The Cleveland Orchestra is Cleveland’s cultural jewel. Called “the finest in America” in 2005 by The New York magazine, the Cleveland Orchestra continues its history of excellence into its 90th season under the musical director of Franz Welser-Möst. The orchestra is considered one of the “Big Five” American orchestra and often cited as the most European among them.
Over the years, the Cleveland Orchestra has amassed a vast catalog of recordings and it still tours frequently, with long-standing relationships with New York City, Lucerne, Vienna, and Miami. When in town, the Cleveland Orchestra plays at the lovely and acoustically perfect, Severance Hall in Cleveland’s University Circle neighborhood. In the summers, the orchestra retreats to Blossom Music Center in Cuyahoga Falls, between Cleveland and Akron.
History of the Orchestra
The orchestra was founded in 1918 by Adella Prentiss Hughes under the musical direction of Nikolai Sokoloff. Gray’s Armory in downtown Cleveland was the Orchestra’s home for the first season after which time it moved to the Masonic Auditorium. The Cleveland Orchestra moved in 1931 to its permanent home, Severance Hall, a gift of Cleveland businessman, John L. Severance as a memorial to his wife.
Franz Welser-Möst is the Orchestra’s eighth music director. Noted among his predecessors is George Szell, music director between 1946 and 1970. It is Szell who is credited with bringing the Cleveland Orchestra to world-class excellence and he also established the Cleveland Orchestra Chorus. More recently, Christoph von Dohnayni, music director between 1984 and 2002, added a more contemporary element to the Orchestra’s repertoire. He also oversaw the complete refurbishment of Severance Hall in the late 1990s and the re-installation of the building’s original Norton Memorial chord organ.
Attending a Performance
Between September and June, the Cleveland Orchestra performs each Thursday, Friday, and Saturday that the ensemble is in town, with a short break for the December holidays. They also offer occasional Sunday matinee performances. Tickets are easily obtained at the Severance Hall box office, by phone, or online . Single performance tickets range from around $25 to $52. Student tickets are available for $10. There are also a variety of subscription packages, which offer a slight discount as well as guarantee the same seats for each performance.
Summers at Blossom
During the summer months, the Cleveland Orchestra performs on the weekends at Blossom Music Center, a delightful open-air amphitheater, located in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. This relaxed facility has covered acoustically correct seating as well as seating across the sweeping lawn. It is popular to pack a picnic dinner and spend an evening listening to the Orchestra. Also popular are the July 4th Pops concerts, which always end with Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Orchestra accompanied by fireworks.
The Cleveland Orchestra supports the community that supports them by holding periodic free neighborhood concerts throughout the year, the most notable of which is the July 4th weekend concert in front of the Terminal Tower on Public Square.
(last updated 2-29-08)