by Jarrett Hoffman
In Episode 6 of the In Focus series, which premiered online on March 11, Franz Welser-Möst and The Cleveland Orchestra devote themselves to a single work: Rodion Shchedrin’s 1967 Carmen-Suite. This is no basic retread of Bizet’s famous opera. Instead, the 13-movement ballet score does something dramatic, but something that’s sadly fitting for the pandemic: it eliminates all the winds, and gifts the percussion section a bundle of new toys.
Shchedrin makes use of those extra capabilities right away. Brilliantly, the piece begins and ends with “Habanera,” as heard faintly from the tubular bells under the gentle touch of Marc Damoulakis. Other particularly memorable moments come from the marimba, which provides an intriguing melodic contrast to the strings. But even in the background, instruments like the tom-toms and the guiro bring a consistently fresh and modern color to this piece.