Lincoln Center Festival
The Cleveland Orchestra
Music Director and Conductor: Franz Welser-Möst
Ludwig van Beethoven:
Symphony No. 6 in F major (“Pastoral”)
At Avery Fisher Hall
Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
July 17, 2015
L. v. Beethoven (1770-1827): Symphony No. 6 in F major, Op. 68 (1806-08)
R. Strauss (1864-1949): Symphonia domestica, Op. 53 (1902-03)
On the second night of my three-evening selection of The Cleveland Orchestra’s performances within this summer’s Lincoln Center Festival, I observed, once again, that Conductor, Franz Welser-Möst, who also serves as Music Director, exudes a professorial aura. He’s visibly, emotionally restrained, but his baton flies with determination and dynamism. Beethoven’s 1808, Symphony No. 6 in F major (“Pastoral”), the first work on this night’s program, includes five movements: “Allegro ma non troppo”, “Andante molto mosso”, “Allegro”, “Allegro”, and “Allegretto”. Descriptive titles in English are mentioned as well. The first movement’s “Awakening of cheerful feelings upon arriving in the country” was bucolic, but rambunctious. Violins signaled opening phrases, and the theme swelled with vivacious, sprightly revelry. The next, “Scene by the brookside”, included lovely rippling notes, echoing phrases, and tonal refrains, reminiscent of a waterfall discovered during a woodland hike. “Jolly gathering of country-folk” was upbeat with folk dance rhythms in dervish delight. “Thunderstorm, Tempest” was filled with percussive blasts and swirling strings, while “Shepherd’s Song: Gladsome and thankful feelings after the storm” was lyrical and lovely. Much energy filled Fisher Hall, and the audience responded with accolades.
After intermission, the 1903, Richard Strauss Symphonia domestica was actually more academic and introspective than was the earlier Beethoven. It was an autobiographical, through music, journey of Strauss’ own domestic life with his wife, Pauline, and their son, Franz. Program notes call this work a “symphonic poem…a narrative with three principal characters”. Four movements, called “I. Introduction of the Main Themes”, “II. Scherzo”, “III. Adagio”, and “IV. Finale”, include descriptive notations. The first movement introduces the husband’s “dreamy and fiery” theme, the wife’s “lively and free-spirited” theme, and the child’s “tranquil” theme. This is much like a story-ballet score, with recognizable musical “themes” that signal the entrance of characters. In this first movement, I noted the flute, oboe, violas, and percussion all expressing unique characterizations in spotlight. The husband’s theme was shifting and complex, the wife’s melodically emotional, and the child’s serene.
The second movement includes family happiness and games, a lullaby, and evening clock chimes. The lullaby was high-pitched on violin, and the clock sounded with tiny chimes. The third movement included notes of dining, thinking, love, dreams, worries, and morning clock chimes. Here the “symphonic poem” was poignant and thoughtful, filled with breezy strings. The final, fourth movement includes the family’s awakening, a merry dispute, and joyous confusion. The music was compelling, even filmatic in imagery. After these two complex works, the second lesser-known, I hoped for one or two rhapsodic encores, but, as on each night of this run, no encores were forthcoming. It would have been a way to seal audience bonding for future, Cleveland Orchestra appearances in New York.