Josefowicz soars in Adès concerto with Cleveland Orchestra

By Lawrence Budmen

Photo: Bill Wisser

Following a one-day strike by the musicians and late-night contract settlement earlier this week, the Cleveland Orchestra opened its annual Miami residency on Friday night at the Arsht Center.  With the ensemble sounding in great form under music director Franz Welser-Möst, pride of place went to a remarkable violin concerto by the extraordinarily gifted British composer Thomas Adès.

Adès’ 2005 Concentric Paths is a twenty-minute tour de force that pays homage to the Baroque past and looks forward to a cross-cultural, post-modern future. The score’s opening movement, Rings, commences with a repetitive minimalist figure before morphing into a pungent rhythmic theme punctuated by strident brass exclamations that would not have been out of place in a Prokofiev concerto,

In Paths, the score’s centerpiece, echoes of the Second Viennese School and Shostakovich’s Violin Concerto and Fifth Symphony illuminate a formal chaconne. As the violin ascends ever higher into the upper register, piquant winds form harmonic underpinning. An unabashedly romantic melody launches the finale, Rounds, offset by ominous growls in the brass leading to a rock-infused bravura coda.

Leila Josefowicz reveled in the fiendishly difficult solo line. Josefowicz can sometimes veer into turbo-charged overdrive in standard repertoire but she exhibited dazzling control at lightning speed in Adès’ concerto. She particularly excelled in the high-wire writing in the second movement where her flawless intonation was all the more impressive. Josefowicz’s soaring performance was astutely supported by Welser-Möst’s rhythmically vital conducting.

The conductor’s streamlined reading of Strauss’ Don Juan could have used greater vitality and bite at the outset. The performance gathered momentum with the famous horn theme peeling forth to resounding effect and the Clevelanders’ warm, enveloping string tone bathing Strauss’ tone poem in Technicolor sonorities. Frank Rosenwein’s oboe solo was glowingly voiced and exquisitely shaped.

While Welser-Möst hails from Linz rather than Vienna, his performance of Brahms’ Symphony No. 2 was definitely in the Viennese manner. Relaxed and spaciously conceived, the Adagio non troppo emerged as one long melodic arc. The rustic lightness of the Allegretto was deftly articulated, the ensemble’s winds caressingly mellow. After a finale ringing with festive abandon, applause broke out even before the final blazing fanfare had concluded. Brahms’ most pastoral symphony remains the vehicle par excellence for this most classical of American orchestras.

As an encore, Welser-Möst led a tightly wound, brilliantly executed version of Beethoven’s Leonore Overture No. 3.

The program will be repeated 8 p.m. Saturday night.; 305-949-6722.

Posted in Performances

One Response to “Josefowicz soars in Adès concerto with Cleveland Orchestra”

  1. Posted Jan 23, 2010 at 1:22 pm by alex

    I found this review of the violinist’s playing very odd, as if the reviewer and I attended two completely different concerts. While I have always been a great admirer of Josefowicz’s playing, I had never heard her live until last night. No doubt she has tremendous technical skill and wonderful tone, but what shocked me was that she could barely be heard over the orchestra. Her sound was small. Very, very fine, but small. I thought perhaps it was me, but several people around me were also confused. She literally could have sat down in the middle of the orchestra and no one would have known the difference.

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Sat Jan 23, 2010
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