An Evening with the Cleveland Orchestra

Friday, 21 January 2011

On Thursday evening I had the op­por­tu­ni­ty to see the world-renowned Cleveland Orchestra per­form two works by Béla Bartók and a cou­ple of bonus works by Japanese com­posers. The tick­ets were free on the con­di­tion that I write about my ex­pe­ri­ence. It was Blogger’s Night. I had a great time the last time I had the op­por­tu­ni­ty to do some­thing like this, with Opera Cleveland & their pro­duc­tion of Falstaff, so I was anx­ious to get my first glimpse of Severance Hall & the Cleveland Orchestra in my 7 years liv­ing in Cleveland.

Concert Preview

I didn’t do a lot of home­work on any of this be­fore go­ing, but I did see that there was a con­cert pre­view about 20 min­utes be­fore the con­cert pre­view start­ed. My friend & I, brav­ing the ridicu­lous weath­er, ar­rived just af­ter the be­gin­ning, but I learned enough from the lec­tur­er that I felt that I had some­thing to hold on to and look for while lis­ten­ing to the mu­sic. I’m not a clas­si­cal mu­sic afi­ciona­do by any stretch, so I’m hop­ing to use that ig­no­rance as a strength in writ­ing this. I felt that the con­cert pre­view was im­per­a­tive for some­one, like my­self, who is un­fa­mil­iar with the mu­sic but wants to learn more about it. The pre­view was held in the Reinberger Chamber Hall at Severance Hall, a beau­ti­ful room filled with amaz­ing wood­work.

The Performance

The ac­tu­al per­for­mance be­gan short­ly af­ter the pre­view end­ed. Our tick­ets were high up in the bal­cony, but when you’re lis­ten­ing to an or­ches­tral per­for­mance, I don’t think where you sit is that im­por­tant. What is im­por­tant is that you’re ac­tu­al­ly in the venue when the per­for­mance starts. I had ducked out for a mo­ment to get a quick drink and in the in­ter­im missed the be­gin­ning. Then I found out that you’re not al­lowed back in once the mu­sic has start­ed. Thankfully a help­ful ush­er led me to a very high door and snuck me in so I could see a great ma­jor­i­ty of Toshio Hosokawa’s Woven Dreams. Watching the or­ches­tra was like look­ing at a slide un­der a mi­cro­scope, lots of or­gan­ic move­ment in con­cert.

The next piece, Bartók’s Piano Concerto No. 2, was (nat­u­ral­ly) less dy­nam­ic to watch, in­stead the great acoustics of Severance Hall made it seem as if the mu­sic was welling out of the very air. This piece was my least fa­vorite of the evening, al­though I don’t have any re­al rea­sons why that’s the case.

I re­al­ly en­joyed the sec­ond half of the pro­gram. Toru Takemitsu’s Garden Rain was well named, each in­stru­ment in the heav­i­ly-mut­ed brass en­sem­ble were rain­drops in the show­er. The evening fin­ished with Bartók’s Music for Strings, Percussion, and Celesta, which I was look­ing for­ward to for its Hungarian folk mu­sic in­flu­ences. I was not dis­ap­point­ed. I know that Cleveland has a strong Hungarian im­mi­grant pop­u­la­tion (I’d nev­er heard of pa­prikash be­fore I moved here), and it was kind of neat to know that the per­for­mance I heard was al­most 75 years to the day that it was first per­formed.

A Suggestion

I think there were a cou­ple hun­dred emp­ty seats in Severance Hall for this per­for­mance, and that’s a shame, be­cause every con­cert that the or­ches­tra puts on de­serves to be de­liv­ered to a packed house. I al­so no­ticed that the age of the crowd tend­ed to­ward the far side of mid­dle aged. I think it would be great if Severance Hall al­tered their tick­et prices a bit to at­tract a younger crowd. The cheap­est reg­u­lar ad­mis­sion tick­ets are $31, which is cov­er to a rock show and a night of beers for a lot of my friends. Extending the stu­dent dis­count to any­one un­der 30 would be a great way to get a younger crowd (many of which I know would like to ex­pe­ri­ence or­ches­tral per­for­mances and learn more about art mu­sic (a term which I find very trou­ble­some)) to fill the emp­ty seats and build a younger base of con­cert-go­ers for the fu­ture. I cer­tain­ly know I would have gone to see the or­ches­tra a few times in my 20s if I knew I could have picked up a tick­et for $10 when­ev­er a per­for­mance was up­com­ing.


I had a great time, en­joyed lis­ten­ing to and learn­ing about the mu­sic, ogling the beau­ty of Severance Hall and see­ing a side of Cleveland that was well-renowned but un­known to me.