Thursday, October 12, 2006

Welser, Möstly

Writing in the Washington Post about the Cleveland Orchestra under its less-than-acclaimed music director, Franz Welser-Möst, Tim Page has published one of those odd reviews that adduces plenty of evidence in support of a conclusion it declines to draw.

Kindly to a fault, Tim writes that he "could find no reason for much controversy about Welser-Möst." But the reasons are right there, beginning in the next paragraph. Welser-Möst's conducting, "while skillful and serious at all times, was only occasionally inspired." He "could not make the case for" Dvorák's Fifth, the opening movement of the "Prague" Symphony "seemed curiously nerveless," and La Mer sounded "cool and prismatic" under Welser-Möst's "sure and straightforward leadership."

In other words, Tim heard exactly the kind of capable but bland and undistinguished conducting that many other observers have witnessed. And, um, that's the reason for the controversy.


At 10/17/2006 10:36 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

On the other hand, to draw the conclusion that Welser-Most is a talentless hack based on those observations would be over the line. It's difficult to fly into a spitting rage about routine, dull performances w/o appearing ridiculous. Maybe a stilfed yawn is the best response. Maybe.

At 10/18/2006 3:19 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Though it must be said that those of us who went to see the Bruckner 5 on saturday night were blown away. A friend who works for Klangforum Vien and has lived in Vienna for decades said it was the best performance of any Bruckner symphony he's ever witnessed.
Actually, the recent buzz about Welser-Most (heard during their European tour) is that it's beginning to come together with the Cleveland. They are the most conservative of organizations and the first two Carnegie concerts were hampered by overly conservative programming, not to mention Quasthoff's cancellation on opening night, which took away the Mahler songs which would have given it more gravity.
On saturday, however, they played a shimmering Messiaen "Sourire" with strings in excelsis, followed by a great Mozart aria set with Quasthoff (he did an impromptu encore of "Swing Low, Sweet chariot" which brought the house down) and finally the Bruckner 5 which I will remember for quite some time. The entire brass section was lined up behind the orchestra and got a huge roar when Welser-Most signalled for their bow. I haven't heard any group sound this good in years. It was heroic.
So I would say: don't read between Tim Page's lines, check it out for yourself.

At 10/20/2006 12:02 PM, Blogger Henry Holland said...

I heard Cleveland/W-M at Disney Hall last year.

Ravel: Mother Goose Suite
Beethoven: Symphony #1
Dutilleux: Symphony #2
Ravel: Bolero
Debussy: Nuages

I left the place buzzing about what I'd just heard; the man and woman next to me ran out of superlatives by the time we hit the parking garage.

The music was gorgeously, flawlessly played (as one who has to put up with clams from the LA Phil's brass all the time, what a treat), the conducting middle of the road. I mean that as a compliment; I never felt that W-M was doing something just to be different; he was attentive to the scores and the music was allowed to make its own statement.

I think the Plain-Dealer critic can't stand him and has made his life a bit difficult. Sort of like Bernheimer and Andrew Previn.

At 9/19/2008 9:46 AM, Blogger Lisa Hirsch said...

Wow, nearly two years since this posting went up. Don Rosenberg has been taken off the Cleveland Orchestra beat, according to Opera Chic, who points to this.

Joshua, have you heard Welser-Most?


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