by Daniel Hathaway
Music director Avner Dorman and CityMusic Cleveland Chamber Orchestra wound up their current five-concert tour around Cleveland on Sunday afternoon, May 15 at Lakewood Congregational Church. Guest violinist Tessa Lark was the engaging soloist in Antonín Dvořák’s Violin Concerto, and finely-wrought performances of Felix Mendelssohn’s Hebrides Overture and Symphony No. 3 filled out the program.
Lark, who won the silver medal at the most recent International Violin Competition of Indianapolis, and the Naumburg Prize before that, gave an assured reading of the Dvořák. The piece is full of attractive melodies and tips its hat to Czech folk culture but curiously, it doesn’t leave a strong impression once the last notes have faded away. Perhaps this explains why the concerto’s original dedicatee, Joseph Joachim, never got around to performing it himself.
Dorman and the chamber orchestra responded alertly to Tessa Lark, and she maintained close contact with her supporting players, producing a fine and elegant sound from her “Ex-Gingold” Strad, on loan from the Indianapolis Competition.
Acknowledging a warm ovation from the large audience, Lark returned to her Kentucky roots for two folk fiddling tunes, singing along with the first one. The encores, warm and spontaneous, expressed the kind of joyous vitality that you can usually count on from Dvořák, but which the composer didn’t quite manage to conjure up in his concerto.
Though the water rushing in and out of Fingal’s Cave might have surged and ebbed a bit more, Dorman and the orchestra gave the Hebrides Overture a spirited, well-balanced reading. The brass played circumspectly, never overbalancing the rest of the chamber-sized ensemble of 37 players.
By the time Mendelssohn finished his third symphony, it had lost most of the Scottish associations that originally inspired it. But it’s a well-written piece that flows naturally from movement to movement, and the chamber orchestra gave it an immaculate performance. The brief scherzo was especially delightful, as were the clarinet and bassoon solos by Daniel Gilbert and Laura Koepke.
CityMusic concerts always seem to begin with multiple speeches. This one featured a greeting from the host music director, a pitch from the orchestra’s president, then some remarks by Avner Dorman, who unadvisedly waved off the offer of a microphone and repeated some of the notes in the printed program, all after the orchestra had tuned. Some trimming of non-essential elements would help tighten up CityMusic’s programs.
Published on ClevelandClassical.com May 24, 2016.
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