by Daniel Hathaway
The Cleveland Orchestra’s 211th visit to the Oberlin Artist Recital Series in Finney Chapel last Friday evening featured two debuts: Gianandrea Noseda’s as guest conductor, and principal trombonist Massimo La Rosa’s as concerto soloist. Nino Rota’s sunny Trombone Concerto shared the program with two more emotionally complicated Russian works by Rachmaninoff and Prokofiev.
One of the pieces featured during Sergei Rachmaninoff’s visit to Severance Hall in 1942 was his 1907 tone poem, The Isle of the Dead, based on a symbolist painting by Arnold Böcklin so famous that the Swiss artist made five versions of it and reproductions, said Vladimir Nabokov, could be found hanging in every Berlin home. Rachmaninoff saw only a black and white photograph of the strange Toteninsel with its mysterious pair of figures in a boat, its rocky mausoleum and tall yew trees, before writing his work, but it took hold of his imagination strongly enough to inspire a 20-minute piece. [Read more…]