A fitting tribute
At his death in 2005, composer Dennis Eberhard was perhaps Cleveland's most-successful and best-known composer. Sunday's thrilling Cleveland Chamber Symphony concert at Baldwin-Wallace College's music conservatory turned out to be a tribute to Eberhard, with three of the four pieces linked in some way to him.
The opening number, a premiere of Monica Houghton's "Osa Sinfonia," especially written for the Cleveland Chamber Symphony, was dedicated to Eberhard. (Houghton also wrote the biography of Eberhard printed in the program notes.) The piece, which I liked, sounded very ominous to me, like a soundtrack for a thriller. Houghton wrote in the notes that "Osa" was linked to her trip "to the remote Osa Peninsula on the southern Pacific Coast of Costa Rica" and says the music "was written in celebration of the beauty and mystery of the natural world."
The next piece before the intermission was a three-movement "Concerto for Cello" by Loris Chobanian. The piece didn't interest me very much, although there was nothing wrong with it and the soloist, Regina Mushabac, played very well. Chobanian is the composer in residence at B-W College.
After the intermission, the symphony played Eberhard's atmospheric, elegiac "Prometheus Wept," a fine piece for strings. The last piece was another premiere, "Lumen" by Marta Ptaszynka, and for me it was the best number of the evening, a composition that produced a variety of thrilling sounds from the orchestra by a composer who until now had been unknown to me.
"Lumen" was written for the Cleveland Chamber Symphony's Public Commissioning Initiative; members of the public were invited to pay $25 a measure to pay for the piece. I'd say the people who underwrote it got their money's worth. (Fromm Music Foundation also chipped in, the program says.) Eberhard originally had been the composer picked for the commission; when he died, the commission went instead to his friend, Ptaszynka, who wrote in the notes that it's in memoriam of Eberhard.