Sunday afternoon last, the Cherokee Orchestra and Chorus launched the recently-refurbished Cherokee Concert Hall on its second maiden voyage with a performance of Beethoven’s Symphonie Nr. 9 in d-Moll (Op. 125).
According to the glossy program, designers and workmen had cooperated to knock out the asbestos-laced ceiling, the better to show off the overhead plumbing and increase the reverberations one hundred percent. Arturo Unknown, director and conductor, wisely chose Beethoven’s tribute to all that is wunderbar in life as the inaugural opus to take advantage of this improvement. Unfortunately, the wonderful harmonies elicited from the second violinists and the front-row cellists by his magic wand were offset somewhat by the misbegotten noises spewn out now and again by a pair of sleepy oboeists, not to speak of a nervous cymbalist and a slight young drummer who did not always perform on cue. On those admittedly rare occasions, the advertised reverberations would better have been held in check by the ancient asbestos.
The mezzo wore a loose-fitting purple tent, the better to hide her excessive poundage. The soprano displayed to good effect a tight red dress, disguising her age with the aid of a carefully-selected Clairol shade and several Revlon products. The Menschsänger were attired for the occasion in penguin garb, the better to belt out the dramatic notes that were called for in the score. The glee club sat above and behind the orchestra proper, patiently awaiting their turn to give lusty voice to the joy for which the piece is noted, resisting the temptation to blow their noses.
The adagio molto e cantabile—the third movement of this magnificent but ageing warhorse—is much too long and repetitive. Mr. Unknown could have cut it in half with no ill effect and for the benefit of those who do not hold their water well. The bass, much like a prizefighter, imbibed bottled water before each of his allotted turns. The results were breathtaking. Not since the late Martti Talvela has this critic heard a male voice able to strike a low F at a decibel level the equal of an overextended lyric soprano.
Afterwards, all soloists received bouquets from designated music lovers who deluged them as if on cue. At the last curtain call, the soprano graciously deposited hers on the conductor’s stand, signifying thereby her appreciation of the musical background provided by the little people in her life—at least one would wish to think so. She may also have been allergic to the daisies. Another and more garish explanation might be that she wished to signify her undying devotion to a secret lover. Mr. Unknown, distant relative of our editor, comes to mind.