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By Guytano Parks

kaufman-richard-by-eric-stonerA near–capacity crowd filled the pavilion and lawn at Blossom Music Center on Sunday evening when The Cleveland Orchestra presented Hollywood Under The Stars.  Conducted by Richard Kaufman, in his 24th year as principal pops conductor with Orange County’s Pacific Symphony, the concert  included music by some of the most respected and revered film composers of our time.

“Hooray for Hollywood” appropriately opened the program in an invigorating and colorful arrangement by John Williams. Kaufman’s direct, no–nonsense conducting served this syncopated and accented score well, for toe–tapping and hum–along music. Read the rest of this entry »


By Mike Telin

yang_yike_webLast weekend, fifteen year-old Tony Yike Yang from Toronto played Tchaikovsky’s First Piano Concerto at Severance Hall with The Cleveland Orchestra under the direction of Jahja Ling on his way to winning the Thomas and Evon Cooper International Piano Competition. As first-prize winner, Yang was awarded $10,000 and a full four-year scholarship to the Oberlin Conservatory of Music. We spoke to him recently about his experience in the competition, his life as a young pianist, and his aspirations for the future.

Mike Telin: First, congratulations on winning the Cooper. What was it like to play with The Cleveland Orchestra?

Tony Yike Yang: It was so much fun. Read the rest of this entry »

By Daniel Hautzinger

Otto-Peter-180x200“Honestly, I’ve only heard this piece played very badly,” Cleveland Orchestra first associate concertmaster Peter Otto said of Haydn’s first violin concerto. Otto will perform the work with The Cleveland Orchestra under Jeffrey Kahane at Blossom Music Center on August 10. “Most often, a very old-fashioned, heavily edited version is played, even by people today. I have the critical edition, so there are a lot of different notes and different rhythms. Playing it from the bare bones text makes it sound like a completely different piece.”

So if you’ve heard this concerto before and dismissed it (“the first movement is often played by ten year-olds,” Otto said), the Blossom concert might be a good time for a reappraisal. Read the rest of this entry »

By Mike Telin

Severance-Hall-Summer“We haven’t performed in Severance Hall during the summer since we opened Blossom Music Center in 1968, so this is exciting,” said Ross Binnie, Chief Marketing Officer at The Cleveland Orchestra, in a recent telephone conversation.

The Cleveland Orchestra will begin its new Summers@Severance series on Friday, August 1st at 7:00 pm, when conductor Johannes Debus will lead performances of Rachmaninoff’s Symphonic Dances and Ravel’s Pavane for a Dead Princess and the Piano Concerto in G major, featuring Benjamin Grosvenor as soloist. The series marks the first time in decades that the Orchestra is presenting its own series of ticketed summer concerts at Severance Hall. Read the rest of this entry »

by Daniel Hathaway


Out of an initial field of 28 competitors in the Thomas and Evon Cooper Oberlin International Piano Competition, three young pianists, having survived semi-final, concerto final and recital final rounds at the Oberlin Conservatory earlier in the week, won the opportunity to appear on the stage of Severance Hall on Friday evening, July 25 to play concertos with Jahja Ling and The Cleveland Orchestra.

The impressive audience that turned out to hear Sae Yoon Chon, Zitong Wang and Tony Yike Yang in concertos by Beethoven, Prokofiev and Tchaikovsky was full of young people — largely made up of friends, relatives and colleagues of the Cooper participants, no doubt. Palpable energy was in the air, and each of the three finalists was greeted with whoops and cheers both before and after they played. Read the rest of this entry »

By Daniel Hautzinger

Stephen HoughThe environment in which you hear music has a potent influence on a concert experience. Obviously, the acoustics and size of a hall impact the sound, but physical surroundings can also intrude upon the music or affect the way you perceive a work. This is especially true at outdoor venues like Blossom Music Center, where nature decided to take a role in the music on July 26, when the Kent/Blossom Chamber Orchestra, The Cleveland Orchestra, pianist Stephen Hough, and conductors Brett Mitchell and John Storgårds presented a three-part concert there.

The elements made their most obvious appearance during Liszt’s First Piano Concerto, which Hough brilliantly performed with Storgårds and The Cleveland Orchestra. Read the rest of this entry »

By Daniel Hautzinger

Stephen Hough 2Interviewing Stephen Hough is a daunting task. Besides being one of the most successful, talented, and intelligent pianists of his generation, he composes, is a visiting professor at Juilliard and the Royal Academy of Music, writes wide-ranging regular blog posts for The Telegraph and articles for other publications, has published a book, The Bible as Prayer, writes poetry, and has given a solo exhibition of his paintings in London. Where do you even start?

Luckily Hough is an amiable, disarming conversationalist, exuding the air of a well-mannered English gentleman. (At one point, he enthused over a hat store in Chicago, recommending it as “a wonderful place, well worth seeing.”) He is extraordinarily genial, both in the sense of being friendly and displaying genius. And he is an engaging musician, who will perform Liszt’s First Piano Concerto with John Storgårds conducting The Cleveland Orchestra on July 26 at Blossom Music Center. Read the rest of this entry »

by Daniel Hathaway

MITCHELL-BrettLast Sunday evening was meant to mark the historic return of the 90-year-old, Polish-born conductor Stanislaw Skrowaczewski to Blossom after a hiatus of thirty-two years. It was historic alright, but for another reason. Skrowaczewski, who first conducted The Cleveland Orchestra in 1958 at George Szell’s invitation, was sidelined by an illness and assistant conductor Brett Mitchell was tapped late in the week to replace him. Mitchell did himself proud leading scores by Weber, Mozart and Shostakovich on a night that will no doubt be inscribed in the annals of Assistant Conductors’ Big Opportunities.

Summer concerts don’t generally come with abundant rehearsals, so Mitchell and the orchestra probably had very little time together to scope out this repertory. The big mountain to scale was Shostakovitch’s fifth symphony, a work Skrowaczewski had conducted in his Cleveland Orchestra debut more than five decades earlier (when spies from the then Minneapolis Symphony were in the audience on the lookout for a new music director). Under the circumstances, the results Mitchell and the orchestra achieved on Sunday were amazing. Read the rest of this entry »

By Timothy Robson

FISCHOn paper the program announced for the Cleveland Orchestra’s concert at Blossom on Sunday, July 12, did not look like anything special. It was composed of three repertoire standards: Wagner’s overture to The Flying Dutchman; Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto in E minor, op. 64; and Beethoven’s Symphony no. 7 in A major, op. 92. But the evening’s two guest artists, Israeli conductor Asher Fisch and German violinist Isabelle Faust, both making their Cleveland Orchestra debuts, took a fresh look at these works, and delivered performances rich in detail and clarity of sound. Read the rest of this entry »

By Mike Telin

Capuçon-Renaud“I look forward to coming to Cleveland,” exclaimed French violinist Renaud Capuçon during a recent telephone conversation from his home in Paris. “I’ve been to the city before, but this is my debut with the orchestra, although I have heard them in Paris and in Lucerne with Franz Welser-Möst.”

On Saturday, July 5 at 8:00 pm at Blossom Music Center,Hans Graf will lead the Cleveland Orchestra in a concert featuring Sibelius’s Violin Concerto, Tchaikovsky’s Capriccio Italien and Dvořák’s Symphony No. 9 “From the New World”. (Graf replaces Jaap van Zweden, who is being treated for a shoulder injury). The evening concludes with post-concert fireworks.

A gracious and humble conversationalist, Capuçon thanks me for calling him at exactly the appointed hour. Like many violinists, Capuçon began studying Sibelius’s concerto at an early age, in his case at 14. “My copy has 1990 written in the small writing of a kid, so I’ve kind of lived with it. It’s one of those pieces that is exactly connected to the soul of the composer. It’s like his second symphony. You have pictures in your mind coming straight at you.”   Read the rest of this entry »

by Mike Telin

Hrusa-Jakub-by-Petra-KlackovaThis weekend, Czech conductor Jakub Hrůša returns to Northeast Ohio to lead The Cleveland Orchestra at Severance Hall and Akron’s E.J. Thomas Hall in performances featuring the music of Haydn, Dvořák, and Janáček.

Although the program was to have included Dvořák’s violin concerto, yesterday the orchestra announced: “With deep regret, and on the advice of his physician, William Preucil is unable to perform as soloist this week with the Orchestra due to a pinched nerve.”

I will miss Bill because I was looking forward to working with him immensely,” Jakub Hrůša told us this afternoon by telephone. “But the most important thing is for him to recover.”

Dvořák’s violin concerto has now been replaced with the composer’s symphonic poem The Golden Spinning Wheel. “I think it was a most natural decision, apart from replacing the soloist — which nobody wanted, me included.” Hrůša does think it was a very good idea to replace the concerto with one of the composer’s orchestral works. Read the rest of this entry »

by Daniel Hathaway

BRITTEN-BenjaminIt would be Benjamin Britten’s hundredth birthday this year, and The Cleveland Orchestra is programming three of the British composer’s works as a centenary tribute. This weekend’s concerts featured one of his most characteristic works. Written in 1943 for the phenomenal hornist Dennis Brain and Britten’s life partner and tenor of choice, Peter Pears, the Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings sets splendid nocturnal poetry to music so well-tailored to its texts that it’s difficult to read the verse now without hearing Britten’s music running through your head.

Britten almost invariably wrote for specific performers with their special musical gifts in mind. In many cases, their interpretations have become proprietary — perhaps one of the reasons other musicians have been reticent about taking them on. But Dennis Brain ran his car into a tree returning from the Edinburgh Festival in 1957, and ten years after Britten’s own demise, Peter Pears died at the Red House in Aldeburgh in 1986. That left the Serenade field wide open — at least for virtuoso horn players with embouchures of steel and high tenors with exquisite literary sensibilities. Read the rest of this entry »

by Mike Telin

GERSTEIN-KirillWhat a difference one note can make. In his recent, thoroughly researched article titled Tchaikovsky’s “Wrong” Note, pianist Kirill Gerstein responds to pianist Stephen Hough’s blog post stating that Hough had made “The most exciting musical discovery of [his] life: Tchaikovsky’s wrong note finally corrected.”

Gerstein writes that Hough’s article “questioned a note in Tchaikovsky’s First Piano Concerto…At the start of the concerto’s slow movement, the flute plays a phrase that consists of the notes A-flat, E-flat, F, A-flat. In his article, Hough admits that the F has always bothered him, because when the piano restates the melody a moment later, the theme has a B-flat instead of an F (A-flat, E-flat, B-flat, A-flat)…What if the F at the start of the movement was a mistake, and B-flat had been intended?”

This Thursday and Friday in Severance Hall, Kirill Gerstein will perform Tchaikovsky’s First Piano Concerto with The Cleveland Orchestra under the direction of Vassily Sinaisky. The program also includes Liadov’s Eight Russian Folk Songs and Prokofiev’s Symphony No. 3.

After conducting his own scholarly research into the matter, the question is: at this week’s performances will the flute play that phrase with a B-flat as Hough suggests, or an F? “I hope it’s an F,” Gerstein told us by telephone, “and if not, I will certainly mention it. I think the evidence is fairly conclusive that it should be an F.” And has the “wrong” note ever bothered him? “No. But it is something that I have noticed in the past and that is why I decided to write something. I have always felt that it was an important and nice feature of the concerto. So I didn’t doubt it before.” Read the rest of this entry »

by Daniel Hathaway

Luisi-&-Grimaud-(Mastroianni)In a break with tradition, The Cleveland Orchestra has entrusted the first month of its new season to guest conductors. Presiding over opening night on Thursday, September 19, was Fabio Luisi, who took some time off from The Metropolitan Opera on Thanksgiving weekend of 2011 to make a thrilling debut at Severance Hall.

On that occasion, Luisi shaped impressive accounts of two Strauss tone poems and a Mozart concerto with pianist Jonathan Biss. On Thursday, he led a nuanced, characterful reading of Mahler’s fourth symphony and a regal performance of Beethoven’s fifth piano concerto with his frequent collaborator, pianist Hélène Grimaud. (For the Fridays @ 7 concert on Friday, Luisi swapped Mahler out for Schumann’s first symphony, returning to the original program for his third concert on Saturday).

Luisi and the orchestra set the tone for Beethoven’s “Emperor” Concerto with a grandly symphonic introduction. In her first entrance, Hélène Grimaud nearly matched them in power and brilliance. Read the rest of this entry »

by Daniel Hathaway


For their third Blossom collaboration under conductor Tito Muñoz, Chicago’s Joffrey Ballet and The Cleveland Orchestra brought four scores composed within the last hundred years to the pavilion stage at the Blossom Music Center on Saturday evening, August 17 (to be repeated on Sunday evening).

Two were newly-minted contributions to the dance repertoire. Stanton Welch choreographed John Adams’s Son of Chamber Symphony (2007) in 2012 for Jacob’s Pillow — the original commission, entitled Joyride, involved Stanford University, Carnegie Hall, and the San Francisco Ballet, with choreography by Mark Morris. And Aram Khachaturian’s Adagio, a pas de deux from Spartacus (1954) was refashioned from the original ballet by Yuri Possokhov for the 2012 Napa Valley Festival de Sole.

Two were twentieth-century classics. Jerome Robbins’s 1945 Interplay was set to Morton Gould’s 1943 American Concertette. And Igor Stravinsky’s Le sacre du printemps had its famous, riotous debut in Paris a hundred years ago last April. Read the rest of this entry »

by Mike Telin

HelmchenEvery time I play this piece I always see this incredible personality that Beethoven must have been,” German pianist Martin Helmchen says of Beethoven’s first piano concerto. “Writing a concerto like this for his debut on the Viennese stage as a pianist and a composer, and to be so daring and so original is really one of the most extraordinary things in music history.”

On Saturday, August 24, Martin Helmchen will make his Cleveland Orchestra debut at Blossom Music Center performing Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 1 under the direction of conductor David Afkham. The Concerto also includes Schubert’s Symphony in C major (The Great)and Beethoven’s Overture to Coriolan

Known as a performer possessing a “highly virtuosic yet unpretentious style,” Helmchen first gained international attention after winning the 2001 Clara Haskil Competition. His recent concerto debuts include performances with the Berlin Philharmonic and Herbert Blomstedt, the Vienna Philharmonic and Valery Gergiev, the London Philharmonic with Vladimir Jurowski and the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and Andris Nelsons. In 2011 he made his Tanglewood Festival debut with the Boston Symphony and Christoph von Dohnányi. And what are his thoughts about this week’s Cleveland Orchestra debut? “It’s so very exciting,” Helmchen told us by telephone from Berlin. “It’s one of the things that I when I look at my calendar it is a little bit unbelievable — it’s such a great opportunity.” Read the rest of this entry »

by Daniel Hathaway

CHEN-RaySometimes everything works together for the good. On Sunday evening, perfect weather, a gifted young soloist, an engaging program and an energized conductor all conspired to create a memorable evening at Blossom. The soloist was violinist Ray Chen, his vehicle was Vivaldi’s popular quartet of concertos, The Seasons (teamed up with Rossini’s irresistible La gazza ladra overture and Mendelssohn’s scenic Scottish symphony), and the podium was commanded by an old Blossom friend, the estimable Jahja Ling. A large crowd assembled on the lawn and the pavilion was two-thirds full.

Though Chen, who is Australian, playfully suggested beforehand that he might start with Winter and play The Seasons in Down Under order, he began with Spring, as is customary, immediately creating synergy with concertmaster Jung-Min Amy Lee and principal second violinist Stephen Rose in a delightful series of bird calls. Read the rest of this entry »

Cleveland Orchestra and Chorus

Today, The Cleveland Orchestra released details of its 2013-2014 Severance Hall season. Beginning in September, evening performances (except for the Fridays @ 7 events) will begin at 7:30 pm rather than 8:00, opera returns to Severance Hall with two performances of Janáček’s The Cunning Little Vixen in May, and three concerts will mark the 100th anniversary of the birth of Benjamin Britten (1913-1976).

Thursday, SEPTEMBER 19 at 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, SEPTEMBER 21 at 8 p.m.
Fabio Luisi, conductor
Hélène Grimaud, piano
Maureen McKay, soprano – Cleveland Orchestra debut

  • BEETHOVEN Piano Concerto No. 5 (“Emperor”)
  • MAHLER Symphony No. 4

Friday, SEPTEMBER 20 at 7 p.m.
Fabio Luisi, conductor
Hélène Grimaud, piano
KeyBank Fridays@7

by Mike Telin


The ClevelandWONG-Lisa Orchestra Youth Chorus will join conductor James Feddeck and the Cleveland Orchestra Youth Orchestra in concert on Sunday evening, March 10 at 7:00 pm at Severance Hall. The Chorus will sing Johannes Brahms’s Nänie and Howard Hanson’s Song of Democracy in the final performance of The Cleveland Orchestra’s “Make Music!” Week.


Lisa Wong, Assistant Director of Choruses for The Cleveland Orchestra, added the directorship of the Youth Chorus to her portfolio at the beginning of the current season. She is also in her fourth year on the faculty of The College of Wooster, where she directs the Wooster Chorus, the Wooster Singers, and teaches courses in conducting and music education. She has a long history of working with students of all levels from pre-Kindergarten to college. We spoke to her by telephone. Read the rest of this entry »

by Mike Telin


As partFranz-Robert of The Cleveland Orchestra’s “Make Music!” educational week, guest conductor Robert Franz will lead the orchestra in a special family concert titled “Symphony Under the Sea” on Friday, March 8 at 7:00 pm in Severance Hall. The concert includes selections from Handel’s Water Music, Glière’s Russian Sailor Dance, Wagner’s Overture to Thee Flying Dutchman, Britten’s Sea Interludes from Peter Grimes, Sousa’s Hands Across the Sea and Menken & Beck’s suite from Disney’s The Little Mermaid. Special guests will be the Singing Angels.


Just last week, Franz was named music director designate of the Windsor Symphony in addition to his posts as music director of the Boise Philharmonic and assistant conductor of the Houston Symphony. As well as receiving numerous honors for his work in education, Franz has authored his first children’s book with a CD entitled Stella’s Magical Musical Tour of America. The book, which Franz uses as a family concert theme, introduces children to classical music by incorporating various musical excerpts intertwined throughout the story of a girl’s journey in a hot air balloon. We spoke to him by telephone. Read the rest of this entry »

by Daniel Hathaway

Cleveland Orchestra music director laureate Christoph von Dohnányi has returned to Severance Hall this weekend to revive part of one of his pet projects, Hans Werner Henze’s opera The Bassarids, and to conduct Mahler’s first experimental venture into symphonic form. On Thursday evening, the orchestra and audience welcomed their long-time maestro back with a palpably warm reception. Dohnányi conducted the premiere of Henze’s Euripides-inspired opera at the Salzburg Festival in 1966 and led concert performances at Severance and Carnegie Halls in 1990. In 2005, at the conductor’s suggestion, Henze reshaped parts of the third act — where the action turns particularly dramatic — into an orchestral suite entitled Adagio, Fuge and Mänadentanz that covers a wide span of emotional territory in just half an hour. Read the rest of this entry »

by Daniel Hathaway

TheBlomstedt-Herbert-3 Cleveland Orchestra never fails to play at a high level, producing results that can make even an indifferent guest conductor look good. When the orchestra collaborates with someone as inspiring as Herbert Blomstedt, the outcome can be sheer magic. The second weekend of Blomstedt’s sojourn at Severance Hall treated audiences to luminous and revealing performances of symphonies by Mozart and Dvorak so well-known and so often played that they can seem as ordinary as the furniture in your living room.

For Mozart’s second g-minor symphony (No. 40), the 84-year old Swedish-American maestro scaled down the string section by one-half to two-thirds, discarded both baton and podium and led the ensemble from memory at stage level. Read the rest of this entry »

 by Daniel Hathaway

GuestBlomstedt-Herbert conductor Herbert Blomstedt is in a symphonic mood this weekend and next during his current appearances with The Cleveland Orchestra. Thursday evening’s program featured two of the most original works in the literature. Next weekend’s concerts include two of the most often played, but if Mozart’s No. 40 and Dvorak’s “New World” end up sounding as fresh and newly-composed as Nielsen’s No. 3 and Beethoven’s No. 7 did this week, we’ll have much to look forward to.

The Danish composer Carl Nielsen had a lot in common with his earlier Austrian colleague Anton Bruckner. Both grew up as country lads who combined native straightforwardness with the musical sophistication they acquired in Copenhagen and Vienna to produce highly original compositions that synthesized those two worlds. Both composers also built large structures out of simple but striking motives and seemed to exhaust all the possible permutations of those themes in the course of a symphonic movement (Beethoven started that, but Bruckner and Nielsen took the game to a whole new level). Read the rest of this entry »

by Daniel Hathaway

TheNoseda-&-La-Rosa Cleveland Orchestra’s 211th visit to the Oberlin Artist Recital Series in Finney Chapel last Friday evening featured two debuts: Gianandrea Noseda’s as guest conductor, and principal trombonist Massimo La Rosa’s as concerto soloist. Nino Rota’s sunny Trombone Concerto shared the program with two more emotionally complicated Russian works by Rachmaninoff and Prokofiev.

One of the pieces featured during Sergei Rachmaninoff’s visit to Severance Hall in 1942 was his 1907 tone poem, The Isle of the Dead, based on a symbolist painting by Arnold Böcklin so famous that the Swiss artist made five versions of it and reproductions, said Vladimir Nabokov, could be found hanging in every Berlin home. Rachmaninoff saw only a black and white photograph of the strange Toteninsel with its mysterious pair of figures in a boat, its rocky mausoleum and tall yew trees, before writing his work, but it took hold of his imagination strongly enough to inspire a 20-minute piece. Read the rest of this entry »

by Daniel Hathaway

TheUchida Mozart second in Dame Mitsuko Uchida’s new cycle of Mozart concertos with The Cleveland Orchestra features live performances of Nos. 9 and 21 recorded last April 5-7 in Severance Hall (the first recording in the series, including concertos Nos. 20 and 17 won a 2011 Grammy Award for best classical performance).

In his review of one of those live performances last season for this publication, Nicholas Jones wrote, “Sensitive and confident, utterly secure in passage work, energetic and lyrical by turns, she packed these familiar concertos with beauties, pleasures and surprises … Uchida’s rapport with the orchestra shone through the performances, which she conducted from the keyboard. Her style was part of the music’s rhythmic energy — playing a phrase, shooting up from the piano bench, her hands a-flutter as if they were finding notes in space in the active passages or, in the sombre parts, turned palm upwards as if imploring the gods (or the musicians?)”  Read the rest of this entry »

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