Sunday, October 07, 2007

Cleveland Chamber Symphony opens season

The Cleveland Chamber Symphony, my favorite local band, opened its season Sunday afternoon with a typically interesting concert at Kulas Hall on the campus of Baldwin-Wallace College in Berea, Ohio.

I liked three of the four pieces. The opener, "In Memoriam David Lelchook: Four the Victims of War," was, I confess, not my cup of tea. It written in memory of an American killed by a Hezbollah rocket attack in Israel, and commissioned by Lelchook's sister, Judith Lelchook, who sat in the audience while the piece was played. The composer, Michael Leese, bounded on stage to take a bow when the piece finished.

John Adams' "Chamber Symphony" was more complex than the composer's usual fare. The three-movement fast-slow-fast piece really held my attention and I'm determined to track down a recording of it.

After an intermission came a performance of John Cage's "Atlas Eclipticalis."

I'd call it an unusual piece, but what would a usual piece from John Cage be? The program notes say it was written by placing a piece of paper over an astronomical map, with the notes marked to correspond with the position of the stars. Peter Laki's program notes add, "A performance by Leonard Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic in 1964 turned into a scandal as orchestra members openly made fun of the music and audience members walked out in droves."

The piece went over better Sunday. Although it was originally written for a full orchestra, the CCS used just seven players; two were in the balcony, two were onstage, and the rest were in other parts of the auditorium. The conductor, CCS Music Director Steven Smith, led the piece by turning his back to the audience and holding his arms straight out, using his arms to mimic the hands of stopwatch; when his arms came together at the top after several minutes, the piece was over.

Smith invited the audience members to get up and walk around if we wanted to hear how the music sounded. Quite a few people, particularly in the balcony, accepted the invitation, including your humble correspondent. Some of the musicians also briefly exited the auditorium as they played.

The finale was a piece called "Big Band" by Elizabeth Joan Kelly. The piece debuted at the CCS' annual concert devoted to the work of young composers, and the orchestra liked it so much it decided to perform it at a regular concert. Kelly, a Margaret Brouwer protege who graduated from the Cleveland Institute of Music this year, was the audience and also came onstage to take a bow.


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