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HomeOperaConductor Nikolaj Szeps-Znaider digs right into a dramatic Cleveland program – Seen...

Conductor Nikolaj Szeps-Znaider digs right into a dramatic Cleveland program – Seen and Heard Worldwide

United States Numerous: Mark Kosower (cello), Cleveland Orchestra / Nikolaj Szeps-Znaider (conductor). Mandel Live performance Corridor at Severance Music Heart, Cleveland, 13.10.2022. (MSJ)

Nikolaj Szeps-Znaider conducts cellist Mark Kosower © Roger Mastroianni

Al-ZandLamentation for the Disasters of Battle


Beethoven – Symphony No.3 in E-flat main. Op.55 ‘Eroica’

To what diploma Cleveland Orchestra packages are chosen by visitor conductors and the way a lot is usually recommended to them, I don’t know. However I do know that considerate programming has turn out to be an indicator of Cleveland through the years, and we’re fortunate to have program constructing that’s as clever because the taking part in of the ensemble itself.

This live performance was a effective instance, bringing a piece by a residing composer, Karim Al-Zand, to suit completely beside a live performance staple and a less-frequently encountered however beautiful piece from the fringes of the fundamental repertory. The orchestra’s principal cello, Mark Kosower, took a star flip in Bloch’s wealthy Schelomo, however visitor conductor Nikolaj Szeps-Znaider welded the entire program along with conviction.

And conviction is the operative phrase. It takes some nerve to stroll into what remains to be the Home of Szell and conduct Beethoven’s ‘Eroica’, however Szeps-Znaider did it with such confidence that Beethoven himself would have been happy. George Szell, the legendary music director of Cleveland from 1946 to 1970, made one of many all-time nice recordings of Beethoven’s heroic rating within the late Fifties. Subsequent recordings by two of his successors, Lorin Maazel and Christoph von Dohnányi, had their factors however didn’t contact Szell’s blazing conviction. In recent times and stay in live performance, present music director Franz Welser-Möst has tried (unsuccessfully) to outline himself out of the horse race by taking a severely classical strategy to the work, and the normally participating visitor Jakub Hrůša led a disappointingly cautious and deferential efficiency.

Szeps-Znaider most undoubtedly took maintain of the steering wheel and formed the Beethoven with assurance, conducting from reminiscence. His tempos had been usually fleet, with a managed sense of the place to make use of vibrato. But he additionally opted to make use of a full complement of strings as a substitute of decreasing them to the variety of strings Beethoven would have had at his disposal in early performances. In utilizing these components, Szeps-Znaider mixed the very best insights of the worlds of traditionally knowledgeable efficiency with conventional trendy orchestra richness. Some do this with solely partial success, however Szeps-Znaider’s idea was totally built-in.

The conductor had additionally clearly carried out his work in rehearsal, providing daring accents and sometimes shortened notes to introduce air into the textures. He did this with out flailing about wildly. Relatively, his gestures outlined the big-picture ebb and stream of the music, with solely small flicks of the baton to substantiate the daring accents. The quick tempo is also held up at key factors to look at a element or make a transition. Szeps-Znaider’s sense of discovering the appropriate moments to take such a breath was unerring, avoiding a few of the conventional tempo bends and discovering new, natural moments.

The Cleveland Orchestra performed by Nikolaj Szeps-Znaider © Roger Mastroianni

As a string participant himself, Szeps-Znaider devoted a lot of his consideration to the strings and their phrasings. The winds may arguably have used a little bit extra consideration, particularly contemplating the expanded string part, however the conductor remained conscious of countermelodies and particulars within the winds in order that they didn’t get misplaced within the textures. All in all, it was the very best stay ‘Eroica’ I’ve heard in Cleveland, by far.

Taking a dramatic, declamatory view of the Beethoven is especially apt within the context of this program. It was written within the shadow of Napoleon’s rise to energy in France, with its subsequent conflicts. Opening this system was Karim Al-Zand’s Lamentation for the Disasters of Battle. A string-orchestra association of a 2006 chamber authentic, the piece is emotionally highly effective, although it solely hardly ever rises to full voice. The Canadian-American composer, impressed by a loss in his household, wrote the piece in a generally dissonant however basically tonal method. Al-Zand mentioned in his program word that he drew on Schoenberg and Shostakovich in his expressive fashion for this piece, and he used each grinding dissonances and shell-shocked pedal factors. The strings dug in with full sound and depth, and the conductor relished it.

The center piece on this triple-home-run live performance was Ernest Bloch’s Schelomo, a darkish however lush evocation of the traditional Jewish patriarch whose title is historically rendered in European languages as Solomon. Bloch’s meditation is no less than as a lot Richard Strauss as it’s Center Japanese, however I discover myself not caring about problems with authenticity, for the piece affords its sorrowful music wrapped in a delicate kaleidoscope of colours. Cleveland Orchestra principal cellist Mark Kosower took the solo function, making a grandly expressive interpretation that Szeps-Znaider and the orchestra matched fully.

This second look by Nikolaj Szeps-Znaider as visitor conductor of the Cleveland Orchestra confirms that his earlier look, conducting Elgar’s Second (evaluate click on right here) was no fluke. He is called a effective violinist, however he would possibly simply develop into an excellent higher conductor.

(Word: On the time of the conductor’s 2018 look with the Cleveland Orchestra, he was nonetheless giving his skilled title as Nikolaj Znaider. Since then, he has reverted to his full given title, Nikolaj Szeps-Znaider.)

Mark Sebastian Jordan



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