Two questions about last night’s Cleveland Orchestra concert:
Was that really an American orchestra onstage?
And is all Russian music that loud?
With Pinchas Steinberg at the podium, it was easy to close your eyes and be transported — to mother Russia for explosive bursts of history, tragedy and national pride, and to Central Europe for the lush sound of an Old World orchestra, steeped in tradition and glorious in its combination of technical skill and emotional content.
Steinberg, 66, is a tall, imposing man who bounds to the podium and expects the same energy from his players. Even more impressive than the volume and fierce momentum he drew from the orchestra was the sound he created, richly Romantic and beautifully balanced, reflecting his many years at the helm of orchestras in Germany, Austria and Switzerland, and opera engagements throughout Europe. The hometown orchestra does not often depart from its trademark clean, disciplined approach; for Steinberg, it willingly expanded its sonic palette.