City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

Cleveland Orchestra 01, EIF 2012, Review

By Iain Gilmour - Posted on 27 August 2012

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The Usher Hall
Cleveland Orchestra
Running time: 
Lutoslawski (composer), Concerto for Orchestra; Smetana (composer), Ma Vlast
Cleveland Orchestra, Franz Welser-Most (conductor)

The large Cleveland Orchestra – more than 100 musicians – filled the concert platform to bursting point but unfortunately played to a less than full Usher Hall for the first of their two Festival concerts.

Perhaps the all-East-European programme did not appeal unduly to festival-goers who had already had a fair dose of Szymanowski from the LSO. It was a pity, for the opening Concerto for Orchestra was masterfully played and an unforgettable experience.

This rarely performed 1954 work by Lutoslawski – a composer who survived the horrors of Nazi occupation and the rigours of Polish communism with musical integrity intact – was exactly what it said: a concerto for the orchestra.

Conductor Franz Welser-Most, musical director of the Cleveland since 2002, deftly marshalled the strings in the spirited opening section and found delicacy in the second movement. Strident brass and twittering woodwind brought hints of traditional folk music throughout.

This masterpiece was the foundation of Lutoslawski’s repute outside Poland and it is regrettable that it took so long to reach worldwide recognition. “A 20th century composer with meaning,” said the man next to me at the interval.

The more familiar Ma Vlast tone poems by Smetana which formed the second half were an evocation of the natural delights of his beloved Czech homeland. The Cleveland strings made the most of Smetana’s prideful vision and the folk traditions that coloured the themes of the four original tone poems.

It was instructive to hear the first four together – often we only hear excerpts – but some members of the audience audibly regretted that all six had not been performed. Judging by the applause, the audience as a whole had no regrets whatsoever.

Event: 21 August 2012