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by Daniel Hathaway

WelserMostBlossomAs the normally-resident birds gave way to the end-of-summer locusts, The Cleveland Orchestra bade farewell to Blossom on Sunday evening in a season closer that also served as a send-off for the ensemble’s forthcoming European tour. Like Friday evening’s Summers @ Severance performance, the repertoire was a condensed version of what audiences in London, Lucerne, Berlin, Linz, Vienna, Paris and Amsterdam will enjoy in thirteen performances from September 7-22: works by Johannes Brahms and Jörg Widmann, the orchestra’s former Daniel R. Lewis Young Composer Fellow (an entire concert in Berlin’s Philharmonie on September 11 will be devoted to Widmann’s music).

Widmann’s Con brio: Concert Overture began Sunday evening’s concert on many witty notes. Commissioned by conductor Mariss Jansons to headline a concert of Beethoven’s seventh and eighth symphonies and scored for those orchestral forces, the overture was first performed by The Cleveland Orchestra at Severance Hall performances led by Christoph von Dohnányi in January of 2011. Read the rest of this entry »

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by Timothy Robson

Smith & Welser-MostAs a prelude to its three-week European tour, Franz Welser-Möst and the Cleveland Orchestra previewed some of their tour repertoire in the third of the 2014 Summers @ Severance concerts on Friday, August 29. This was no summertime “orchestra-lite” concert, but featured two demanding and arresting works by Jörg Widmann, the orchestra’s former Daniel R. Lewis Young Composer Fellow, as well as that monument of the orchestral repertoire, Johannes Brahms’s Symphony No. 1 in C minor, op. 68. Severance Hall was well filled with a very diverse audience of Cleveland Orchestra fans.

Jörg Widmann’s music brilliantly combines skillful use of orchestration with modernist compositional techniques, at the same time retaining just enough references to recognizable musical styles to make his music appealing to a wide audience. Read the rest of this entry »

by Robert Rollin

A packed house and lawn at Blossom on August 24 (photo by Roger Mastroianni)

A packed house and lawn at Blossom on August 24 (photo by Roger Mastroianni)

On Sunday evening August 24, the Cleveland Orchestra, with guest conductor and Philadelphia Pops Orchestra director, Michael Krajewski, celebrated the 50th anniversary of The Beatles coming to America. Classical Mystery Tour, a group that transcribed and performed note for note over two dozen well-known Beatles songs, made the concert truly exciting.

The four musicians played accurate versions of many songs originally created in the studio with orchestral arrangements, but never fully played live during the original group’s performing days. Producer/arranger George Martin helped create many of these intricate works in consultation with The Beatles. Read the rest of this entry »

by Daniel Hathaway

JoshFranzThis Friday evening at Severance Hall and Sunday evening at Blossom, music director Franz Welser-Möst will give audiences a taste of the repertory The Cleveland Orchestra will play in thirteen concerts in seven European cities between September 7 and September 22.

On Friday, August 29 at 7:00 pm, to end the new Summers at Severance series, Welser-Möst will lead Brahms’s Symphony No. 1 and Jörg Widmann’s Lied and Flûte en suite with principal flute Joshua Smith as soloist (pictured above). The flute concerto was written for Smith, who premiered it at Severance Hall in 2011, and will play it six times during the September tour.

On Sunday, August 31 at 7:00 pm in the Orchestra’s Blossom European Tour Send-Off, Welser-Möst will conduct two more Brahms symphonies, Nos. 3 and 4, and another work by Widmann, the concert overture entitled Con brio.

At home, The Cleveland Orchestra and up to 2,400 patrons at a time enjoy the visual and acoustic splendor of Severance Hall, opened in 1931 and renovated in 2000. On the tour, the Orchestra will play in some of the world’s other great concert halls. Here’s an overview of where the music will be heard. Read the rest of this entry »

by Robert Rollin

GRAMS-AndrewOn Saturday evening August 23, the Cleveland Orchestra, Blossom Festival Chorus and Cleveland Orchestra Children’s Chorus presented an exceptional concert under talented young conductor Andrew Grams. Grams served as assistant conductor of The Cleveland Orchestra, and as music director of the Cleveland Orchestra Youth Orchestra, from 2004-2007. He has guest conducted many of the world’s great orchestras, and showed excellent ensemble control and remarkable interpretive skills all evening.

The highlight was a marvelous performance of Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana (1936) scored for soprano, tenor, and baritone soloists, children’s choir, chorus and large orchestra, mixing words from both Latin and old German. The text comes from a significant collection of 12th century Latin and old German secular poems recorded in manuscript in an abbey near Munich, where German monks preserved it for future generations. Johann Andreas Schmeller published the first edition in 1847. The first performance in 1937 was a staged version, though the large majority of subsequent performances were in concert format. Read the rest of this entry »

by Kelly Ferjutz, Special to ClevelandClassical

HALLS-Matthew2Mother Nature was apparently clued in – and ready – for the Saturday evening concert by the Cleveland Orchestra at the Blossom Music Center on August 9. During the first half of the program, the birds and the frogs and the crickets started warming up. By the time the Orchestra took the stage for Eine Kleine Nachtmusik, the sounds of nature were ready! And then came Supermoon! It really was spectacular. Those music lovers on the lawn had a better glimpse of it, perhaps, but once we were out in the parking lot, there it was in all its huge, luminous splendor. The weather was simply perfect for enjoying the moon and the music!

Of course, that’s because the Orchestra, with guest conductor Matthew Halls, was luminous enough in itself to have lit up the skies like daylight. The evening’s program – and homage to Mozart — began with the overture to his opera Idomeneo. Mr. Halls drew lovely sounds from the musicians in front of him with his decisive movements and graceful hand motions. Read the rest of this entry »

by Robert Rollin

HALLS-MatthewOn Saturday evening, August 9, the Blossom Festival presented an exemplary Cleveland Orchestra Mozart concert under the gifted young British conductor, Matthew Halls, making his debut with the group. The Oxford-educated musician first became known as a keyboard player and conductor of early music. Since then he has come to prominence as Director of the Oregon Bach Festival and through appearances with major professional orchestras and opera companies in Europe, Australia, and North America.

The entire concert was a delight, thanks to the orchestra’s wonderful talent and to Halls’s remarkably colorful dynamics and sensitive control of tempi. Notwithstanding his youthfulness, Halls showed mature and outstanding interpretive skills, lending grace and beauty to the entire concert. Read the rest of this entry »

by James Flood

WEISS-OrionFriday marked the second installment of the Cleveland Orchestra’s very new Summers @ Severence series with an all-Beethoven program under the baton of Jahja Ling. The evening included light food and drink before and after the 7:00 pm performance, with dance music piped through both the hallways and the terrace afterward to add to the more casual ambiance.

Apparently to lighten the evening, the program itself was downsized a little from the Orchestra’s typical offering, placing Beethoven’s modestly-sized 4th Symphony between the four-minute “Overture to the Creatures of Prometheus” and the 20-minute “Choral Fantasy” and excluding an intermission.

The opening overture boasted crisp, clean and energized 16th notes in the strings, generating a quick burst of excitement that was the perfect start for a summer evening at Severance Hall. Read the rest of this entry »

by Nicholas Jones

MA-Yo-YoYo Yo Ma is as close as the classical world is likely to get to a rock star. On Saturday night, the near-sellout crowd at Blossom was certainly rocking as Ma took the stage, strutting like a winning prizefighter with his cello triumphantly raised above his head.

But antics gave way to artistry almost immediately as Ma took his seat and launched into the Elgar cello concerto, stamping its opening chords with a ferocity that would alternate with lyricism throughout the performance.

In 1919, Elgar’s cello concerto suffered from a disastrous first performance, and for almost half a century it was barely played. A key figure in its rediscovery in the late 1960s was the charismatic young cellist Jacqueline du Pré, who reinterpreted it as a document of introspection and anxiety for a world newly tossed by war and social change. One of the cellos that Yo Yo Ma regularly plays is the Davidov Stradivarius on which du Pré also performed. Read the rest of this entry »

by Daniel Hathaway

Terrace

The Cleveland Orchestra’s new concert series, Summers@Severance, offers a one-hour-or-so performance by the orchestra on three Friday evenings at 7:00 pm, bracketed by a party with drinks and small plates served on the Front Terrace. The concept seems to have caught on quickly, and judging from the number of audience members snapping cell phone pictures of the Severance Hall interior, brought many first-time listeners to hear the Orchestra on opening night, August 1. Read the rest of this entry »

Tony-Yike-Yang-Oberlin-Cooper-Finals-(Mastroianni)

Tony Yike Yang with Jahja Ling and The Cleveland Orchestra (Photo: Roger Mastroianni)

Cleveland – July 26. Following the final round of the Oberlin Cooper Piano Competition with Jahja Ling and The Cleveland Orchestra at Severance Hall on Friday evening, Dean Andrea Kalyn of the Oberlin Conservatory introduced the judges and thanked numerous individuals who had made the competition possible. Then, competition sponsors Thomas and Evon Cooper announced the decision of the judges and awarded the three top prizes.

First place and a cash prize of $10,000 went to Tony Yike Yang of Toronto, who appeared last on the program with Tchaikovsky’s first concerto. Zitong Wang of Inner Mongolia, China, won second place and $6,000 for her performance of Prokofiev’s third concerto. And Sae Yoon Chon of Seoul, South Korea, received the third place award of $3,000, having opened the evening with Beethoven’s fifth concerto.The finals were broadcast live by WCLV, 104.9 FM and via the internet on wclv.com.

by Daniel Hathaway

GOMYO-Karen“A Taste of Spain” at Blossom on Saturday July 19 featured The Cleveland Orchestra and guest conductor Bramwell Tovey in Iberian-inspired music by two Frenchmen and one authentic Spaniard who went into self-exile in Argentina after Franco won the Spanish civil war. Sunny as the music was, the weather in Cuyahoga Falls was damp and chilly: in his jovial remarks at the beginning of the second half, Tovey welcomed the audience to what indeed felt like a Spanish winter.

Tovey’s own selections from the two suites that Georges Bizet’s friends fashioned from the music from Carmen opened the program with familiar scene-setting tunes and arias sans singers. The March of the Toréadors; Prélude and Aragonaise; Intermezzo; Dragons d’Alcala; Habanera and Danse Bohème were all treated to colorful, characterful performances, with splendid solo work by oboist Jeffrey Rathbun, flutist Marisela Seger, and wonderful section solos from the bassoons. If the percussion got a bit frisky in the last selection, that only added to the excitement. Read the rest of this entry »

by Daniel Hathaway

SkrowaczeswkiNote: Last Sunday, July 20, Stanislaw Skrowaczewski was scheduled to conduct The Cleveland Orchestra at Blossom. He cancelled due to illness late in the week and was replaced by the orchestra’s assistant conductor, Brett Mitchell. We spoke to Maestro Skrowaczewski on the Wednesday before his Blossom concert and are reprinting the concert preview as a feature.

In 1957, Polish conductor Stanislaw Skrowaczewski was one of the local hosts for The Cleveland Orchestra’s first European tour — an event which established the ensemble’s international reputation. It was also an important moment for Skrowaczewski, whose first meeting with George Szell in Warsaw launched his own career in the United States.

“It was just after I won first prize in Rome,” Skrowaczewski said in a telephone conversation from his home in the Minneapolis suburb of Wayzata. “That was important in Europe because it was the first international competition after the war, so it had a certain value. Szell knew it, and he knew a little of my composition, Symphony for Strings, which he thought was very well written. He asked if I would mind to play it with his orchestra in Cleveland next year. The arrangements were very simple.” Read the rest of this entry »

by Guytano Parks

Takei-GeorgeScience Fiction proved to be a winning theme this past Sunday evening as throngs of avid and enthusiastic fans of the genre packed the Blossom Music Center pavilion and filled the lawn to hear The Cleveland Orchestra’s Sci–Fi Spectacular. Jack Everly, one of North America’s leading symphonic pops conductors, was at the helm on this occasion, with none other than George Takei as narrator, beloved for his portrayal of Mr. Sulu in the acclaimed television and film series Star Trek. Soprano Kristen Plumley and members of the Blossom Festival Chorus joined the Orchestra in music by John Williams, John Barry, Michael Giacchino and Bernard Herrmann.

John Williams’s rousing “Main Title” from Star Wars opened the program. Everly conducted with authority, yet he also communicated his ideas with subtle tilts of the head and dance-like motions. The orchestra responded to every gesture with polish and pizzazz. The brass and woodwinds played brilliantly, and the contrasting eerie and mystical sections were effectively played by the strings, harps and bells. The driving percussion kept things marching forward with great excitement. Read the rest of this entry »

by Mike Telin

GOMYO-KarenClassical music under the stars continues this weekend at Blossom Music Center when conductor Bramwell Tovey leads The Cleveland Orchestra in a performance that includes Bizet’s Suite from Carmen and deFalla’s The Three-Cornered Hat. The concert, which begins on Saturday, July 19 at 8:00 pm, also marks the return of violinist Karen Gomyo to the Blossom stage for a performance of Saint-Saëns’s Violin Concerto no. 3.

Upon answering the phone in Switzerland, the extremely gracious Karen Gomyo immediately thanked me for calling her in Europe. No problem I tell her, I’m calling her on Skype. Gomyo uses our brief opening conversation to talk about all that is wonderful with modern technology, and how easy it makes our lives, as the perfect lead-in to talking about the Saint-Saëns concerto. “It’s funny because I read somewhere that Pablo Sarasate, just knocked on Saint-Saëns’s door and asked him for a concerto. That is unthinkable these days because, like you said, we have all these modes of communication. But I guess back in that time you could really just show up in person.” Read the rest of this entry »

by Daniel Hathaway

Graf-Hadelich30-year-old German-Italian violinist Augustin Hadelich is developing a reputation for stepping in to save concerts at the last minute. In 2008, on less than a week’s notice, he replaced Julian Rachlin in Prokofiev’s second concerto with the Los Angeles Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl (an occasion when conductor Miguel Harth-Bedoya was also an emergency substitute for the ailing Edo de Waart).

Then in 2010, his surprise debut with the New York Philharmonic in Vail, Colorado, involved replacing Nikolai Znaider in the Mendelssohn concerto on three days’ warning. (Hadelich was at the airport about to board a plane to Italy when he got the call).

His appearance with The Cleveland Orchestra on Saturday evening for the opening concert of its Blossom season may have been even more hastily arranged, as Renaud Capuçon’s illness and his replacement by Hadelich had to be announced in an insert to the program. Read the rest of this entry »

by Daniel Hathaway

LAMSMA-SImoneThe Cleveland Orchestra’s production of Janácek’s Cunning Little Vixen was a tough act to follow, but the last concert of the Severance Hall season under guest conductor Vladimir Jurowski proved to be anything but anti-climactic. A sumptuous performance of an hour-long suite from Prokofiev’s ballet, Cinderella, a spellbinding reading of Britten’s Violin Concerto by Simone Lamsma and the opportunity to hear a very early Stravinsky work, the Scherzo fantastique, op. 3, added up to a surprisingly brilliant season finale. I heard the first of three concerts on Thursday, May 29.

Simone Lamsma’s appearance with the orchestra was remarkable on several counts. The Dutch violinist stepped in on short notice to replace her ailing countrywoman, Janine Jansen. She agreed to play the same concerto — a piece not all violinists keep under their fingers. And she played the Britten with consummate skill and complete authority, obviously winning many converts to a piece that can be difficult to wrap your ears around. Read the rest of this entry »

Severance-Hall-Summer“Summers @ Severance,” a new series on Friday evenings in August, will feature The Cleveland Orchestra in three performances at Severance Hall.

The Front Terrace of Severance Hall will be open before and after each 7:00 pm concert, with beverage service and seating areas available. “Happy hour” drink prices will be in force during the hour before the performances.

On Friday, August 1, Johannes Debus will conduct the Orchestra in Ravel’s Pavane for a Dead Princess and the Piano Concerto in G with Benjamin Grosvenor as soloist. The program will conclude with Rachmanninoff’s Symphonic Dances.

Jahja Ling will lead an all-Beethoven concert on August 15, including the Overture to The Creatures of Prometheus, Symphony No. 4 and the Choral Fantasy with pianist Orion Weiss and the Blossom Festival Chorus. The performance is an official cultural event of the 2014 Gay Games being hosted in Cleveland from August 9-16.

Franz Welser-Möst will close out the mini-series with a concert of music by Jörg Widmann (Lied and Flûte en suite with Joshua Smith) and Brahms (Symphony No. 1) on August 29, a performance in which the Orchestra is partnering with local colleges and universities to mark the kick-off to the fall semester.

Vixen-Perf-Farmyard

Daniel Hathaway’s review of The Cleveland Orchestra’s opening night production of Janáček’s The Cunning Little Vixen (Saturday, May 17) is now posted on Classical Voice North America. Read the article here.

by Mike Telin

May30-1On Friday May 30, the not-for-profit foundation Shaking with Laughter will present Prelude to a Cure, an evening of chamber music performed by twenty members of The Cleveland Orchestra in the newly-renovated sanctuary of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Cleveland Heights. The concert, sponsored by Northeast Ohio Medical University, will benefit The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research.

Among the works to be performed are J.S. Bach’s Sonata in e minor for Oboe D’amore and Harpsichord, Beethoven’s String Quartet op. 135, Mozart’s Oboe Quartet, Ravel’s Adagio from Piano Concerto in G, Thea Musgrave’s Impromptu no. 1 for Flute and Oboe, Bernard Garfield’s Quartet for Bassoon and Strings, and the world premiere of Jeffrey Rathbun’s Voyage for English Horn and Strings.

Shaking With Laughter was founded by Cleveland obstetrician and gynecologist Karen Jaffe and her husband Marc, a comedian and writer, after she was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease, a chronic, degenerative neurological disorder. The foundation presents humor-related events that have already raised over $460,000 for the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research. Read the rest of this entry »

by Mike Telin

The Cunning Little VIxen: dress rehearsal (Roger Mastroianni)

The Cunning Little Vixen: dress rehearsal (Roger Mastroianni)

With its made-for-Cleveland production of Janáček’s The Cunning Little Vixen featuring state-of-the-art digital animation, The Cleveland Orchestra finds itself once again at the cutting edge of opera technology. Once again? A visit to the Cleveland Orchestra archives reveals some fascinating information about technological innovations that can be traced back to the opening of Severance Hall on February 5, 1931.

An Associated Press preview published in the Washington D.C. Star carried the headline, “Death March or Minuet Mood Produced by Lighting Device: Mechanism Like Organ in Cleveland Hall Gives Visual Accompaniment for All Music Types”. The article continued,

“The apparatus, an important example of what engineers have been able to do with the tiny electron that shoots off from an atom of hot metal, will be put into operation Thursday night when the Cleveland Orchestra plays dedicatory music. Read the rest of this entry »

TCO-Vixen-Mockup

by Mike Telin

Opera librettists take their inspiration from novels, novellas, plays and legends, but rarely from a daily comic strip. “The Adventures of the Vixen Sharp-Ears,” a serialized cartoon by Rudolf Těsnohlídek and Stanislav Lolek in the Czech newspaper Lidové novini gave Leoš Janáček the idea for his comic opera, The Cunning Little Vixen, for which he wrote the libretto himself.

Is it a children’s entertainment? The characters include animals, birds and insects, as well as a few human beings, but Janáček himself seems to have intended it to be a philosophical reflection about the cycle of life and death. The plot is open to a whole spectrum of interpretation, “but I can tell you that this production will appeal to the widest public components possible,” said tenor David Cangelosi, who sings the roles of the Schoolmaster and the Mosquito. “It just has something for everybody – the littlest of kids straight through to the most seasoned opera or symphony goer.” Read the rest of this entry »

by Daniel Hathaway

VANSKA-OsmoNot every wind that blows into Cleveland from the North is a bone-chilling polar vortex. The boreal breeze that accompanied the 80-degree weather on Thursday evening, May 8, was a refreshing one that brought Finnish conductor (and newly reappointed Minnesota Orchestra music director) Osmo Vänskä to Severance Hall with striking symphonies by his countrymen Aulis Sallinen and Jan Sibelius in hand. The Grieg concerto, featuring frequent guest pianist Garrick Ohlsson, added another Scandinavian voice to the evening.

Sallinen’s Symphony No. 1, written in 1970-1971, was a late but fascinating addition to the program. In one movement over the course of fifteen minutes, the composer obsesses in a highly organized way with the note F-sharp and its related key of F-sharp minor. Beginning statically with a viola solo (Robert Vernon) joined by second violin (Stephen Rose) that devolve into a persistent motive over cello and bass recitative-like lines, the initially cool mode grows warmer and crests with an entry by the brass into a climax topped off by a catchy rhythm on the wood block. Read the rest of this entry »

by Daniel Hathaway

GLOVER-COOPER

The burning question after The Cleveland Orchestra’s concert on Thursday April 24 was why it took so long to bring conductor Jane Glover and pianist Imogen Cooper — either singly or together — to Severance Hall. The two British artists collaborated to produce a spectacular performance of Beethoven’s first concerto, and Glover led pristine and loveable readings of sinfonias by C.P.E. Bach and Johann Baptist Waṅhal* as well as a finely shaped account of Haydn’s “Drum Roll” symphony.

Glover set up a bright, sprightly introduction for Cooper in the Beethoven (the pared-down string section allowed the orchestra to play with amazing transparency). Responding with verve and an effortless elegance, Cooper breezed through her passagework, made perfect joins with Glover and the orchestra and pointed up exquisite moments like the sudden shift into E-flat. The recapitulation of the first movement was announced by a surprising blaze of horns and Cooper’s initially calm, orderly cadenza suddenly jolted the ear with wild chord juxtapositions. “She’s fantastic!” cried a woman in the row behind me. No shushing and no argument there. Read the rest of this entry »

Fink-&-RobertsonDaniel Hathaway’s review of Thursday’s Cleveland Orchestra concert is now posted on Classical Voice North America (the national website of the Music Critics Association). The concert will be repeated tonight (Saturday, May 3 at 8) and broadcast live on WCLV 104.9 FM (streamed at wclv.com). >>read the article

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