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The devil is in the details

Schumann's 'Scenes from Faust' in Cleveland,
appreciated by KELLY FERJUTZ


There were twelve -- count 'em, twelve -- soloists on stage at Severance Hall at the end of the performance of Robert Schumann's Scenes from Goethe's Faust. Plus three conductors, the Cleveland Orchestra, the Orchestra's chorus and the Children's chorus. It was crowded, to be sure, but what came before -- was quite simply, glorious.

This is the sort of work that doesn't get programmed every season, mainly because of the forces required to perform it properly. In a way, this is a good thing, because the piece thus moves into the realm of very special events. A steady diet of 'very special events' could grow old very quickly, and probably run the presenter straight into bankruptcy. That would not be a good thing.

Actually, in the eighty-eight years that the orchestra has been in existence, this was just the second time they've performed it. The previous occasion was at Blossom Music Center in the summer of 1978.

Thanks to the program notes we were given a small bit of insight as to just how Music Director Franz Welser-Möst always excels in these gargantuan works. He approaches the situation logistically: '... who should sing which part and where they should stand when they sing.' To an outsider, this may seem a bit simplistic. After all, that's his job. But still, he then has to remember who is where, in addition to all the myriad other details that fall to a conductor of such a huge work. He has no other help once he's out there on the podium, his back a ready target for the slings and arrows.

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Copyright © 15 January 2006 Kelly Ferjutz, Cleveland USA


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