Cleveland Orchestra Rachmaninoff / Janacek spectacular

This weekend the Cleveland Orchestra performed what should be considered a highlight concert of this season. Franz Welser-Möst conducted Norwegian pianist Leif Ove Andsnes in Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 3 (“Rach 3”) and after intermission Leos Janacek’s “Glagolitic Mass” in a new, recently reconstructed early version which is considerably different from the later version usually heard.  The magnificent Ceveland Orchestra Chorus was joined by soloists Measha Brueggergosman, soprano; Nancy Maultsby, mezzo-soprano; Stuart Skelton, tenor; and Raymond Aceto, bass.  The concert opened with Debussy’s “Sirènes” from “Nocturnes.”

Leif Ove Andsnes played the hell out of the Rachmaninoff concerto. I normally think of him as an elegant and refined player; in this case  his elegance was matched by the ferocious virtuosity required for this concerto, which was equalled by Franz Welser-Möst and the orchestra. There were poetic moments, but this was showpiece time.  The standing ovation (which for a change was richly deserved) was spontaneous at the end of this performance.

The star of the Janacek was the Cleveland Orchestra Chorus, whose diction in the church slavonic text was impeccable. Their declarations in the Credo movement would make anyone believe.  The soprano soloist has all the best solo bits,  and Measha Brueggergosman was in heroic voice.  She was most impressive in the beginning of the “Sanctus” movement.  She was standing so close to the conductor that at times I was afraid the Franz would clobber her. The rest of the soloists have much less to do.   Stuart Skelton made a brave attempt at the impossible tessitura of the tenor solos; he was, unfortunately, completely covered at times by the chorus and heavy orchestration.  Poor Nancy Maultsby had to sit through the whole affair to sing about four phrases of music.

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