United States Benjamin, R. Schumann, Dvořák: Kirill Gerstein (piano), Cleveland Orchestra / Edward Gardner (conductor). Mandel Live performance Corridor at Severance Music Heart, Cleveland, 27.10.2022. (MSJ)
Benjamin – Ringed by the Flat Horizon
R. Schumann – Piano Concerto in A minor, Op.54
Dvořák – Symphony No.7 in D minor, Op.70
In principle, it sounds straightforward: work out what makes the music work, discover ways to play it that approach, and bear in mind to place some coronary heart into it. When utilized virtually to the music of Robert Schumann, it turns into such an unlimited process that the majority musicians don’t trouble making the hundreds of selections per web page it takes to make his music come to life. I do know of no nice composer extra poorly served in trendy performances than Schumann.
A few of that’s, certainly, Schumann’s fault. Sure, as his defenders level out, his orchestrations do, in truth, sound higher on interval devices than on beefier sounding trendy devices, however a look at his scores reveals the obsessive tendencies of a composer who suffered from insecurity and instability. Schumann is way from being the one nice composer who overstuffed his scores due to doubt: greats like Wagner, Brahms and even Richard Strauss have their moments of bloat. However Schumann wants considerate sorting, editorial selections on which notes ought to obtain delicate emphasis so as to harmonically steer his works.
Kirill Gerstein is the type of pianist keen to do the work, however he’s additionally in a position to put that mind in service of the music’s emotion in efficiency. Schumann’s acquainted piano concerto is often given a heat, genial rendition with every little thing blurred by nice swaths of sustaining pedal. It leaves a considerably obscure however heat feeling, and that’s typically sufficient to allure an viewers.
Gerstein’s efficiency with the Cleveland Orchestra was one thing else once more. I suppose it won’t be everybody’s cup of tea (or, for many who want lots of sustaining pedal, tub of gravy). However I discovered it revelatory. Each phrase had been weighted to find out which notes in chords and passages had been those that moved the coherent argument of the music ahead, and Gerstein achieved that cautious steadiness with an eye fixed on the long-term development, ebb and movement of the music. That, in itself, may very well be illuminating sufficient. However he then went the additional distance to make use of his good evaluation to energy the emotional surge of this music.
As an alternative of blurring every little thing, Gerstein barely used the pedal in any respect, blowing away fog and cobwebs with a tone that at occasions used a flinty edge to make it clear that Schumann really was struck by genius on this music. The harmonies had been adventurous and vigorous, the sense of rhythm calmly sprung. The primary motion was alternately stormy and introspective, however Gerstein stored it unified as one flowing arc, supported by the lively participation of conductor Edward Gardner, who refused to only beat time passively. The Cleveland Orchestra was energized by the insightful pianist and engaged conductor, delivering an excellent efficiency. The sluggish motion was poised, with Gerstein typically turning to interact personally with the gamers. The third motion mixed virtuosity with stirring surge. I’ve heard this concerto dwell, carried out by such luminaries as Radu Lupu, Leif Ove Andsnes and David Fray amongst others. Merely put, this was higher. To show his approach, Gerstein provided Chopin’s ‘Grande Valse’ in A-flat as an encore.
The perfection of the Schumann shouldn’t eclipse a powerful Cleveland debut by British conductor Edward Gardner. He opened the live performance by making just a few well-focused feedback on George Benjamin’s Ringed by the Flat Horizon, the orchestral work which launched the composer’s profession in 1980. Whereas Benjamin himself has performed the Cleveland Orchestra, this was the primary time his genesis work was carried out right here, and Gardner helpfully identified the piece’s relationship to Messiaen and Sibelius. He guided the orchestra by way of the sometimes-thorny tone poem meditatively depicting the strategy and passing of a desert thunderstorm. The orchestra tore into it with dedication, some string gamers having to tear damaged hairs from their bows as a result of depth of assault. Principal cello Mark Kosower provided lyrical solos between stormy bursts. Significantly vivid was the col legno (performed with the wooden of the bow) hailstorm depicted by the low strings close to the top. All through, Gardner stored an eye fixed out for the woodwinds, ensuring they by no means acquired misplaced within the wealthy textures.
Gardner led Dvořák’s Seventh from reminiscence, persevering with his consideration to the winds, sorting textures for readability, whereas encouraging heat and weight from the strings in applicable locations. His basic tempo for the primary motion was broad, with delicate accelerations as turbulence grew. His time beating was clear and enormous, designed for practicality not flash. The sluggish motion successfully countered surge and spark, although I felt Gardner did movement just a little too easily previous the harmonically unusual chords which twice deliver up unanswerable questions. One can clearly sufficient level out that these chords are an imitation of comparable ones within the sluggish motion of Brahms’s Third, however that doesn’t change the truth that they want some sort of emphasis or consideration. Their spooky strangeness appears to foreshadow Dvořák’s later folkloric tone poems, an essential however not often heard succession to his symphonies.
The Scherzo was poised and fleet, with well-sprung rhythms carrying it ahead, although extra may have been accomplished with the cross-rhythms typical of the Czech furiant dance. Gardner selected to not mark the syncopations strongly, utilizing momentum over interruption, a sound alternative, although not the one one. The Finale constructed up head of steam regardless of slowing down for the genial second theme on each of its appearances. These with lengthy recollections in Cleveland might recall the way in which former music director Christoph von Dohnányi charged by way of this motion, a person on a mission to not launch stress till the ultimate chord. Gardner didn’t push as aggressively, although his slowing within the coda was efficient. He appeared to show extra chemistry with the orchestra than Iván Fischer did on this work, which was the latest time I heard it dwell in Cleveland, fairly just a few years again.
It might show worthwhile for the Cleveland Orchestra to construct a relationship with Gardner. Not a flashy, headline-grabbing conductor, he nonetheless might but show to be the type of proficient however critical and devoted musician who grows into greatness because the years go by whereas the flashy stars burn out.
Mark Sebastian Jordan