Cleveland Plain Dealer review of Giancarlo Guerrero's appearance with the Cleveland Orchestra
Cleveland Orchestra rounds out Thanksgiving weekend with hearty, diverse musical feast (review)
Posted Nov 27
By Zachary Lewis, The Plain Dealer
CLEVELAND, Ohio - Thanksgiving weekend at Severance Hall was a lot like the holiday itself: a chance to reconnect and to forge new bonds.
With the Cleveland Orchestra, guest conductor Giancarlo Guerrero reminded listeners Friday why Tchaikovsky remains in permanent rotation, brought back a Copland classic, and supported organist Paul Jacobs in a stunning modern concerto. In short, as musical meals go, the orchestra's post-Thanksgiving feast hardly could have been heartier or more diverse.
Guerrero, music director of the Nashville Symphony, is a pillar of the Cleveland Orchestra family, a relative rarely far removed and always welcome. Even so, last weekend, the star was organist Paul Jacobs, the soloist in the 2003 Grand Concerto for Solo Organ and Orchestra by Stephen Paulus.
Jacobs, himself no stranger in Cleveland, proved a compelling champion. In a work in which the organ and orchestra are equals, he managed both to dovetail beautifully with his colleagues and to command attention when needed.
Much of the first two movements Jacobs spent integrated into the texture. The tonal, even tuneful music ranged from bright to sensuous, rich to lean, but his ability to match and communicate with soloists in every corner of the ensemble never wavered.
At last, in "Jubilant," Paulus cut the organ loose. To the aptly labeled finale Jacobs brought all his considerable virtuosity and zeal to bear, delivering a sparkling performance, especially at the pedals, that thrilled in both visceral and artistic terms. Whatever breath the audience still possessed Paulus then quickly stole with a brilliant encore: the Sinfonia from Bach's Cantata No. 29.
The preface to this was Copland's "El Salon Mexico." Not so many years after the composer himself conducted the work here, Guerrero Friday put his own spin on the piece, paying keen attention to detail and savoring its roots in dance. In this, he enjoyed the full cooperation of the percussion and brass sections, as well as string sections fully in the spirit.
The reunion element of the program was with Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 4, and with Guerrero as the host, it did not disappoint. The conductor may have rushed the first movement, neglecting detail and deeper emotions, but the rest of his performance from memory was a delight across the spectrum.
Abundant lyricism and insightful phrasing made for a memorable Andantino, and the Scherzo in Guerrero's hands was at once charming and hard-hitting.
But it was the Finale, predictably, that shone brightest. Between its adept handling of Guerrero's bold tempo and a striking level of dynamic contrast, the orchestra had a guaranteed winner on its hands, and succeeded once again in sending listeners home with much for which to be thankful.