An Evening with the Cleveland Orchestra

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.