by Peter Feher
It was a good thing that preparations for last weekend’s Cleveland Orchestra concerts started seasons ago. The ambitious and challenging program wouldn’t have been possible without some serious planning, and that meant thinking well ahead of the first performance on October 20. A huge ensemble of more than 100 players, including a couple of unusual instruments, came together at Severance Music Center on Thursday — and this was an expert group.
The musicians’ skill and experience went beyond a simple mastery of the evening’s two works, Jörg Widmann’s Viola Concerto and Richard Strauss’s An Alpine Symphony. Pulling off both pieces — each a production in itself — required an instinctive grasp of the composers’ overall styles, and the players had that knowledge in spades.