Thursday, October 14, 2010

CIM Orchestra at Severance: Mozart, Walton, and Wagner

Last night's CIM orchestra concert was held at Severance Hall - partly to accommodate larger than usual orchestral forces. It's always a pleasure to go to Severance.

Mozart's overture to The Magic Flute was tonally lovely, but blurriness and occasional discoordination in the string section marred the performance. Of course, we're close to the beginning of the school year, and there are some inexperienced members in the orchestra, but CIM's band has long been known for the excellence of its strings - outstripping a good many professional orchestras - so this was a disappointment.

I only know William Walton's music casually, being familiar with the Second Symphony, Hindemith Variations, Partita for Orchestra and Cello Concerto. So the Violin Concerto was new repertoire for me. A friend commented that it seemed like a battle between Romanticism and Modernism. I commented that both lost in this case. The soloist, Ai Nihira gave a commendable performance.

The post-intermission portion of the concert consisted of orchestral excerpts from Wagner's Ring cycle. Asher Fisch is said to be a Wagner specialist. His knowledge of the music may have accounted for the fact that he wisely reinstated several sections of music that are usually discarded when performing these "bleeding chunks". This was particularly the case with "Entry of the Gods into Valhalla" and "Forest Murmurs". It was in the former that the full dynamics of the CIM orchestra were at last unleashed. But in the latter there was some shaky intonation in the woodwinds. Siegfried's Funeral Music went at an unyielding, almost jaunty clip that drained the music of much of its majesty. But the Ride of the Valkries was thrilling - how could it be otherwise?

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