Arts District

Friday, December 8, 2017

Thrilling Brahms Brings Audience — and Maestro — to Their Feet at Severance Hall

Posted By on Fri, Dec 8, 2017 at 1:19 PM

PHOTO BY STEVE RISKIND
  • Photo by Steve Riskind

The only thing more predictable than a Mozart scherzo is a standing ovation at Severance Hall.

The enthusiastic ovation following Richard Goode’s performance of Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 18 in B-flat major, K. 456 was far from trivial, though. The orchestra got off to a bumpy start on Thursday night as strings and woodwinds couldn’t quite agree on a tempo, but then Goode came in with the right tempo and it was perfection from then on.

Right away there was plenty of on-stage “critic bait,” from Goode’s decision to use a score to conductor Mikko Franck leading the orchestra while sitting down. (Franck replaced Christoph von Dohnányi, who the orchestra inexplicably keeps engaging in spite of his persistent cancellations due to failing health.) None of that has anything to do with the music, but it did fuel some inane parlor analysis overheard at intermission.

Goode, who’s best known as a supreme interpreter of Beethoven, projected the Mozart with total clarity in spite of an oddly large string section. Typically a conductor would consider paring down the strings to emulate the more modest proportions of an 18th-century orchestra. While the orchestra was more present than one might hear on a perfectly balanced recording, the musicians came together as perfect accompanists.

Franck led the orchestra with quiet dignity, affection and assurance. The second movement’s ominous repeated-note “knocking” motif was expressively shaped and blossomed with each appearance. The way Goode tapered off his half cadences rather than leaning into them added subtle but effective drama. The second movement’s character shift from minor to major was somewhat incomplete all around; the latter section sounded overly laden. Principal flutist Joshua Smith’s solos in the second movement were incredibly lovely aside from some anticlimactic breaths when sustained notes begged to be carried through.

Goode’s exciting inflections and effortlessly tossed-off arpeggios turned Mozart’s boilerplate scherzo into a rousing finish.

A work by former Daniel R. Lewis Fellow Julian Anderson opened the concert. The British composer’s “Incantesimi,” which premiered on this side of the pond almost a year ago, was a dramatic aesthetic shift since Anderson’s work was last heard in Cleveland. Known for taking textural and tonal saturation to almost unimaginable excess, Anderson instead delivers an accessible, delicate and moving piece that’s more thematically cohesive, at least on the surface, than anything else of his I’ve heard. It didn’t quite work as a concert opener, though. Too bad the geriatric management treats new music like a fiber pill to be gotten over with before the meal.

Anderson stands out among living composers as a thoughtful and truly skilled orchestrator. The stage looked atypically bare; there was no cartoonish battery of percussion. Robert Walters’ beautifully elegiac English horn solos bound the piece together like a black silk ribbon. Unfortunately, Walters’ final declaration as the piece came to an abrupt end was partially covered by offstage brass. I’m not sure whether to blame the musicians or the composer, because every chance to hear the English horn is precious.

The evening’s post-intermission masterwork was Brahms’ Symphony No. 1, a piece perfectly suited to the orchestra’s embracing and warm sound. The brass playing was some of the most tasteful I’ve ever heard in a Brahms symphony. (Listen to the Chicago Symphony’s recording of the complete symphonies with Daniel Barenboim to hear the opposite extreme.)

The basses and contrabassoon took full advantage of their moments in the spotlight, and so did the timpani acting as the orchestra’s rich heartbeat. The smart imitative passages among the oboe, clarinet and horn in the first movement showed the musicians’ remarkable ability to individually play off each other while matching style and articulation. The whole orchestra was perfectly synced and made simple work of Brahms’ signature offbeats and playful rhythms.

Principal oboist Frank Rosenwein’s solos were the highlights of the hymn-like second movement. Rosenwein consistently captures the elusive beauty of the oboe’s upper register, and this performance was no exception. Concertmaster William Preucil was disappointingly under pitch during his and Rosenwein’s unison duet, and his darker color was poorly matched to the oboe’s pure tone.

Daniel McKelway played the third movement’s meandering clarinet solo with simplicity and innocent grace.

The final movement’s unremarkable melody, when combined with Brahms’ genius for development and the Cleveland musicians’ amazing skill, became absolutely transporting. The horn solos were emotionally flat but technically competent. Brahms’ capricious shifts between flurries of scales and lush effusion were intoxicating as they built to a fugue-like fever pitch.

There was one unexpected person standing at the end of the symphony: the maestro himself. After being confined to a chair for the duration of the program, Franck suddenly rose to his feet and cheered the orchestra on to deliver the exultant final chords
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Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Departed Co-Director of FRONT: Triennial, Who Left Because of 'Creative Differences,' Suspended by Jewish Museum After Sexual Harassment Allegations

Posted By on Tue, Dec 5, 2017 at 11:22 AM

PHOTO: ROBERT ADLER, COURTESY NEW YORK JEWISH MUSEUM.
  • Photo: Robert Adler, courtesy New York Jewish Museum.

News last week that Jens Hoffmann had departed as co-director of FRONT: Triennial, the impending major art exhibition in Cleveland that debuts next year, sent minor shockwaves through the art community. FRONT, after all, is a major undertaking in a crowded landscape, had only recently released its first confirmed projects and participants, and is set to open in July of 2018.

"We've made a change in the artistic leadership of FRONT," said Fred Bidwell, one of the founders and organizers, in a vague statement to the Plain Dealer about the reasons for Hoffmann's departure. "I really don't have a comment on the background of this other than to say that Michelle Grabner has been involved in the project from the very beginning. She's brilliant, beloved and doing a great job, so we'll have no pause or blip in the leadership of the project, or our plans."

Hoffmann, for his part, told Artnet News that the split was over creative differences: "I have decided to withdraw from FRONT to focus on my other projects, such as the 2nd Honolulu Biennial in 2019, my role as chief curator at MOCA Detroit, my work for the Kadist Art Foundation in San Francisco, and a number of other exhibitions taking place over the next years.

"Putting together an exhibition like FRONT, which has so many different museums, off-site venues, and local curators and administrators taking part in the larger curatorial process, all of which need their voices to be heard, is not an easy undertaking.

"As the triennial was evolving, I found that I personally could not identify with the directions it was taking but I am confident that FRONT will be a wonderful experience for visitors and the participating artists. I am very glad to know that Michelle Grabner, who has been a wonderful and inspiring co-artistic director, will carry FRONT over the finish line."

It turns out that might not be the whole story. News broke this week that Hoffmann, a celebrated arts figure who also serves as artistic director of the Honolulu Biennial, senior advisor for KADIST Art Foundation in San Francisco, and who recently took on a new role at MOCA Detroit, was suspended from his position at the Jewish Museum in New York after allegations of sexual harassment.

“A number of Jewish Museum staff members came forward on November 30, 2017, with allegations of sexual harassment by Jens Hoffmann during his tenure at the Museum,” a spokesperson for the Jewish Museum told Artnet News in a statement. “In light of this information, we have suspended all current projects with him while we review the allegations.”

Hoffman's attorney told Artnet News he “flatly denies having sexually harassed anyone ever at the museum. He has no basis for commenting because he’s never been confronted with the allegations.” Hoffmann additionally told the outlet his contract had simply ended on Nov. 30.

As for FRONT, Bidwell told the PD that while this is a minor issue, it's just that — minor.

"I would expect there will be some changes in the lineup of the artists' list, but it will be relatively minor," Bidwell said, noting full confidence in co-director Michelle Grabner. "The scope of the project, the ambition of the project are undiminished. I'm very confident, excited and optimistic about where we're going."
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The Christmas Classic 'Amahl and The Night Visitors' Plus Four More Classical Music Events to Hit This Week

Posted By on Tue, Dec 5, 2017 at 9:35 AM

ORIGINAL 1951 NBC PRODUCTION OF AMAHL AND THE NIGHT VISITORS
  • Original 1951 NBC production of Amahl and the Night Visitors

CityMusic Cleveland
welcomes back Stefan Willich, the German physician/conductor who also leads the World Doctors Orchestra, as guest conductor for its five-concert December program, to be performed in Cleveland, Parma, Shaker Heights, and Willoughby Hills from Wednesday, December 6 through Sunday, December 10. Willich will lead the ensemble in Schubert’s Third Symphony and Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante with soloists Miho Hashizume, violin, and Jonathan Bagg, viola. Another returnee to the December festivities, soprano Chabrelle Williams, with be featured in Wagner’s Wesendonck Lieder. All the performances are free, but the orchestra will appreciate donations. Check our Concert Listings page for venues and times, and read a preview article here.

Mary Queen of Peace Church in Old Brooklyn will host New York Polyphony (Geoffrey Williams, countertenor, Steven Caldicott Wilson, tenor, Christopher Dylan Herbert, baritone, and Craig Phillips, bass) for seven centuries’ worth of Christmas music, including new works composed for the ensemble by Michael McGlynn, Andrew Smith, and John Scott, on Thursday, December 7 at 7:00 pm. A freewill offering will be taken up.

Cleveland Orchestra music director laureate Christoph von Dohnányi has to miss his December dates with the ensemble — he’s recovering from a fall — so Finnish conductor Mikko Franck is stepping in to lead Julian Anderson’s Incantesimi and Brahms’ First Symphony. The concerto du jour, Mozart’s 18th Piano Concerto, will feature the superb Richard Goode. Performances are on Thursday, December 7 at 7:30 pm, and Friday and Saturday, December 8 and 9 at 8:00. Tickets can be ordered online from the Severance Hall Box Office.

Not many operas are “made for television,” but Gian Carlo Menotti’s Amahl and The Night Visitors has become a Christmas classic since its first broadcast in 1951. Anne Wilson directs two performances at Forest Hills Presbyterian Church on Saturday, December 9 at 7:00 pm and Sunday, December 10 at 3:00. The show stars Henry Dyck as young Amahl, Lara Troyer as his mother, Mist’a Craig, Carl Jenks, and Frank Ward as the Three Kings, and Jack Lentz as the page. The church choir appears as the villagers. Performances are free.

Liza Grossman’s Contemporary Youth Orchestra welcomes alumna Sarah Frisof as soloist in Joan Tower’s Flute Concerto for its first concert of the season in CSU’s Waetjen Auditorium on Saturday, December 9 at 7:00 pm. A second soloist, oboist Kate Young — who won the Orchestra’s concerto competition — will take on Ralph Vaughan Williams’ beautifully pastoral Oboe Concerto. The CYO will fill out the program with Mason Bates’ The B-Sides, Clint Needham’s Free Radicals, and Arturo Márquez’s Danzón No. 2. You’ll need tickets for this one and they’re available online.

For details of these and other events, visit the ClevelandClassical.com Concert Listings page.
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For Kids and Parents, 'Sherlock Holmes: The Baker Street Irregulars' Works Perfectly at Dobama Theatre

Posted By on Tue, Dec 5, 2017 at 9:28 AM

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Every parent is always is always in search of appropriate and fun entertainment for their kids. So it’s good news that Dobama is presenting the family-friendly show Sherlock Holmes: The Baker Street Irregulars. It’s a fun show for children, since it features lots of running around, some wonderfully-staged action sequences, and just enough Message to give it some feel-good heft.

Local playwright Eric Coble has based his script on the eponymous graphic novels by Tony Lee and Dan Boultwood, about a gaggle of kids who worship Mr. Holmes and take it upon themselves to protect Victorian London against evil-doers in his absence.

And damned if scenic designer Ben Needham hasn’t brought that “comic book” look to the stage, using dramatic silhouettes and other graphic tricks to mimic the cartoonish elements of the source material. For example, a scene where a good guy and a bad guy are fighting on the roof of a speeding train is exhilarating, thanks to splendid projection design by the wizard of those things, T. Paul Lowry.

This is all great stuff for any rug rats in attendance. However, by jamming together a couple different story lines the plot is hard to follow, requiring the detective brilliance of, say, Sherlock Holmes. Unfortunately, even though his name leads the title, Holmes is mostly missing from these proceedings. You see, he and his arch enemy, the dastardly Moriarty, plunge over a waterfall at the very start, supposedly to their joint demise.

This leaves the show in the hands of a rotating cast of six kids, who display varying degrees of potential. On this night, among the most accomplished were Colin Frothingham as Wiggins, the Holmes-like leader of the Irregulars and Elise Pakiela as Pockets, the crew’s expert pickpocket.

The others Irregulars (Patrick Hensel as Chen, David Gretchko as Tiny, Adler Chefitz as Ash and Miranda Leeann as Eliza) have nice isolated moments. But overall the young actors, try as they might, aren't able to keep the pace of the dialog clipping along as rapidly as that train. The result is a lot of pregnant pauses that slowly seep the energy out of the show.

The five adults in the cast do what they can to keep the production humming. Among them, Christopher M. Bohan turns in a steady job as both Dr. Watson and Sherlock, and Ray Caspio is a snarly study in nastiness as two different villains, Morris Wiggins and Moriarty himself. It’s just a shame these two fine actors don’t have more juicy scenes together. As the clueless Inspector Lestrade, Ananias J. Dixon nearly devours the impressive scenery on Dobama’s vast stage, drooling and chomping into each of his lines to cadge some laughs. Hey, you can’t blame him.

In short, this Sherlock is a sure lock for kids and their parents. For everyone else, deductive reasoning might suggest a different entertainment choice.

Sherlock Holmes: The Baker Street Irregulars
Through December 30 at Dobama Theatre, 2340 Lee Rd., Cleveland Heights, 216-932-3396, dobama.org.
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'Urinetown' is Soaked in Silly Fun at Blank Canvas Theatre

Posted By on Tue, Dec 5, 2017 at 9:25 AM

urinetown_3_.jpg

Is it juvenile? Yes. Is it Silly? Of course. And is it universal? Well, there’s nothing more all-encompassing, never mind your ethnicity or politics, than the need to pee. And while it may seem farfetched that the government would like to stop some people from peeing freely (transgender people may chuckle ruefully here), this show is a hoot.

Urinetown has been making a splash for some years, and now Blank Canvas Theatre is giving it a go on its tiny stage—and succeeds for the most part. Under the direction of Patrick Ciamacco, who also quadruples as set/lighting/sound designer, the 19-person cast conveys the problem of peeing-for-a-price with gusto.

It helps that there are strong performers taking on the major roles. The dystopian songfest is narrated with smug arrogance by Rob Albrecht as Officer Lockstock (always accompanied by Officer Barrel, played by Jason Salamon). As the man in charge of enforcing the town’s draconian law, instituted for supposed ecological reasons due to a crushing drought, the large and in charge Albrecht gives the show a strong core. He reels off efficient and meta narration as he sort of explains the need to ban private toilets to Little Sally (a wide-eyed Dayshawnda Ash):: “You’re too young to understand it now, Little Sally, but nothing can kill a show like too much exposition.”

He is matched nicely by John J. Polk as Caldwell B. Cladwell, president of Urine Good Company and the guy who owns all the public toilets. And Polk is gifted with one of the most enjoyable songs in recent musicals, “Don’t Be the Bunny,” which carries a warning for those who get bulldozed by the powerful entities of big business and a government that punishes people who are poor and weak (“You’re born to power/You’re in the money…don’t be the bunny!”).

These pee police don’t go unchallenged since Bobby Strong (a forthright and upstanding Daryl Kelley) takes on the role as the leader of the forces rebelling against the law. And his romance with Hope Cladwell (an achingly naïve Stephanie Harden), the daughter of the pee magnate, registers effectively.

In the role of Penelope Pennywise, the harridan who runs an amenity in the poor part of the city, Bernadette Hisey sings well but never becomes the hateful presence she must be to give the show its gut punch. Pennywise is on the front line of the pee ban, so she needs to be a real badass. If Cladwell is the Gordon Gekko of pee, she must be the Terminator.

The ensemble offers great support—Trey Gilpin and Kristy Cruz in particular—and the small band under Matthew Dolan’s baton delivers solid accompaniment. And the music soars particularly in the up tempo “Run, Freedom, Run,” which features a harmonizing choir of singers.

The premise of this show makes no sense, of course, since people could always find a way to pee on the sly. Plus, the idea of a government stopping people from peeing makes about as much sense as giving tax breaks to the rich while raising taxes on the poor. Like that could happen.

Urinetown
Through December 16 at Blank Canvas Theatre, West 78 Street Studios, 1300 W. 78 St., 440-941-0458, blankcanvastheatre.com.
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Friday, December 1, 2017

8 Cleveland Holiday Markets to Help You Shop This Christmas

Posted By on Fri, Dec 1, 2017 at 2:57 PM

PHOTO VIA LAUGHINGCATFIBERS/INSTAGRAM
  • Photo via laughingcatfibers/Instagram
If you’re more of a casual browser who knows the right gift only when you see it, there are plenty of holiday markets slated between now and Christmas. Here are a select few we’d recommend hitting.

Holiday Market at the Screw Factory: On Dec. 15 and 16, the Screw Factory in Lakewood is throwing open its doors to its resident studios and lining other floors with assorted vendors.

30th Anniversary ArtCraft Open Studio Sale: The ArtCraft building on Superior will once again be holiday shopping central on Dec. 2 and 3. With six floors of artists and vendors, you’ll surely walk out the door with something great.

Cleveland Bazaars: There are a few ways to catch the Cleveland Bazaar this holiday season, including the 78th Street Studios (Dec. 9 and 10). Dozens of local artists and makers offer handmade gifts.

Heavy Metal Flea Market: Swing by Now That’s Class on Dec. 9 from noon to 6 p.m. to browse new and gently used metal/punk/noise merch, including CDs, posters, gear, records and more.

Slavic Village HoliDazzle: Spend the evening of Dec. 1 (5 to 9 p.m.) at the Magalen (5203 Fleet Ave.) for Slavic Village’s second annual HoliDazzle featuring local makers, holiday entertainment and more.

Rock ’n’ Roll Holiday Flea Market: Stop by the Beachland Saturday, Dec. 9, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. for a mixture of eclectic shopping and music. Warm drinks, good food, a DJ, and all the holiday shopping you need.

Second Annual Wintertide: On the other side of town on Dec. 9, Detroit-Shoreway hosts its second annual Wintertide from 1 to 5 p.m., replete with shopping, music, food and general holiday merriment. Visit any one of the many shops and makers headquartered in the neighborhood for the perfect gift.

Holiday Havoc Merch Mart: The Plum in Ohio City is back at it for a second year of Holiday Havoc on Dec. 10, a curated DIY makers mart where you can scoop up art, shirts, jewelry and more while enjoying some booze. RSVPs are required.

For more ideas, check out Scene's Official Holiday Gift Guide right here.
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Cleveland Museum of Art Announces Extended Hours For Late December

Posted By on Fri, Dec 1, 2017 at 12:44 PM

SCENE ARCHIVES PHOTO
  • Scene Archives Photo
In order to offer visitors additional opportunities to see its new exhibition, The Jazz Age: American Style in the 1920s, the first major museum exhibition to focus on American taste in art and design during the 1920s and early 1930s, the Cleveland Museum of Art has just announced that it will stay open later than normal from Dec. 26 through Dec. 30.

The museum will open at 10 a.m. each day during that week between Christmas and New Year's, and it will then remain open until 9 p.m.

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