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by Daniel Hathaway


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 »


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 Daniel Hathaway

BeethovenShostakovichFranz Welser-Möst returned to the Severance Hall stage on Thursday evening to lead The Cleveland Orchestra in the first of three concerts on consecutive evenings that paired symphonies by Beethoven and Shostakovich under the banner of the orchestra’s “Fate and Freedom Festival.”

In a pre-concert chat in Reinberger Chamber Music Hall with director of artistic planning Mark Williams, Welser-Möst noted that he had been looking for a new way to program a Vienna Musikverein Beethoven cycle and credited the Takács Quartet with the idea of pairing Beethoven and Shostakovich on the same program. (The orchestra will repeat this three-concert cycle in the Austrian capital from November 20-22.)

Whether you care to go deeply into the philosophical and political similarities and contrasts between the two composers, as Welser-Möst did in his program book essay, or simply enjoy hearing a pair of their symphonies in close succession, there was a lot to stimulate the mind and the ear last weekend. Thursday evening’s short performance coupled Beethoven’s third symphony with Shostakovich’s sixth — each written during the composers’ thirty-third year. Read the rest of this entry »

by Daniel Hathaway

Hrusa-Jakub-by-Petra-KlackovaA dismembered maiden, a Slavic hero and a mismatched beau with ADD shared the stage with Czech guest conductor Jakub Hrůša and The Cleveland Orchestra last Thursday evening at Severance Hall. That sounds like the cast for a particularly unlikely sitcom, but those were only a few of the characters brought vividly to life by Haydn in his “Symphony” subtitled Il distratto, by Dvořák in his symphonic poem The Golden Spinning Wheel and by Janáček in his “Rhapsody for Orchestra,” Taras Bulba, three evocative pieces inspired by different genres of literature.

Although it goes by the name of Symphony No. 60, Haydn’s six-movement work is really a suite recycled from the incidental music to Die Zerstreute, the German reworking of a comedy by Jean-François Regnard staged at the Esterházy Court. The plot concerns an unfocused daydreamer, Leander, who is pushed into a romance with Isabelle by her Parisian mother — but, of course, Isabelle has her eyes on someone else.

You can count on Haydn to be witty, but Il distratto finds him reveling both in sophisticated humor and low-hanging jokes (e.g. subtle musical references to Leander’s distractedness, and a sudden, noisy tuning session by the violins in the finale that had the audience giggling.) Read the rest of this entry »

by Daniel Hathaway

Sinaisky-VassilyNow that classical music has become increasingly homogenized through globalization, there’s something deeply satisfying about experiencing works from a national tradition interpreted by conductors and soloists who grew up speaking the language. On Thursday evening, Russian conductor Vassily Sinaisky and Russian-born pianist Kirill Gerstein treated the Severance Hall audience to deeply-felt performances of music by Liadov, Tchaikovsky and Prokofiev. Led early on by Russian conductors, The Cleveland Orchestra has a near-native feel for this repertory and played it with expressive passion coupled with New World precision.

Conducting with his bare hands, Sinaisky, who is music director of Moscow’s Bolshoi Theatre, painted perfect little scenes for each of Anatoly Liadov’s Eight Russian Folk Songs to open the program. English horn and bassoon solos (Robert Walters and Barrick Stees) set a solemn mood for the “Religious Chant,” an affect that first assistant principal cellist Richard Weiss recaptured later in the “Plaintive Song.” “Dance of the Gnat” created a buzz both in the strings and an amused audience. Mary Kay Fink’s piccolo soared out over pizzicato strings in the “Round Dance,” and a vivacious orchestral tutti brought the set of tiny pieces to a celebratory ending in the “Village Dance Song.” Read the rest of this entry »

by Mike Telin

WALTERS-RobertIt’s always a big event when an orchestra performs Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana. The opening O Fortuna (O Fortune) is one of the most recognizable pieces of music thanks to its use in hundreds of commercials and films. The massive forces gathered on stage and the volume that is produced make it a thrill to hear live. Beginning on Thursday, April 11 at Severance Hall, Conductor James Feddeck and The Cleveland Orchestra will be joined by Rebecca Nelsen, soprano, Nicholas Phan, tenor, Stephen Powell, baritone, and the Cleveland Orchestra Chorus and Children’s Chorus for four performances of Orff’s masterpiece.

The concert also includes two Cleveland Orchestra firsts, a performance of J.S. Bach’s Concerto in A major, BWV 1055 for oboe d’amore and orchestra featuring Cleveland Orchestra English horn player Robert Walters. The concerts also mark the first time that any oboe d’amore concerto has been performed by the orchestra. Read the rest of this entry »

by Brittany Brahn

Brittany Brahn is an Oberlin student who participated in the Winter Term course in Digital Musical Journalism co-sponsored by ClevelandClassical.

Robert WaltersThe tradition of the Cleveland Orchestra performing at Oberlin College is a long and well-loved one, which began in 1919 only six months after the orchestra was first formed. Since that initial concert, the Cleveland Orchestra has performed at Oberlin 209 times through the college’s Artist Recital Series, which is incidentally one of the oldest continuing concert series in the United States. In addition to the Cleveland Orchestra, the Artist Recital Series has also brought musicians such as Joshua Bell, Yo-Yo Ma, Denyce Graves and Juan Diego Flóres to the campus, much to the delight of the students and residents of Oberlin.

The Cleveland Orchestra’s latest return to Oberlin was on the evening of Friday, February 25th in Finney Chapel under the direction of Russian conductor Andrey Boreyko. The program, Boreyko’s debut with the Cleveland Orchestra, showcased a refreshing array of Eastern European works that complemented each other well, including Stravinsky’s Divertimento from the ballet Le Baiser de la fée, Peteris Vasks’s English horn Concerto, and Prokofiev’s Symphony No. 5 in B-flat Major. The sweetness of the Divertimento provided an enjoyable juxtaposition to the full-bodied, fiery drama of the Symphony.

Vasks is a Latvian composer who is less familiar to Western audiences than Stravinsky or Prokofiev, yet his English horn concerto proved to be an ambitious and highly successful addition to the repertoire. By the time Vasks had written the piece in 1989, he had spent the majority of his compositional life overshadowed by the rigid policies of the Soviet Union. Two years prior to Latvia’s independence, the English horn concerto was commissioned by the American musician Thomas Stacy and the Stamford Chamber Orchestra. Read the rest of this entry »

by Mike Telin

Robert WaltersTo read Cleveland Orchestra solo English horn player Robert Walter’s resume, one could easily assume that he has not had a lot of time for anything other than music. Prior to joining the Orchestra in 2004, he served as solo English horn and oboe player with the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra and the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. Prior to those positions, Mr. Walters performed with the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Orchestra of St. Luke’s, the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, the American Ballet Theatre, the American Symphony Orchestra, the Brooklyn Philharmonic, and the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center. He also was a frequent performer with James Levine and the MET Chamber Ensemble at Carnegie Hall. As a soloist, Mr. Walters has appeared with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, the Beijing Radio Symphony, the New York Chamber Soloists, and the Concerto Soloists of Philadelphia.

The passing down of musical traditions to young players is something that brings him great joy. He is a faculty member at the Aspen Music Festival as well as professor of oboe and English horn at the Oberlin Conservatory. But when we telephoned Mr. Walters last week to talk about his upcoming performance of Latvian composer Peteris Vasks’ English horn concerto with The Cleveland Orchestra under the direction of Andrey Boreyko, we discovered that his artistic interests and talents extend far beyond the concert stage.

Mike Telin: How did you discover the Vasks concerto?

Robert Walters: Actually it was through Andrey Boreyko, who is conducting the concert. I was playing in Aspen a few summers ago where he was conducting. He asked me if I knew this concerto, at which point I didn’t. I heard some of it on the radio once, and I remember thinking that it was intriguing, so with his prompting, I did some research, and discovered that it has been recorded twice — which is interesting for an English horn concerto — but even more interesting is that it was recorded by the same person. Read the rest of this entry »

Photograph by Roger Mastroianni

by Mike Telin

On Sunday, November 29, the Cleveland Orchestra presented the first of three events in its new ‘Musically Speaking’ series, an initiative designed to bring Severance Hall audiences closer to the music and the musicians.

The afternoons begin with a 40-minute chamber music concert in Reinberger Hall, followed by a 3:00 multimedia exploration of the orchestral work of the day (this afternoon, Dvorak’s ‘New World’ Symphony) using a narrator, actors, projected visuals and live excerpts played by the orchestra. After intermission, the work is played in its entirety, followed by a question and answer period.

The central format of the first two ‘Musically Speaking’ events  derives from the Chicago Symphony’s ‘Beyond the Score’ series, which, as in this case, is franchised to other orchestral organizations. I experienced the CSO’s version of the Dvorak afternoon at the League of American Orchestras conference in Chicago last summer, so it was interesting to be able to compare the two throughout the afternoon.

Read the rest of this entry »

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