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Cleveland Orchestra Excels with Mahler 9

A wonderful season of orchestral music at Carnegie Hall continued strongly on the evening of Tuesday, January 23rd, with the eagerly awaited appearance of the outstanding Cleveland Orchestra under the extraordinary direction of Franz Welser-Möst, one of the finest contemporary conductors. (It was the first of two concerts on consecutive nights, with the second devoted to Franz Joseph Haydn’s The Seasons.)
The program began intriguingly with the New York premiere of Stromab (Downstream) by the prizewinning Johannes Maria Staub, who was the Cleveland Orchestra’s Daniel R. Lewis Young Composer Fellow from 2007 through 2009. The work was co-commissioned by the orchestra along with Carnegie Hall—as part of their 125 Commissions Project—the Royal Danish Orchestra, and the Vienna Konzerthaus. Stromabwas inspired by the novella The Willows by the classic writer of ghost stories, Algernon Blackwood. Although the composer states that it was not his “intention to create program music”, the fifteen-minute score does effectively evoke uncanny events and is notable for its impressive orchestration.
The bulk of the concert was a masterly account of Gustav Mahler’s titanic Symphony No. 9, with the kaleidoscopic opening Andante intense, lyrical, and ruminative. The ensuing dance-music Scherzo was ebullient in its ironies, barring the more pensive interludes, while more madcap was the absurdist, fugal Allegro. The ethereal coda of the closing Adagio was ultimately exalting. The musicians received an enthusiastic ovation and I am surely not alone in excitedly looking forward to their return.

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