Cellist Moser excels in Shostakovich concerto with Cleveland Orchestra

Johannes Moser
Miami Herald

The Cleveland Orchestra opened the 10th anniversary of its Miami residency Friday night at the Arsht Center with a program featuring two glittering orchestral showpieces. But it was soloist Johannes Moser who took the evening’s musical honors with a probing reading of Shostakovich’s Cello Concerto No. 1.

Moser has offered impressive performances of scores by Dvorak and Tchaikovsky in previous South Florida appearances. His bracing version of Shostakovich’s 1959 work, however, was music making of an even higher order.

Originally conceived as a vehicle for Mstislav Rostropovich, this enigmatic score veers between Russian fireworks and darker rumblings. Many cellists play the piece in a coolly cerebral manner, concentrating on its opportunities for virtuosic display, but not Moser. From the initial bars of the opening Allegretto, he conveyed a plethora of emotions on a slender thread of tone. Moser is an elegant patrician of the instrument. While he does not command the largest sonority, his intonation is spot on, even in the fastest, high-flying passages. His fleet bowing carried the entire movement like a whirlwind.

Moser spun the mournful lament of the second movement in long, arching phrases. Melodic fragments were subtly shaded with minute variations of dynamics and tonal color. Moser deliberately paced the long cadenza, assaying the difficult leaps of register with total accuracy while allowing the music to speak directly in an unforced manner.

By contrast the finale was taken at a lightning clip. Beneath the brilliance and verve of Moser’s playing, there was always expressive depth. Conductor Giancarlo Guerrero was an astute collaborator, and the players responded with whipcrack intensity.

Guerrero dedicated the performance of Saint-Saëns’ Symphony No. 3 (“Organ”) to the city of Paris in the spirit of music’s power to heal following Friday’s deadly terrorist attacks. Only halfway through the score did the performance catch fire.

Read the rest of the review here