Conductor Cristian Macelaru and violinist Augustin Hadelich performed with the Cleveland Orchestra on August 26, 2017 at the Blossom Music Center
Review: Cleveland Orchestra overshadows eclipse with Holst’s ‘The Planets’ and Dvorak Violin Concerto
By Zachary Lewis
The Plain Dealer
August 28, 2017
CUYAHOGA FALLS, OH — The solar eclipse wasn’t the only notable astronomic event last week.
No, Saturday night at Blossom Music Center, conductor Cristian Macelaru also made his Cleveland Orchestra debut with a momentous account of Holst’s “The Planets,” one that made listeners forget all about that temporary blocking of the sun by the moon.
Talk about planetary alignment. In Macelaru’s performance, all the elements of a vivid and engaging experience were firmly in place, and the impact, musically speaking, was as wide and deep as a large meteor strike.
Contrast ran high throughout the performance. Holst’s seven planetary portraits always stand apart from each other, but in Macelaru’s rendering, the musical distance between movements was enormous. Light years versus miles.
“Mars” was an intimidating show of force, a rousing display of orchestral unity. Later came “Jupiter,” where Macelaru, music director of California’s Cabrillo Festival, treated the music with cinematic sweep and the horns made robust and noble contributions.
But for every scene like those, there was a “Venus” or a “Uranus,” a spellbinding reverie in which the strings sounded like so many heavenly harps and the celesta played by principal keyboardist Joela Jones was a silver lining. If there was any displaying going on, it was of the group’s capacity for nuance and quiet.
“Saturn” and “Neptune” represented the best of the two worlds. The former Macelaru shaped as a grand crescendo, building up to an irrepressible surge by the subtlest of degrees. The latter, meanwhile, he removed from all time and place; for those moments, there was nothing but radiant strings and the ravishing, disembodied voices of the women in the Blossom Festival Chorus.
Quite different but no less effective was Augustin Hadelich’s performance of the Dvorak Violin Concerto at the outset of the evening. If Macelaru, to quote a famous book, was from Mars, Hadelich was from Venus. Where the conductor tended to paint in bold, broad strokes, the violinist wielded a fine, soft brush, and polished every line until it shone.
Many violinists in this score go too far in the direction of fire and grit. Not Hadelich. His performance of the first movement was the epitome of patience and control. And yet there was no rigidity. Lyricism, in fact, abounded, and every phrase came off sounding fully expressive and deeply considered.
In the Finale, too, in virtuoso passages he could have soared through without thought, Hadelich found meaning and even warmth. He played directly and with brilliance, but without aggression or vanity, much as he went on to do in an encore: Paganini’s Caprice No. 24.
Even that, though, didn’t hold a candle to the Adagio. In the slow movement, the name of the venue, Blossom, came to seem prescient as Hadelich didn’t so much perform the expansive melody as allow it to unfold, all the while holding back slightly and speaking in the sweetest of honeyed tones.
The Adagio may have arrived early, halfway through the night’s first half. Nevertheless, it served as an exquisite parting gift, a fond farewell to this year’s classical summer season.
To access the review online, click here.