Cleveland Orchestra extracts essence of Mozart, Brahms on superb evening with Blomstedt

July 30, 2018

Cleveland Orchestra extracts essence of Mozart, Brahms on superb evening with Blomstedt

CUYAHOGA FALLS – In classical music as in R&B, there’s nothing like the real thing.

Take conductor Herbert Blomstedt’s appearance with the Cleveland Orchestra Saturday night at Blossom Music Center. Everything about it was old school in the best sense, and everything was more or less perfect.

The program, certainly, was a no-frills affair. A simple pairing of Mozart’s “Jupiter” Symphony and Brahms’ Symphony No. 4, the evening was about as traditional and mainstream as they come.

On top of that came Blomstedt, the veteran and widely beloved maestro, whose presence on the podium practically guaranteed crisp, insightful music-making.

The conductor’s trademark virtues clearly abounded in the “Jupiter.” In keeping with his many earlier performances here, Blomstedt’s reading of Mozart’s last symphony Saturday magnified details but kept the larger picture sharply in focus.

Blomstedt’s sense of urgency in the first movement was arguably too great, but the taut, dynamic playing he evoked was beyond reproach. Ditto the Finale. No listener could ask for greater effusion or a higher level of discipline.

Even the Menuetto was something of a nail-biter. Rather than commit to the darkness or the light, Blomstedt conjured excitement and near-constant thrills by hovering on the thin line between them.

The first movement of Brahms Four also struck this listener as too quick for its own good, too strict in its observance of the bar line. As in the Mozart, though, the playing itself was incredible: fierce and responsive.

Blomstedt’s influence on the remainder of the symphony was nothing but eye-opening. He saw to a deft, colorful reading of the Andante and presided over a third movement so brightly polished and nuanced one might have thought he’d rehearsed nothing else.

Then came the last movement, and what proved it to be the highlight.

Like few others, Blomstedt both grasped and elicited awe for the minor miracle of summation that music represents. Dramatic pauses, thoughtful voicing, and horns in peak expressive form were the defining elements of a gripping performance, one that was as real as real can get.

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