Cleveland Orchestra in 2019-20

Blossom Music Festival (c) Roger Mastroianni/Cleveland Orchestra

Cleveland Orchestra in 2019-2020 

The Cleveland Orchestra and Music Director Franz Welser-Möst announced details of their 2019-2020 season, with 76 concerts over 26 weeks. One significant highlight includes a festival designed to explore music and art that was banned, marginalized, and destroyed during the Nazis’ Degenerate Art movement, and the continuing impact of censorship on creative expression in society today. The festival will center on Alban Berg’s Lulu, one of the 20th century’s most influential operas, and includes partner programming with area arts institutions.

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The season also features Welser-Möst’s continuing rediscovery of rarely performed symphonies by Schubert and Prokofiev, orchestra debuts by eight guest artists, first-time orchestra performances of a dozen works, and the world premiere of two compositions from Bernd Richard Deutsch and Oded Zehavi, both Daniel R. Lewis Young Composer Fellows. As part of Deutsch’s existing fellowship, Okeanos (for organ and orchestra) will receive its first United States performances, along with a new work to be announced. Zehavi will contribute a new piccolo concerto.

In addition, the orchestra will present works by six other living composers — John Adams, Thomas Adès, Louis Andriessen, John Harbison, Olga Neuwirth and Michael Tilson Thomas — plus 20th-century works by American composers George Antheil and Florence Price.

‘One of the highlights of this next season is the opera, Lulu,’ said Welser-Möst. ‘It is an intense piece and a challenging work both musically and in its subject matter. Yet this kind of programming is successful in Cleveland because we have such an extraordinary, adventurous, and open audience. Each season, we program to challenge those of us on stage, but also to challenge the audience — to deepen their curiosity and to develop their interest in discovering new things.

‘Just as we did a year ago with Wagner’s Tristan and Isolde, we are creating a festival around Berg’s Lulu. Together we will look at the relationship of art and politics in Berg’s lifetime — of how certain music in the 1920s and ‘30s was politically abandoned and prohibited. We are featuring works by Schulhoff, Krenek, and others — works that the Nazis labeled ‘Entartete Musik’ or Degenerate Music. It was a period of autocratic, authoritarian regimes who condemned any artistic expression outside of their narrow view with a heavy hand. Artists and their work were prohibited through censorship. Just as the character of Lulu is abused and abusive in her own way, we will look into how music and art can be abused by a system — and how a system can turn people on one another. These are important topics, not only from the past, but in today’s world.

‘We live in a time where angst is more and more a part of everyday life all over the world. One of the key elements of political populism is that there must always be a scapegoat — there is always someone, a group of people, or an idea to blame. For instance, Berg’s score to Lulu includes jazz elements — and jazz at the time of the 1920s and ‘30s was not widely accepted as ‘real’ art. Jazz musicians, black musicians, and minority composers were too often viewed as not having any value for society. So with this festival we are featuring jazz music, and other music, including a classical piece by the African-American composer William Grant Still. What we are doing is looking at great music, at great art, that was marginalized for all the wrong reasons.’

The term ‘Degenerate Art and Music’ (Entartete Kunst und Musik) refers to a movement that was instigated across Germany during the decade before WWII. In addition to banning art, music, and literature that didn’t conform to the Third Reich’s idea of classical beauty, the Nazi Party held a series of widely-attended public exhibitions providing examples of art and music it believed was harmful or decadent — due to Jewish, Communist, African American, Modernist, and other minority influences.

For this festival, The Cleveland Orchestra is collaborating with distinguished arts organizations from across Northeast Ohio, including the Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland School of the Arts, Cleveland Public Library, and Cleveland Institute of Art Cinematheque, to co-present associated programming, film screenings, and education programs. These partnerships will form a city-wide festival to inspire reflection and dialogue around ‘Degenerate Art and Music’ and the effects of weaponizing art todayThe events will illustrate how artists and their work were affected by stringent political control, prejudice, and propaganda during the years around the Second World War and to what extent these conditions continue to exist in present-day society. Further details will be announced later in 2019.

The orchestra will perform Lulu (two-act version) in concert on May 16, 19, and 22, 2020. This will be the orchestra’s first time presenting the work, with a cast of acclaimed vocalists: soprano Barbara Hannigan (Lulu), tenor Rainer Trost (Painter) in his orchestra debut, baritone Bo Skovhus (Dr. Schön), tenor Norbert Ernst (Alwa), bass John Tomlinson (Schigolch), also in his orchestra debut, and mezzo-soprano Jennifer Johnson Cano (Countess Geschwitz).

Further concerts will focus on Germany during the 1930s and ‘40s, when jazz musicians were subject to prejudice and intolerance. A May 15 program focuses on works by jazz composers or works influenced by the genre, including selections from Mary Lou Williams’s Zodiac Suite (1945), additional solo works with pianist Aaron Diehl, and Martinů’s Jazz Suite (1928). Also scheduled is George Antheil’s Ballet mécanique, presented with its corresponding Dadaist and semi-abstract art film, created by Fernand Léger in collaboration with moviemaker Dudley Murphy, with cinematographic input from Man Ray.

On May 23, a concert will draw connections to ‘Degenerate Music’ through the lens of racial, ethnic, and religious persecution. William Grant Still, considered the dean of African-American composers, wrote his Poem for Orchestra in 1944, commissioned by the orchestra from the Kulas American Composers fund. Still’s wife, Verna Arvey, said it was ‘inspired by the concept of a world being reborn spiritually after a period of darkness and desolation.’’ Czech composer Ernst Krenek’s Die Nachtigall (1931), which includes text of Karl Kraus’s poem by the same name, will be performed by the orchestra for the first time with soprano Barbara Hannigan. Another Cleveland premiere will be Erwin Schulhoff’s Symphony No. 5 (1938-39), which has been called ‘…a full palette of musical passages suggesting tension and forebodings, and, in keeping with the aesthetic of socialist realism, an overriding sense of hope for the future.’

Additional works performed for the first time by the orchestra include five written by living composers: Olga Neuwirth’s Masaot/Clockswithout Hands, Thomas Adès’s Piano Concerto, Louis Andriessen’s Agamemnon, John Adams’s On the Transmigration of Souls, and a new work by Michael Tilson Thomas, conducted by the composer.

The 2019-20 season also features guest artists with longstanding collaborative connections with the orchestra, including pianists Yefim Bronfman, Kirill Gerstein, Jean-Yves Thibaudet, Yuja Wang; violinist Leila Josefowicz; cellist Truls Mørk; vocalists Dashon Burton, Jennifer Johnson Cano, Barbara Hannigan, and Martina Janková; and conductors Herbert Blomstedt, Alan Gilbert, Jakub Hrůša, Jahja Ling, Nicholas McGegan, Matthias Pintscher, Michael Tilson Thomas, and Nikolaj Szeps-Znaider.

In October 2019, the orchestra makes its 225th and 226th appearances at Carnegie Hall, including the third time (previously, 2000 and 2006) the ensemble has launched Carnegie’s season with the opening night gala. On October 3, Welser-Möst and the orchestra will celebrate Beethoven’s 250th birthday with Bronfman, violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter, and cellist Lynn Harrell in Beethoven’s Triple Concerto. Mutter will also be featured in Beethoven’s Romance for Violin and Orchestra, and the evening includes the overture to Nicolai’s The Merry Wives of Windsor and the suite from Richard Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier. On October 4, Welser-Möst and the orchestra return with Mahler’s Fifth Symphony, and Bronfman in Trauermarsch, written expressly for the pianist by Jörg Widmann, holder of Carnegie Hall’s Richard and Barbara Debs Composer’s Chair.

In the spring of 2020, the Cleveland Orchestra will embark on its 53rd international tour—its 20th with Welser-Möst—travelling to Europe, with details to be announced later in 2019. In January 2020, the orchestra will travel to Florida for its 14th residency program and a series of concerts at Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami-Dade County. The ensemble’s domestic touring also features a January performance in Naples at Artis-Naples’ Hayes Hall.

Every summer at Blossom Music Center in Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Ohio, the Cleveland Orchestra takes up residence, and the 2019 festival line-up has been announced. Standard favorites such as patriotic outings, pop evenings, and live film scores will return, along with a number of classical programs.

Festival favorite Jahja Ling will return to lead Tchaikovsky’s Fourth Symphony. Other major works include the Sibelius Fifth (with conductor Klaus Mäkelä), Debussy’s Images (Pablo Heras-Casado), Elgar’s Enigma Variations (Bramwell Tovey), Brahms’s Symphony No.1 (Asher Fisch), and Rachmaninoff’s Symphonic Dances (Vinay Parameswaran).

Soloists will include violinists Daniel Lozakovich (Bruch 1) and Jung-Min Amy Lee (Barber), pianists Aaron Diehl (Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue), Conrad Tao (Prokofiev 3) and Francesco Piemontesi (Beethoven’s Emperor), cellist Gautier Capuçon (Saint-Saëns), guitarist Pepe Romero (Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjuez), and soprano Jennifer Johnson Cano (Bernstein’s Jeremiah Symphony). The last three will be making their Blossom Festival debuts.

A handful of more adventurous works are afoot, including a welcome return of Zemlinsky’s Die Zeejungfrau (The Mermaid) conducted by Andrey Boreyko, making his Blossom debut. Though written in the early 1900s, Die Zeejungfrau did not receive its United States premiere until 1987 with Christoph von Dohnányi and the Cleveland Orchestra. It has since then become the composer’s most often performed work. Liszt’s sixth symphonic poem, Mazeppa, will be heard led by Asher Fisch, and the orchestra’s assistant conductor Vinay Parameswaran will feature Ives’ Decoration Day and Bernstein’s Jeremiah Symphony.

Independence Day weekend will see a pair of band concerts led by Loras John Schissel, and Roderick Cox leading an evening with Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture, Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite, Bernstein’s On the Waterfront Suite, and Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue. Pops fare includes a concert with Noel ‘Paul’ Stookey and Peter Yarrow; a salute to Aretha Franklin starring Capathia Jenkins, Brian Wilson presenting the Beach Boys album Pet Sounds; and a concert version of Rogers and Hammerstein’s The Sound of Music in collaboration with the Baldwin Wallace Music Theater program. Two films, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone and Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, will be projected with the orchestra playing the John Williams soundtracks live in concert.

The orchestra’s Summers@Severance concerts contain mostly different programs from the Blossom Festival. Music director Franz Welser-Möst will lead a performance of Prokofiev’s Sixth Symphony, paired with Mahler’s Songs of Wayfarer featuring baritone Ludwig Mittelhammer. Matthew Halls will direct Mozart’s Mass in C minor, and Osmo Vänskä will pair Barber’s Symphony No.1 with Mendelssohn’s Italian Symphony. Pablo Heras-Casado and Pepe Romero will reprise a shortened version of their Blossom program.

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