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The Israel Philharmonic on tour brings visceral Prokofiev to Cleveland – Seen and Heard Worldwide


United States Prokofiev: Israel Philharmonic Orchestra / Lahav Shani (conductor). Mandel Live performance Corridor at Severance Music Heart, Cleveland, 12.11.2022. (MSJ)

Lahav Shani conducts the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra © Luis Luque

Prokofiev – Symphony No.1 in D main, ‘Classical’; Romeo and Juliet (alternatives); Symphony No.5 in B-flat main

I don’t need to be that man. That man who complains a few visiting ensemble as a result of it’s not his traditional band. And there’s no doubt that my encounter with Lahav Shani and the Israel Philharmonic taking part in Prokofiev was about as completely different as may be from the latest explorations of the composer which Franz Welser-Möst and the Cleveland Orchestra have been doing. However I’ll endeavor to remind myself {that a} change of tempo may be good, to some extent.

Lahav Shani was named music director of the Israel Philharmonic after the retirement of Zubin Mehta in 2019. The unique plan for Shani’s first season (2020-2021) was to undertake a world tour with the orchestra as a solution to introduce the brand new partnership globally. After all, the Covid pandemic laid waste to everybody’s plans for a few years, so that is, belatedly, that tour of introduction.

Shani is unquestionably one to observe. He performed the whole live performance from reminiscence, with out a baton, drawing a visceral and highly effective sound from the Israel Philharmonic. Unusually, for a tour, the orchestra and conductor had been supremely well-rested, having skilled an surprising hiatus for a few days after their Florida appearances had been canceled resulting from Hurricane Nicole. Recent and keen to indicate their mettle, the ensemble performed aggressively.

The live performance opened with displays of each the US and Israeli nationwide anthems, adopted by an impressive efficiency of Prokofiev’s ‘Classical’ Symphony. Shani hit that excellent tempo within the first motion, which balances perky ahead motion with unhurried poise. The orchestra sounds revitalized underneath Shani, with a darker, grainier tone than we normally hear in Cleveland, in addition to extra emphatic percussion. The gradual motion flowed elegantly, with good consideration to rhythmic element. The well-known gavotte of the third motion was pleasant, for Shani is likely one of the few conductors who really pays consideration to Prokofiev’s instruction to make the return of the gavotte after the trio slower than its first go-round. Shani savored the wit of Prokofiev’s writing, introducing a couple of coy hesitations within the tempo, and the orchestra saved to him like glue. The finale flew just like the wind at a tempo that precludes absolute readability in a few of the woodwind chatter, however I liked it anyway.

The total orchestra, which had been heard within the anthems, returned for an prolonged suite of excerpts from the Romeo and Juliet ballet. Regardless of his starting as a pianist, Prokofiev actually discovered himself as a composer of ballet music. His symphonies are all fairly balletic in really feel, so it made sense that Shani grouped these Romeo and Juliet alternatives as a quasi-symphony: ‘Montagues and Capulets’ (with its baleful introduction) served as a gap quick motion, ‘Dance’ and ‘Masks’ had been successfully a two-part scherzo. The balcony and parting scenes made for an prolonged gradual motion, with the ‘Demise of Tybalt’ because the dramatic finale. It made for a hefty live performance, with heavy calls for on the brass who performed full tilt with a giant, wealthy sound that sometimes drowned out the melodic materials within the opening motion of the suite. Visceral pleasure was all over the place, from explosive percussion to urgently lyrical strings.

It was fascinating to notice, too, how the IPO’s deployment on stage was completely different from the Cleveland Orchestra’s seating chart. The place Cleveland usually deploys the strings, left to proper, first violins, second violins, cellos, violas, with double basses far proper, the Israeli ensemble was first violins, cellos, violas, second violins, with the double basses far left. The tuba was in roughly the identical far proper place as Cleveland’s, however with the basses on the opposite aspect of the stage, it gave their bass strains a large affect, which labored effectively for Prokofiev.

The sheer quantity of the orchestra’s assault turned carrying in Prokofiev’s Fifth. Right here they made a direct comparability with Welser-Möst and the Clevelanders, who gave a fleet, targeted efficiency of the piece simply final 12 months. Shani’s method was a lot broader in tempo and louder in quantity. I admire the occasional use of vigorous brass and percussion, particularly since Welser-Möst virtually invariably restrains them. However, as live performance halls go, the Mandel Corridor in Severance Music Heart is smallish and intimate. In essence, it’s the meta-instrument that the Cleveland Orchestra performs so effectively, significantly in Welser-Möst’s endless seek for fifty shades of pianissimo. Crammed to the brim with roaring brass and crashing percussion again and again, the corridor will get harsh.

As spectacular because the IPO’s visceral show was, by the climax of the third motion, my ears had been starting to really feel fatigued. That motion had opened with a close to indifference to the quiet quantity degree referred to as for, not serving to the final impression that this was a efficiency that went from climax to climax, trying to find noisy thrills. Against this, Welser-Möst had saved energy in reserve till that second the place the third motion peaks, lastly unleashing the complete energy of his percussion. The distinction made it terrifying, versus simply being loud.

The finale was efficient, and the live performance was dropped at a pleasant shut with an encore, Prokofiev’s March Op.99. It’s such a enjoyable piece, I’m amazed it doesn’t present up as an encore extra usually. The live performance was obtained with quite a few ovations from an appreciative viewers, testifying to the revitalization of the IPO underneath Shani’s assured management. Shani has super expertise and confidence, and the sort of method that communicates effectively. I feel nice issues are stirring with this partnership, which has monumental potential because the conductor matures and searches for depths as an alternative of decibels.

Mark Sebastian Jordan

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