Cleveland musicians’ recital described as fascinating, fun

01.28.11
Cleveland Orchestra
Herald Times

By Peter Jacobi

The 100-plus members of the Cleveland Orchestra take special pride in striving for a chamber music intimacy when they play, in making the large ensemble assume the cohesive qualities of a small one.

Therefore, one might have expected that for an event to mark the end of their three-day residency on the Indiana University campus, they would have chosen a string quartet from within their ranks to represent them or a brass quintet or woodwind sextet.

Not so. They decided, instead, to display another quality required in the shaping of a great orchestra: virtuosity. An orchestra is the sum of its parts; thus, a great orchestra is built on great players. Well, three of the Cleveland Orchestra’s “parts” joined for a Wednesday evening recital in Auer Hall that can only be described as fascinating and fun.

Consider the trio: keyboardist Joela Jones, principal trumpet Michael Sachs and principal trombone Massimo La Rosa. That’s quite an instrumental combination. Well, it turned out to be a delight, made the more so by a program of assorted confections. Throughout, the three proved to be marvelous at what they do, very musical, and just as generous.

Jones, the busiest of the lot, divided her time between organ and piano. From up in the organ loft, she contributed three challenging and juicy items to validate her chops: the Postlude in F by Charles Ives in traditionalist mode, Variations on “America” by Ives as iconoclast, and a sumptuous Allegro for Organ Solo taken from Leos Janacek’s “Glagolitic Mass.” She was terrific.

At the piano, she served her colleagues and their musical choices. Trumpeter Sachs selected music by a pair of Czechs. Dvorak provided Song to the Moon from the opera “Rusalka.” Yes, that’s what Renee Fleming has been singing. Master Sachs’ trumpet sang ever so smoothly and with feeling. From the output of 20th century composer Petr Eben, Sachs with great fervor performed portions of “Okna, Chagall Windows.” Like the windows themselves, “Blue Window” was lyrically edgy and “Golden Window,” edgily triumphant.

Trombonist La Rosa, again with Jones, contributed a Carl Maria von Weber Romance and “Morceau Symphonique” by Felix Alexandre Guilmant, both 19th century show pieces that gave La Rosa opportunities to exhibit his remarkable control over an instrument that can so easily glide all over the tonal map. La Rosa allowed no all-over gliding and drew from his instrument the richest of tones.

As trio, Sachs, Rosa and Jones performed a decidedly clever and surprisingly effective translation of Verdi’s Overture to “La forza del destino.” So intriguing were the results that one tended, for the moment, even to forget the absence of strings, so critically important to the original.

To open and close the program, the three picked music of Gabrieli, for which they were joined by gifted musicians from the Jacobs School: on trumpet, John Rommel, Edmund Cord and William Gerlach; on horn, Jeff Nelsen and Zachary Quortrup; on trombone, Carl Lenthe. The readings, from the loft, of the Canzon a 12 in Double Echo and Canzon per sonar No. 2 were majestic and exalting.

Yes, fascinating and fun.