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Cleveland Orchestra rounds out Thanksgiving weekend with hearty, diverse musical feast (review)

11.27.17
Giancarlo Guerrero
Cleveland Plain Dealer

Thanksgiving weekend at Severance Hall was a lot like the holiday itself: a chance to reconnect and to forge new bonds.
 
With the Cleveland Orchestra, guest conductor Giancarlo Guerrero reminded listeners Friday why Tchaikovsky remains in permanent rotation, brought back a Copland classic, and supported organist Paul Jacobs in a stunning modern concerto. In short, as musical meals go, the orchestra's post-Thanksgiving feast hardly could have been heartier or more diverse.
 
The preface to this was Copland's "El Salon Mexico." Not so many years after the composer himself conducted the work here, Guerrero Friday put his own spin on the piece, paying keen attention to detail and savoring its roots in dance. In this, he enjoyed the full cooperation of the percussion and brass sections, as well as string sections fully in the spirit.
 
The reunion element of the program was with Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 4, and with Guerrero as the host, it did not disappoint. The conductor may have rushed the first movement, neglecting detail and deeper emotions, but the rest of his performance from memory was a delight across the spectrum.
 
Abundant lyricism and insightful phrasing made for a memorable Andantino, and the Scherzo in Guerrero's hands was at once charming and hard-hitting.
 
But it was the Finale, predictably, that shone brightest. Between its adept handling of Guerrero's bold tempo and a striking level of dynamic contrast, the orchestra had a guaranteed winner on its hands, and succeeded once again in sending listeners home with much for which to be thankful.