Cleveland’s classical pride journeys to the house that music built
By Hannah Yanega
NEW YORK CITY—Usually, one night stands are not bragging matters. For the Cleveland Orchestra’s performance of Beethoven and Berg at Carnegie Hall, the bragging should never cease.
The Cleveland Orchestra performed in Carnegie Hall Friday, May 21, for their annual part in the “Great Orchestras” concert series. The orchestra travels and performs all over the world including Japan, Austria, Switzerland, Florida and Italy.
“It’s wonderful to be able to show off what a great orchestra we have in a small city in the U.S,” said Ana Papakhian, director of communications for the Cleveland Orchestra. “The orchestra builds collegiality and camaraderie that comes with traveling and together it teaches them to listen well and benefit from the experience as a group.”
Before the orchestra’s arrival, an alert eye might have caught a distinguished face amid crowd of pedestrians on New York streets. Graying hair lifting in a gust from passing city traffic, Musical Director Franz Welser-Möst stands, arms crossed, reading over a promotional poster on the 56th street side of Carnegie Hall.
Dressed in blue jeans with a canary-yellow sweater draped loosely over his shoulders; he appeared relaxed 24-hours before his New York appearance.
In lieu of his immense responsibilities, Welser-Möst is glad that “fortunately, [unpacking] is not a part of my job description.” In a later interview, he explained how the popularity of the orchestra is evident through touring.
“Just last week, they opened tickets sales for Japan when we go in November and the first concert was sold out in one hour,” Welser-Möst said. “It tells you how much the orchestra is in demand. Traveling is simply getting the word out how great this orchestra is.”*
An orchestra member under Welser-Möst’s direction, cellist David Alan Harrell has been with Cleveland since 1995. Travel is a frequent part of his job, and pre-concert preparation can have some difficulties.
“The main difference in preparation is for people like me with bigger instruments,” said Harrell. “My cello gets shipped to New York, so I can’t practice the night before. Otherwise, preparation is pretty much the same.”
During his years of employment, he has experienced and performed in numerous music halls around the world. Still, none have the same nostalgic quality as The House that Music Built.
“The history of Carnegie Hall is very interesting,” said Harrell. “So many musicians have been here over the century that it has a whole new meaning to have that presence in New York.”
Towering far above the bustle of 7th Avenue, the rusty red-brick face of Carnegie doesn’t emanate the initial impression of grandeur associated with Severance Hall. Even without the luxury of outdoor space, though, Carnegie radiates an antique glow which reflects its rich history and renown in the musical world. Regardless of the location of a venue, Harrell emphasizes the importance of a quality performance.
“We try and always play for the music, not the place,” Harrell said. “We seek to give the same energy and approach to the music with the same integrity that we would if we were playing anywhere else.”
Alan Harrell took a few minutes to talk about what he finds most beneficial and enjoyable about touring with the orchestra.
*I was given the privilege of interviewing Franz Welser-Möst regarding orchestra touring and his role in the process. The excerpts from Beethoven’s symphony no. 3 are courtesy of Sony Classical Records (Cleveland Orchestra, 1991).
Vodpod videos no longer available.
-Extended interview with Alan Harrell (deadline limit was one minute)
-Review of Beethoven and Berg – Breathtakingly Close to Perfection