by Stephanie Manning
Maybe it was the enduring popularity of Dvořák’s “New World.” Or the excitement of a world premiere. Or the chance to see three contrabass clarinets, three contrabassoons, and three tubas on stage. Whatever the reason, Mandel Concert Hall was packed to the gills on April 27 for an exciting concert by The Cleveland Orchestra.
With one Cleveland Orchestra premiere and one world premiere on the program, Antonín Dvořák’s Symphony No. 9 almost seemed like the odd one out — yet it drew the evening together in some compelling ways. Though “New World” is familiar to many, the orchestra’s sparkling performance often made it feel just as exciting as a first listen. Every brass chorale was suitably grand, and the ensemble capped off the jaunty third movement with a stunningly rich last chord.
Some uncharacteristic cracks did show through in the second, with an ill-articulated opening, and a too-brisk tempo from music director Franz Welser-Möst. The whole symphony received this speedier interpretation, but it was this movement that was most affected, with the usually calm aura left feeling slightly on edge. Still, this was the exception and not the norm. The first movement, for example, was virtually recording-quality, with some impeccable playing all around.