Review: Cleveland Orchestra’s ‘family’ bond illumines all-Beethoven concert at Blossom
By Zachary Lewis
The main attraction Sunday night at Blossom Music Center wasn’t the Cleveland Orchestra, conductor Herbert Blomstedt, or pianist Garrick Ohlsson. It was the relationship between them.
Renowned as each entity is, the three proved even more praiseworthy together, applying a combined wisdom decades in the making to a pair of key works by Beethoven.
Not even a heavy rain shower was enough to distract large crowds in the pavilion and on the lawn from Ohlsson’s performance of Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 4. Water came down, umbrellas came out, and the pianist beloved by Cleveland retained his grip on the music and the audience.
Ohlsson is justly acclaimed as a titanic force at the keyboard. At moments over the years, listeners have practically needed seatbelts. On this occasion, however, he was a subtle presence, a weaver of gossamer musical fabrics and a wellspring of humble and seemingly effortless virtuosity. He approached the concerto not as a solo showpiece but rather as an outsized work of chamber music.
At no point was Ohlsson or any other party in rigid control. All three movements were calm, balanced, and profoundly friendly conversations. Whenever Ohlsson or the orchestra under Blomstedt stepped into the foreground, the other responded in kind with flexible, articulate support.
The result was a probing, refreshingly nuanced reading that directed attention away from the soloist and onto the music itself. Ohlsson’s left hand alone exposed any number of passages glossed over by most interpretations, and the orchestra under Blomstedt was a pert, colorful, and utterly cohesive body. The only way Ohlsson could have pleased the crowd more would have been to play an encore.