Cleveland Orchestra

The Cleveland Orchestra
Orchestra
Severance Hall front, Cleveland, Ohio.jpg
Founded1918
Concert hallSeverance Hall
Principal conductorFranz Welser-Möst
Websitewww.clevelandorchestra.com

The Cleveland Orchestra, based in Cleveland, is one of the five American orchestras informally referred to as the "Big Five".[1] Founded in 1918 by the pianist and impresario Adella Prentiss Hughes, the orchestra plays most of its concerts at Severance Hall. As of 2017, the incumbent music director is Franz Welser-Möst.

In 2012 Gramophone Magazine ranked the Cleveland Orchestra number 7 on its list of the world's greatest orchestras, and The New York Times referred to the orchestra in 2018 as "America’s most understatedly amazing orchestra."[2][3]

History

The orchestra was founded in 1918 by Adella Prentiss Hughes, with Nikolai Sokoloff as its principal conductor. From early in its existence, it toured throughout the eastern United States, made radio broadcasts, and recorded many albums. Subsequent principal conductors, with the title of Music Director, were Artur Rodziński (1933–1943), Erich Leinsdorf (1943–1944), and George Szell (1946–1970).

From 1964 to 1965, James Levine served as an apprentice to Szell with the Cleveland Orchestra, and then served as its assistant conductor until 1970.[4][5]

Subsequent Music Directors were Pierre Boulez (Musical Advisor 1970-1972), Lorin Maazel (1972–1982), and Christoph von Dohnányi (1984–2002). Franz Welser-Möst has been Music Director since 2002 and is contracted to remain through the 2021-2022 season.[6][7]

Szell's long reign as Music Director has been largely credited for the orchestra's rise to eminence. He reformed the orchestra in the late-1940s, firing a dozen musicians in the process with a dozen more leaving of their own volition.[8] Szell is also credited with giving the orchestra its distinct, European sound.[8] He pushed an ambitious recording schedule with the orchestra, bringing its music to millions worldwide. Szell's influence has continued, even decades after his death.

Cleveland is the smallest city amongst the traditional "Big Five" orchestras; the others are based in Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and Chicago. However, musicians in Cleveland are often treated as local celebrities, and, much like sports heroes elsewhere, fans seek autographs after performances and greet musicians on the street. Clevelanders are proud that their city boasts an orchestra that has several times been touted as America's finest, and compared favorably to many of the great orchestras in Central Europe.[8][9] In the 1960s fans were known to "have airport rallies when the orchestra comes home from tour [and] chant, 'We're the best! We're the best!' and carry placards reading 'Bravo!'" [8]

In addition to a vast catalog of recordings created with the ensemble's music directors, the orchestra has made many recordings with guest conductors Vladimir Ashkenazy, Oliver Knussen, Kurt Sanderling, Yoel Levi, Riccardo Chailly, Michael Tilson Thomas, and Louis Lane (the orchestra's longtime Associate Conductor). Past assistant conductors of the Cleveland Orchestra include Matthias Bamert, James Levine, Alan Gilbert, James Judd and Michael Stern.