Review: Cleveland Orchestra 02, Usher Hall

It MADE for a rather unusual concert opening as the Cleveland Orchestra picked up where they left off the previous night to complete Smetana’s Ma Vlast, delivering the final two tone poems in this work: the stoical Tabor and the Hussite-inspired Blanik with its stirring nationalist fervour.

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While Lutoslawski’s meticulously detailed Piano Concerto is incredibly precise, paradoxically he also allows for some element of chance thereby creating the thrill of a performance that can never be exactly replicated. Soloist Lars Vogt gave a lively interpretation of this note-filled work, sprinkling ethereal phrases like fairy dust over otherworldly soundscapes. Conductor Franz Welser-Most elicited a fine performance from the orchestra, particularly the strings.

Indeed it was the cut-glass precision of the string section that kept Shostakovich’s Symphony No 6 in B minor on course, particularly in the lengthy first movement, taken just a touch too slowly by Welser-Most. He picked up the pace for the allegro which showcased some gorgeous pairings, such as the bass clarinet with the piccolo, and an exhilarating presto that could easily provide the soundtrack for a western with the orchestra producing a host of blazing guns for this blistering finalé.

SUSAN Nickalls