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The reviews are in: Bernd Richard Deutsch’s Okeanos for organ and orchestra was roundly praised after its US premiere for its stunning range of color and expression, as well as its brilliant orchestration.

Cleveland audiences have warmly embraced Viennese composer Bernd Richard Deutsch, who is The Cleveland Orchestra’s new Daniel R. Lewis Young Composer Fellow. On March 14-17, the renowned US orchestra gave the American premiere of Deutsch’s organ concerto Okeanos, performed by organ soloist Paul Jacobs and conducted by Franz Welser-Möst. The successful performance sets up next season’s world premiere of a brand new orchestral work from Deutsch, commissioned by The Cleveland Orchestra as part of his two-year fellowship tenure.

Okeanos makes reference to the mythological Titan who rules the oceans, and its four movements evoke the elements of earth, air, fire, and water. Critics were impressed by the resulting broad palette of colors, emotions, and textures of the work. The Cleveland Plain Dealer writes:

“The variety in Okeanos (the Greek mythological figure representing oceans) was stunning. From subdued and mysterious, a la Messiaen, Jacobs and the orchestra were as likely Thursday to turn bubbly, playful, or even crazed as they were to let out a thunderous, screaming yawp. Through it all, the music managed to emulate water, air, earth, and fire, always without recourse to overtly literal means.”

ClevelandClassical.com likewise commented on Deutsch’s enormous and captivating range: “The combination of a large, orchestral-style organ and a huge symphony orchestra gave Deutsch a broad tonal palette to work with, and he delights in its vast color and dynamic possibilities in Okeanos."

But the greatest praise is reserved for Deutsch’s sheer craftsmanship as an orchestrator. The Cleveland Plain Dealer writes:
“If Okeanos had one key virtue, it was orchestration. Time and again, Deutsch found spine-tingling parallels between the organ and a raft of percussion instruments, uniting front and rear stage in ways that can only be described as magical. Out of four basic elements, Jacobs, Welser-Most, and the orchestra forged musical gold.”

Soloist Paul Jacobs himself calls Okeanos “a masterfully crafted work.” In an interview before the premiere with the ClevelandClassical.com, the organist states: “It’s my hope that his music becomes better known here in the United States. It’s really excellent writing.”

In its own review of the work, ClevelandClassical.com echoes this sentiment: “Here’s hoping that enterprising orchestras will give the organist other opportunities to play a piece that he so obviously believes in and has mastered.”

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