Cleveland Orchestra Opens European Festival Tour
By Matthew Westphal
From PlaybillArts.com - 31 Aug 2006
Franz Welser-Möst and the Cleveland Orchestra open a two-week European festival tour tonight with their first performance ever in the tiny Alpine principality of Liechtenstein."It's the first tour where at the beginning and end of a tour I can sleep in my own bed," Welser-Möst told the Cleveland Plain Dealer. He is a citizen of Liechtenstein and has a home about two miles from the concert venue in Vaduz, the country's capital.
The tour includes a homecoming of another sort for Welser-Möst, with three concerts (September 11-13) in the Austrian city of Linz, his hometown. The latter two concerts will be at the historic Abbey of St. Florian, where the conductor sang and played violin as a child; the performances, of Bruckner's Symphony No. 5, will be recorded for television broadcast and DVD release.
Other stops on this tour include the Cleveland Orchestra's annual residency at the Lucerne Festival in Switzerland (September 2-4); the German cities of Essen, Berlin and Braunschweig (four concerts, September 6-10); and the orchestra's Italian debut (September 15), at the Teatro Filarmonico in Verona.
The first of the orchestra's Lucerne concerts includes the world premiere of Hanspeter Kyburz's touché. The work, which features soprano Laura Aikin and tenor John Mark Ainsley, is the third of the Roche Commissions, created under a partnership, funded by the Swiss pharmaceuticals firm Roche, between the Cleveland Orchestra, the Lucerne Festival and Carnegie Hall. Following the world premiere on September 2, touché will have its US debut at Severance Hall in Cleveland on October 1 and its first New York performance on October 5 at Carnegie.
The following night (Setember 3) in Lucerne, Welser-Möst and the orchestra present a special concert performance of Verdi's Falstaff, featuring Richard Sutliff in the title role, Simon Keenlyside and Twyla Robinson as Mr. and Mrs. Ford and Felicity Palmer as Mistress Quickly.
Other repertoire for the tour includes Debussy's La Mer, a suite from Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet, Kaija Saariajo's Orion and Mozart's Symphony No. 38 ("Prague").
Orchestra charms Swiss with subtlety
By Alain Steffen
From Cleveland.com (The Plain Dealer) - Tuesday, September 05, 2006
After their phenomenal success last year, we were more than excited about this year's residency by the Cleveland Orchestra and its conductor, Franz Welser-MÖst.
The Austrian musician knows how to continue the work of his predecessor, Christoph von Dohnanyi, in a most consistent way, but he also provides important new impulses. He makes the great classics appear in a new light, and it goes without saying that contemporary music plays a crucial role.
The orchestra's first concert at the Lucerne Festival on Saturday proved all of that.
It began with "Touche," an uncommonly original and interesting work by Hanspeter Kyburz, commissioned by the festival. "Touche" is a dramatic scene for two singers that deals with relationship problems, in the form of a slightly ironic, abstract dialogue between a soprano (Christiane Oelze) and a tenor (John Mark Ainsley).
The coldness and distance of the dialogue, admirably put across by Oelze and Ainsley, was contrasted by highly intense orchestral playing that expressed the unspoken emotions of the protagonists.
Welser-MÖst coaxed innumerable subtleties from the orchestra that are typically encountered only in chamber music. And the musicians seemed overjoyed to place their art in the service of Kyburz's grateful music.
In the second half of the concert, the orchestra played Anton Bruckner's Symphony No. 5. Even among Bruckner's works, this symphony stands out like a mighty rock emerging from among the breakers, and its performance was finely chiseled and rich in nuances.
Welser-MÖst dispensed with a religious interpretation of the work and concentrated on the musical substance. No incense was being burned here; instead, we heard clear, slender lines, though the long structural arches were never obscured. It is here that Welser-MÖst's art of interpretation was most beautifully in evidence: He was able to combine subtle shaping and precise construction with the long breadth of a romantic composer.
The second movement in particular was a revelation. Welser-MÖst did not hesitate to uncover all the chamber-musiclike subtleties in the music and, with his unerring feel for structure, traced Bruckner's masterpiece back to the clarity of J.S. Bach. It was a splendid performance, which gave rise to unanimous ovations and revealed Welser-MÖst as one of our epoch-making Bruckner interpreters.
Symphony orchestras are not always good opera orchestras. Yet with the semistaged performance of Giuseppe Verdi's "Falstaff" on Sunday, the orchestra showed what an attentive, versatile and beautiful-sounding opera orchestra it can be.
In addition to his concert activities, Welser-MÖst is also a highly regarded opera conductor. There was a lot of sparkle in his approach to "Falstaff." He emphasized clarity and transparency in the sound, as he had the night before.
The virtuosity and lightning-quick reactions of the Cleveland musicians provided the top-quality cast of singers with an ideal carpet of sound upon which they could weave their intrigues.
Again, the performers were greeted by stormy applause. On both nights, we had experienced the Cleveland Orchestra in top form.