Severance Hall, Cleveland, OH
Cleveland Orchestra / Franz Welser-Möst
Intensity reflects on the months before the composition of the piece, which were a very intense period for me personally and artistically. A special moment during this time was my first encounter with The Cleveland Orchestra and with Franz Welser-Möst, to whom the piece is dedicated.
Intensity has three parts, and is built on three main themes and two basic chords. I borrowed the second basic chord as an objet trouvé from Modest Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition ("Il vecchio castello" / "The Old Castle"). The fast movements of the first part convey a sense of a fresh start / euphoric mood. The motivic core for the whole piece emerges from a trumpet signal in the first bars.
The middle section is a very quiet introspection, which escalates to an emotional climax in the piece —a listening to the sound and an inward intensity—in contrast to the outward intensity of the first and third parts.
Completed in 2020, the 20-minute work for large orchestra is a response both to Cleveland’s legendary sound and the isolation the Austrian artist felt before and during the pandemic. Whatever the cause, Deutsch must have been profoundly moved. Two-thirds of the work he produced exudes relentless zeal, bustling along on strong motifs like a giant machine in turbo. Hints of Prokofiev and Stravinsky abound amid constantly varying textures and bold rhythmic profiles, and an expansive percussion section with piano generated constant interest. The middle section stands in stark contrast. Exuberance becomes introspection as the strings slow, soften, and frost over in falling patterns and the percussionists switch from heavy forces to bells, rain sticks and slide whistles. It’s vibrant, engaging music that manages to entertain even as it edifies. Count this as Deutsch’s second success in Cleveland, after his organ concerto “Okeanos” in 2019. One can only look forward now to his next creation, in 2024.
Zachary Lewis, Cleveland.com, 14 Jan 2022