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Cleveland Orchestra Presents the Music of Vienna

Franz Welser-Möst conducts Cleveland Orchestra  and Cleveland Orchestra Chorus. Photo by Chris Lee

At Carnegie Hall, on the evening of Wednesday, January 18th, I had the enormous privilege to attend a magnificent concert of Viennese music—continuing an unusually strong season at this venue—performed by the extraordinary musicians of the Cleveland Orchestra, under the exceptional direction of Franz Welser-Möst, one of the finest contemporary conductors.

The marvelous first half of the program interwove movements from two outstanding works masterfully played: Alban Berg’s indelible Three Pieces from the Lyric Suite—originally scored for string quartet and rearranged for string orchestra—and Franz Schubert’s incomparable Symphony No. 8 in B Minor, D. 759, the “Unfinished.” (Playing movements of works out of sequence is a violation of their artistic integrity but as the music was consistently thrilling, it was not difficult to overlook this.) The opening Andante amoroso from the Lyric Suite was compelling and intricate while the ensuing, brief, less accessible Allegro misterioso functions structurally as ascherzo—replete with a Trio section—but is not especially playful in character. The piece concluded arrestingly with the Adagio appassionata.The Allegro moderato from the Symphony No. 8 was enchanting, although also solemn and dramatic, even with several portentous moments; the often charming Andante con moto is strangely Mendelssohnian at times—lyrical passages alternate with both majestic and more serious ones.

Also exhilarating was a brilliant realization of Schubert’s too infrequently heard but awe-inspiring Mass No. 6 in E-flat Major which featured the wonderful Cleveland Orchestra Chorus and a slate of superb soloists: soprano Joélle Harvey, mezzo-soprano Daryl Freedman, tenors Julian Prégardien and Martin Mitterrutzner, and bass Dashon Burton. The Kyrie was exalting while the Gloria that followed was intensely joyous with the Domine Deus section in a more subdued register, although with some overpowering moments; the movement concludes with an astonishing fugue. The Credo was more introspective—its Et Incarnatus was especially moving. After a forceful Sanctus and an ineffably beautiful Benedictus, the Agnus Dei is deeply emotional but acquires a more affirmative character in the amazing Dona Nobis section. The artists deservedly received an enthusiastic ovation.

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