Review: "Cleveland Orchestra meets with success on refreshing all-American program"

On his second-to-last scheduled subscription appearance before becoming music director of the Colorado Symphony, Cleveland Orchestra associate conductor Brett Mitchell (seen here in March 2014) demonstrates once more the strength of his commitment to American music with a program of works by Bernstein, Copland, and Augusta Read Thomas. (Photo by Roger Mastroianni)

On his second-to-last scheduled subscription appearance before becoming music director of the Colorado Symphony, Cleveland Orchestra associate conductor Brett Mitchell (seen here in March 2014) demonstrates once more the strength of his commitment to American music with a program of works by Bernstein, Copland, and Augusta Read Thomas. (Photo by Roger Mastroianni)

The Plain Dealer (Cleveland) has published a review of Brett Mitchell's subscription weekend with The Cleveland Orchestra:

Don't look now, but the Cleveland Orchestra just played an all-American program, on a subscription week nowhere near Independence Day.

Actually, scratch that. Do look now, and listen closely. This is one weekend at Severance Hall you don't want to miss.

On his second-to-last scheduled subscription appearance before becoming music director of the Colorado Symphony, associate conductor Brett Mitchell demonstrates once more the strength of his commitment to American music with an impassioned and absorbing evening of works by Bernstein, Copland, and Augusta Read Thomas.

The brilliance of the performances notwithstanding, the program is refreshing for its variety and deviance from the mostly European norm. What's more, within that program lies something even rarer than the program itself: an American local premiere.

Anyone daunted by the prospect of an American trio surely felt at ease after the first offering, Bernstein's Symphonic Suite from "On the Waterfront."

Last heard here in 2006, the vibrant, lush film score made a happy reappearance Thursday in a reading defined by forceful lyricism and a string of nuanced solos. The contrast between action and romance could not have been greater as the strings fueled the former and artists playing horn, saxophone, flute, harp, and percussion made seductive work of the latter. There's a reason, it seems, that Mitchell emerged during his tenure as the orchestra's go-to guy for film music.

Just as easy on the ears was Copland's Symphony No. 3. Copland himself keeps things moving briskly with abundant, memorable melodies - notably the famous "Fanfare" - and a seemingly boundless sense of textural creativity. Still, it was Mitchell and the orchestra who carried it home with a sweeping and regal performance.

Here was quintessential Copland. Through Mitchell and the orchestra, the composer spoke his unique harmonic language and conjured everything from dramatic vistas to serene, intimate conversations. Where Copland demands muscle, the artists supplied it in spades, and to the work's many reflective passages, the players brought impeccable articulation and elegance.

Copland also turns playful in Symphony No. 3, and in those instances, too, the orchestra responded aptly, with bubbly animation and brash energy. But of course it was the finale, steeped in the stirring "Fanfare for the Common Man," that clinched the victory. The theme itself saw a majestic reading by the brass, while Mitchell saw to it that the music surrounding it developed organically and retained all its vitality.

To read the complete review, please click here.