Weber: Overture to Euryanthe, op. 81
John Adams: Doctor Atomic Symphony
Chaikovsky: Symphony no. 4 in F minor, op. 36
What with the Thielemann Ring and Wien Modern, I only made it to one of the four Cleveland concerts on at the Musikverein this week. It was a good one, but despite a promising start I soon recognised what critic Don Rosenberg got ousted from his beat for saying – outstanding playing, directionless conducting.
The Doctor Atomic Symphony failed to ignite in the same way. John Adams has tightened up this orchestral arrangement of music from his 2005 opera, cutting the length by half. But it didn’t hang together so convincingly under Welser-Möst’s direction. The first fifteen minutes made Adams sound like the bastard child of Copland and Stravinsky – quite different to David Robertson’s more distinctive reading with the Saint Louis Symphony. The trumpet solo with intermittent minimalist ostinato was a curious affair: channelling Louis Armstrong was mildly amusing the first time and corny by the third, and the string flare-ups seemed oddly contrived. The only thing I took away from this was that Welser-Möst has possibly experienced a New Orleans jazz funeral.
But again the conducting didn’t do anything to lift this above an uninspiring effort: Welser-Möst doesn’t do discursive, the first movement felt shapeless, and Fate made an incongruous return at the end. Tempi were fine on the whole and playing, once it settled down, reached a certain quality, but for not even an unsatisfactory sum to be fashioned from these very good parts led to what can only be described as a rather stupefying performance.