Last night at the Concert Hall, the Cleveland Orchestra gave one of those rare concerts when everything seemed right. In works of Glazunov and Holst, Lorin Maazel's sensibilities matched that of the composers, and the orchestra's playing was vigorous and inspired. It was a splendid evening.
"The Planets" by Holst had an extraterrestrial aura and a very human pulse. It is broad and wonderful work, the musical source of many of Bernard Herrmann's ideas as well as all of John Williams'. Maazel's clear baton and penchant for bombast were certainly at home here, but he also generously summoned up subtlety and beauty.
The martial strings that bring on Mars were matched by winds of brutal power. A peaceful Venus led to a very refreshing vision of Mercury, with violins light as the wind. Jupiter was less jolly than healthy, and the famous C Major middle section was rushed away from the solemn connotations it has acquired. Winds, from bassoon to piccolo, all shone with Uranus. But it was Neptune, a forerunner of today's pattern music, that was most magical. The powerful forces hushed to a whisper, ravishing tones seemed to vanish and reappear. As the instruments faded, the women of the University of Maryland Chorus began two long and simple chords in disembodied voices that could have come from heaven. And with an eerie vocal diminuendo, "The Planets" came to a close.
The program opened with Daniel Majeske in a lively reading of Glazunov's Violin Concerto. Like the other Cleveland strings, Majeske's violin had seamless bowing and a brightly focused tone. The orchestra returns tonight, in a program of Weber, Stravinsky and Tchaikovsky.