By Heewon Lee
Seeing a world-class orchestra on stage Friday evening, April 21 in Finney Chapel — the home to the Oberlin Conservatory Orchestra — suddenly seemed similar but different. The Cleveland Orchestra concluded Oberlin’s Artist Recital Series with a program that featured principal players in works by Delius, Vaughan Williams, and Strauss.
Sitting in view of the violins and seeing the meticulous care each of the members contributed to details distinguished the Clevelanders’ professional playing from that of a student ensemble.
Conductor Andrew Davis cued the opening flute solo at the beginning of Frederick Delius’ Brigg Fair, An English Rhapsody before the Orchestra had quite settled into place. Conducting without a baton, Davis exaggerated his physical motions here — as he would throughout the concert.
Beautiful wind solos were accompanied by arpeggios on the harp and soft strings. The piece evolved naturally as the melody was passed around the different sections, eventually blossoming into pastoral harmonies evoking the imagery of a meadow.
Delius’ English Rhapsody led naturally into Vaughan Williams’s Concerto for Oboe and Strings. Oboist Frank Rosenwein performed with improvisatory ease and full control of his instrument that allowed his sound to bend and flow with the strings. Unconstrained by technical issues, Rosenwein performed flawlessly, his majestic sound filling Finney Chapel. The final movement of the pastoral work evokes the sun setting on the English countryside, and Rosenwein’s liquid tone captured that image beautifully.
The second half of the program was all about Don Quixote, and Davis drew ecstatic energy from the orchestra from the first to the last chords of Strauss’s heroic score. During the most intimate moments of the piece, Davis smiled as he gestured to the outstanding soloists, principal cello Mark Kosower (Don Quixote) and principal viola Wesley Collins (Sancho Panza). Kosower’s cadenzas resonated magnificently in the hall.
There were plenty of fine orchestral moments as well — the brass imitating a flock of sheep was a highlight. This was an excellent performance by the Cleveland Orchestra.
Raised in Honolulu, Hawaii, Heewon Lee is a cellist at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music. Lee is a student of Amir Eldan on modern cello and of Cathy Meints on baroque cello/viola da gamba. Lee has collaborated with Oberlin composers Peter Kramer ’14, Shihui Yin ’15 and others, and premiered Pauline Ng’s Li for solo cello. Lee will continue her studies at the Eastman School of Music in the fall of 2017.