CONSIDERED OPINION OF THE CLEVELAND ORCHESTRA CONCERT OF 19 OCTOBER 2006
Anton Webern: Im Sommerwind. Matthias Pintscher: Hérodiade-Fragmente. Claude Debussy: Le martyre de St. Sébastien. (Marisol Montalvo, sop.; Laura Claycomb, sop.; Sandra Ross, m-s.; Kimberly Lauritsen, m-s.; Cleveland Orchestra Chorus; Matthias Pintscher, cond.)
Patrick Stewart...Sean Connery...Laurence Fishburne...Miguel Ferrer. No, a full head of hair is surely not a prerequisite for masculine appeal. To that list of examples, add the name of Gabriele d'Annunzio—fighter pilot, politician, poet, novelist, playwright. Reading the list of romantic entanglements enumerated in d'Annunzio's biography, you might well find yourself humming the catalogue aria from Mozart's Don Giovanni. Mind you, d'Annunzio came by his depilated scalp more painfully than the average man. When d'Annunzio's head was wounded in a youthful duel, the attending physician poured an entire bottle of hydrogen perchlorate over his head to stanch the bleeding, killing his hair at the roots.
So it was that, balder but wiser, d'Annunzio lived on to work, a quarter of a century later, with Claude Debussy. And at Severance Hall this weekend, you can sample the results of that collaboration: a forty-five minute suite excepted from the musical mystery play Le martyre de St. Sébastien.
The Cleveland Orchestra is led in St. Sébastien by the young composer-conductor Matthias Pintscher. His Debussy is admirably transparent—so clear, in fact, that it disclosed a few minor instances of instrumental imprecision that might have gone unnoticed in a less exposed interpretation. Something similar is true of the voice of soprano soloist Laura Claycomb: it's so naturally limpid that it's disorienting when, now and again, a note displays a hint of affectation. In Thursday's realization of Sébastien, such occurrences were fortunately rare and isolated. And solid supporting performances by the Cleveland Orchestra Chorus and mezzo-sopranos Sandra Ross and Kimberly Lauritsen tended to outweigh this performance's occasional imperfections.
Pintscher also led the orchestra in his own Hérodiade-Fragmente—a "dramatic scene" that featured soprano Marisol Montalvo. In Montalvo's singing, too, there were occasional tiny blemishes. But such was her emotional commitment to Pintscher's challenging work that a final layer of vocal polish might actually have detracted from the end product.
Anton Webern's early tone poem Im Sommerwind—a youthful attempt at aping Richard Strauss—completed Thursday evening's program. It was the weakest effort of this otherwise satisfying evening. At times Pintscher urged the work's tempo onward too enthusiastically, so that passages Webern indicates as solemn and ceremonial seemed oddly perfunctory.
And yet there's something to be said for doing what one can to curb the pretensions of the piece. When Webern composed Im Sommerwind, the remarkable concision that would come to characterize his work was a thing of the future. As of 1904, his work was marred by a needless luxuriance. He hadn't yet realized one very important fact: that bald can be beautiful.
I'm Jerome Crossley for WCLV 104/9.
Considered Opinions Main Page
Considered Opinions Archive
Considered Opinions Podcast