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The Cleveland Orchestra’s 100th Season

100th season of The Cleveland Orchestra Photo by Roger Mastroianni

Franz Welser-Möst discusses the orchestra’s educational outreach programs
(c) Roger Mastroianni, courtesy of the Cleveland Orchestra

How many orchestras could draw 1,200 people to their concert hall without the ensemble even taking the stage? The Cleveland Orchestra can—and did—when they announced their centenary season with a gala event at Severance Hall on Friday, March 17. Along with the news were speeches from music director Franz Welser-Möst, executive director André Gremillet, the newly appointed president Richard K. Smucker, and orchestra musicians Massimo La Rosa (principal trombone), Martha Baldwin (cello), and Joshua Smith (principal flute), and celebratory short films.

Welser-Möst pointed out the duty of all involved to continue the orchestra’s long tradition of community involvement in building toward the future. He said that in all his travels around the world, he knew of no ensemble that had a closer relationship with its community, citing the organization’s educational programs and neighborhood outreach as long-running activities that other orchestras are now emulating. He also emphasized the orchestra’s insistence on producing meaningful art, and derided flashy “popularizing” of classical music as a missed opportunity to transform a listener’s life.

Prometheus, the Greek god who brought fire to humans, will be the overarching theme of the season, and Welser-Möst cited key pieces that changed the course of western music: Beethoven’s Eroica Symphony, Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde, and Stravinsky’s Le Sacre du Printemps, all of which will be performed. The season will close with “The Prometheus Project,” Welser-Möst’s first full Beethoven cycle, as a two-weekend festival in May 2018.

The season will open in September with a revival of Janáček’s The Cunning Little Vixen, the orchestra’s innovative mix of minimal staging and digital animation, brought stunningly to life by Yuval Sharon. Tristan und Isolde will be presented in concert featuring Gerhard Siegel and Nina Stemme in the title roles. Those performances headline an April 2018 mini-festival called “The Ecstasy of Tristan and Isolde,” interlaced with performances of Messiaen’s Turangalila Symphony (featuring Jean-Yves Thibaudet and Cynthia Millar) and a program of sacred music stretching from the Renaissance through Liszt (featuring Paul Jacobs), all conducted by Welser-Möst.

The music director’s other concerts include Mahler’s Sixth and Ninth Symphonies, Verdi’s ballet music from Don Carlo, and Haydn’s The Seasons. In October 2017, Welser-Möst will lead the orchestra on a European tour in Austria, France, Germany, and Luxembourg with works by Beethoven, Stravinsky, Mahler, and Janáček. (Details of tour dates and venues will be announced in the coming months.) In January 2018, the orchestra will return to New York’s Carnegie Hall to perform Mahler’s Ninth Symphony and Haydn’s The Seasons. Welser-Möst will also lead a spring tour with all-Beethoven performances in Vienna and Japan.

Guest conductors in the coming season include Cleveland Orchestra music director laureate Christoph von Dohnányi (Brahms Symphony No.1), Vladimir Ashkenazy (Elgar Enigma Variations), Charles Dutoit (Ravel Daphnis et Chloe), Alan Gilbert (Dvořák Symphony No.8), Fabio Luisi (Bruckner Symphony No.4), Michael Tilson Thomas (Tchaikovsky Pathetique Symphony), and Stéphane Denêve (Rachmaninoff Symphony No.2).

Especially interesting are some rare visitors to Cleveland’s orchestral repertory: Suk’s Asrael Symphony (led by Jakub Hrůša), suites from Rameau’s Dardanus and Gluck’s Don Juan (Nicholas McGegan), and Elgar’s Symphony No.2 (Nicholaj Znaider).

The roster of guest soloists is impressive, including Emmanuel Ax (Beethoven Piano Concerto No.1), Marc-André Hamelin (Mozart Jeunhomme Concerto), Sergey Khachatryan (Brahms Violin Concerto), Richard Goode (Mozart Piano Concerto No.18), Thomas Hampson (Haydn The Seasons), Mitsuko Uchida (Mozart Piano Concerti Nos. 5 and 27), Isabelle Faust (Mendelssohn Violin Concerto), Yefim Bronfman (Beethoven Emperor Piano Concerto), Daniil Trifonov (Prokofiev Piano Concerto No.2), Alisa Weilerstein (Barber Cello Concerto), and Jory Vinokour in the Cleveland premiere of Poulenc’s Concert champêtre.

Two former Daniel R. Lewis Young Composer Fellows will have new works featured in the centenary season. Johannes Maria Staud’s Stromab, inspired by Algernon Blackwood’s short horror story “The Willows,” (co-commissioned by the Cleveland Orchestra, Carnegie Hall, Vienna Konzerthaus, and the Royal Danish Orchestra) will receive its first Cleveland performance with Welser-Möst conducting. Julian Anderson’s Incantesimi (“Spells”) will be led by Christoph von Dohnányi. Fabio Luisi will lead the Cleveland premiere of a new piano concerto by Salvatore Sciarrino (co-commissioned by the Cleveland Orchestra, the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, and the Ensemble Intercontemporain) featuring Jonathan Biss as soloist. Paul Jacobs will be soloist for Grand Concerto for Organ and Orchestra by the late Stephen Paulus, with conductor Giancarlo Guerrero.

As part of the centennial season, the orchestra also announced the introduction of CODA, the Cleveland Orchestra Digital Archives, which will go online in autumn of 2017. Also previewed: a limited-edition chocolate bar, customized by the Sweet Moses Soda Fountain & Treat Shop in downtown Cleveland, featuring an imprint of Severance Hall. The commemorative treats—in dark and milk chocolate—will officially debut this fall, though event attendees on Friday were given first-run samples.

Season subscriptions are available at with single concert tickets going on sale in mid-August.

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