastroianni
Severance Hall. Photo © Roger Mastroianni

After the brief and brisk rendition, Mr Boulez bowed to the audience and the musicians, then turned and left the stage, motioning to the musicians to follow. They did, and the stagehands emerged, to rearrange things for the next piece.

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Copyright © 9 May 2005 Kelly Ferjutz, Cleveland USA


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