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HomeTheatreWidmann’s Viola Concerto blazes theatrically into Cleveland – Seen and Heard Worldwide

Widmann’s Viola Concerto blazes theatrically into Cleveland – Seen and Heard Worldwide

United States Widmann, Strauss: Antoine Tamestit (viola), Cleveland Orchestra / Daniel Harding (conductor). Mandel Live performance Corridor at Severance Music Middle, Cleveland, 20.10.2022. (MSJ)

Daniel Harding conducts Strauss’s Alpine Symphony © Roger Mastroianni

Widmann – Viola Concerto

R. StraussEine Alpensinfonie

Who says a soloist has to face, rooted in place, beside the conductor? Who says {that a} concerto must be within the conventional three actions? Who says a piece should be both aggressively trendy or relentlessly old style? Who says a concerto should be a shallow showpiece? There are numerous assumptions about concertos, and composer Jörg Widmann discards nearly each one in every of them in his astonishing viola concerto. The 2015 piece obtained its Cleveland premiere on this live performance, performed by the work’s dedicatee, Antoine Tamestit.

It was evident from the start that this work could be uncommon. Conductor Daniel Harding entered the stage and took the rostrum, however the soloist didn’t comply with him. As Harding stood silently on the rostrum, a couple of unsure coughs sounded within the viewers. A slight tapping sound arose from the acute left aspect of the stage. It seems that Tamestit had already been sitting on stage and, as he stood up, peering throughout, he wasn’t enjoying his viola within the standard method however tapping its wood high.

Antoine Tamestit performs Widmann’s Viola Concerto © Roger Mastroianni

After a couple of moments of unanswered tapping, the small orchestral power onstage lastly acknowledged the soloist with a short, irritated flourish. The soloist stepped towards the middle of the stage, however his tapping didn’t get additional response. Lastly, a bongo on the rear of the stage responded, and Tamestit jerked his head towards it, then crossed over to the percussion part for a short alternate. Because the piece took form, the soloist moved across the stage, trying to interact with people and sections. The soloist ‘discovers’ enjoying with pitches as he faucets, then pizzicato, and finally, a bow. When Tamestit first encountered the bow, he wielded it like Excalibur earlier than making use of it to the strings. By this level, we have been already a 3rd of the way in which by way of the piece.

Bow integrated, the complexity, dissonance and brilliance of the writing grew. The viola had memorable encounters with winds, tremolo low strings, and even grew to become humorous at one level when a struggle broke out with an offended tuba. Because the piece hurtled towards a climax, the viola half grew to become ferociously thorny, with Tamestit all of the sudden breaking off with a scream.

Within the aftermath of the imploded climax, textures thinned, and the dissonance melted. Tamestit labored his approach to the entrance of the stage, and commenced buying and selling extra lyrical phrases with the strings, which progressively took form as a mournful, tonal lament, the candy harmonies all of the extra shifting having emerged from the previous wildness. In a wide ranging second, the viola joined with the night’s concertmaster, Jessica Lee, enjoying in unison. Then, textures started to sag and disintegrate, drifting downward. Within the closing moments, after the low strings pale out, Tamestit started de-tuning the viola’s low C string, trailing off into nothingness.

The piece was a theatrical tour de power, and Tamestit was each fiercely dedicated and musically compelling. He was matched each step of the way in which by Harding and the gamers, and the impact was electrical. Composer Widmann has a protracted historical past with the Cleveland Orchestra, having beforehand served as a Daniel R. Lewis Composing Fellow. His 2014 Trauermarsch made a robust impression in a 2018 live performance (click on right here), and this work was much more spectacular, receiving a standing ovation and cheers from the viewers.

Because the second half of the live performance was about to start, an aged lady within the row behind me whispered to her neighbor, ‘This subsequent one is by Richard Strauss, so it is going to be regular’. Whereas it’s definitely debatable how ‘regular’ Strauss’s Alpine Symphony is, this explicit efficiency wouldn’t be the sort of regular I want to see commonly. There is no such thing as a query in any respect that Daniel Harding is expert, is aware of how the music goes and may construct a climax. There have been many moments the place his broad tempos allowed felicitous particulars to indicate by way of Strauss’s busy textures – moments such because the crash into the minor after the off-stage horn calls have been delivered expertly.

So, Harding is aware of methods to conduct an orchestra. However does he know why we trouble with this extraordinary ritual often called a symphony live performance? He was sharply dedicated within the Widmann, and the spirit was electrical. Within the Strauss, he demonstrated his absolute information and assurance with out providing a compelling sense of engagement, a bit like a educated however bored tour information. The orchestra’s sound, whereas fairly sufficient, was neither music director Franz Welser-Möst’s silvery sleekness, nor was it the colour Jakub Hrůsa attracts forth, not to mention the sumptuousness Stéphane Denève pulls from the ensemble.

It didn’t assist issues that Eric Sellen’s program word dwelled nearly completely on the picture-postcard features of the Strauss tone poem. Whereas the work itself has some main shortcomings – Strauss’s meandering fifty-minute wander may have been an impressive thirty-minute hike with some centered modifying – it additionally has some critical underpinnings. A part of the expansion of the work was Strauss’s response to the loss of life of Gustav Mahler, which shocked and depressed him. At one level, Strauss was even considering a philosophical program with the title Antichrist Symphony, demonstrating simply how radical Strauss’s nature worship ran. Flawed although it could be, it isn’t merely a picture-postcard. This efficiency evoked little past the skillfully wrought notes.

Maybe we’re spoiled in Cleveland with one of many world’s best Strauss conductors in Welser-Möst. Once I final heard him lead the Alpine Symphony over a decade in the past, his sense of urgency helped maintain the discursive piece collectively. I’m wanting ahead to listening to him summit once more, now that the orchestra has begun recording a cycle of Strauss works on their very own label. The latest launch, TCO0004, accommodates a reference recording of the early tone poem, Macbeth, and lithe variations of Don Juan and Until Eulenspiegel. Welser-Möst understands the hidden neoclassical core of Richard Strauss like few others, and builds his performances round it, a lot to the music’s profit. Harding’s regular, dutiful slog by way of the work demonstrated his personal ability however didn’t summon the music’s elusive spirit.

Mark Sebastian Jordan



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