Bruckner & Adams with the Cleveland Orchestra at Blossom

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Once again, I was given the op­por­tu­nity to at­tend a per­for­mance of the world-renowned Cleveland Orchestra. This time it was at Blossom Music Center, there was a Meet the Musicians panel be­fore the per­for­mance, and a chance to meet the fea­tured vi­o­liniset, Leila Josefowicz, dur­ing in­ter­mis­sion. We were also plied with wine & hor d’oeuvres at both times; so, you know, bonus. The per­for­mance fea­tured pieces from John Adams and Anton Bruckner.

In my pre­vi­ous post, I com­plained a bit about the lack of rea­son­ably priced ticket op­por­tu­ni­ties to see the Orchestra and a lack of young folks. In the run up to at­tend­ing this per­for­mance, how­ever, I learned that see­ing the Cleveland Orchestra at Blossom is a fam­ily tra­di­tion for fam­i­lies all over the Northeast Ohio area; that’s a se­ri­ous perk of liv­ing near Cleveland. Growing up in the mid­dle of nowhere Indiana, there was never an op­por­tu­nity to see some­thing as spe­cial as the Cleveland Orchestra. It’s def­i­nitely some­thing I’ll be tak­ing my son to in the fu­ture. The acoustics at Blossom are ad­mirably suited to lis­ten­ing to the Orchestra, from any van­tage. At Severance Hall you sit in­side the mu­sic, at Blossom it washes over you.

I re­ally en­joyed the Meet the Musicians panel; hear­ing from Frank Cohen (clar­inet), Amy Lee (vi­o­lin), Stephen Rose (vi­o­lin) and Paul Yancich (tim­pani). Frank in par­tic­u­lar was charm­ing and had some great sto­ries to re­late about grow­ing up at­tend­ing or­ches­tral per­for­mances. All of the mu­si­cians spoke a bit about up­com­ing per­for­mances and their thoughts on the pieces and be­ing part of the or­ches­tra in gen­eral. When it was time for ques­tions I asked if any of the mu­si­cians could ex­pand on their for­ays into play­ing in non-tra­di­tional spaces, like the Happy Dog or in Ann Arbor, MI. Amy Lee has been ac­tive in that area and men­tioned that some or­ches­tra mem­bers have been try­ing to find a place to play on their night off dur­ing their up­com­ing trip to New York City, but were hav­ing dif­fi­culty find­ing a venue that would be cool with it. That’s re­ally stu­pid of you, New York.

Our box seats were top notch (of course), and the chance to kib­itz as the more mu­si­cally knowl­edge­able asked Leila Josefowicz ques­tions dur­ing the in­ter­mis­sion was an added bonus to what had al­ready been a won­der­ful evening. Post-in­ter­mis­sion was spent on the lawn with dozens and dozens of fam­i­lies and the sounds of Anton Bruckner’s 9th Symphony. It was a per­fect evening for clas­si­cal mu­sic. Many thanks to the Cleveland Orchestra for the in­vi­ta­tion.

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.