Zachary Lewis makes his Cleveland Orchestra debut

After last week’s turmoil over Don Rosenberg’s dismissal by the Plain Dealer as the regular critic of Cleveland Orchestra concerts, it doesn’t take too much of a leap to imagine that one of the most uncomfortable seats in the house last Thursday was that occupied by Zachary Lewis, newly-minted successor to Rosenberg.  His inaugural review is here.  In some ways he was in a no-win situation: if he gave the performance a glowing review, Rosenberg’s supporters would say he was just a pawn of the supposed Orchestra/Plain Dealer coven; if he gave a negative review, there would be those who would say that he had to do so, so as to show he wasn’t part of the alleged conspiracy.  In fact, although the overall tone of the review is positive, there were enough zingers to catch one’s attention.  (“Two prominent gaffes by different instruments may keep Thursday’s Bruckner from making the final DVD. But even without those, it was not always clear why this should be a performance to immortalize.”)  Exactly.

I attended the performance on Friday evening.  By far the more interesting performance was that of the new “Duet” by George Benjamin, with super-pianist Pierre-Laurent Aimard as the soloist.  Friday was the U.S. deuxième (the premiere having been on Thursday).  The sounds and structures were enchanting, especially the hushed tango-like rhythms in the harp and low strings, and the single notes of the piano against the chamber orchestra texture.

The Bruckner 7th Symphony was deliberate to the max.  I detected several intonation problems during it’s hour-long course, in the collection of Wagner tubas, and later in the winds.  There are several magnificently thrilling climaxes, but I have come to the conclusion that Bruckner’s musical structures (and perhaps Franz Welser-Möst’s interpretation) are too vast for me to comprehend over such long time spans.  There was no subtlety.  Bruckner’s 8th Symphony comes up later in the season. Maybe next time I’ll get the point….

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