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.

Franz Welser-Möst

Musical Director Franz Welser-Möst

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.

Alan Harrell

Orchestra cellist from 1995-present

“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).

Orchestra and Traveling: an interview with Franz Welser-Möst

Vodpod videos no longer available.
-Extended interview with Alan Harrell (deadline limit was one minute)
-Review of Beethoven and Berg – Breathtakingly Close to Perfection


About SisyphusFalls

I have been writing ever since I could read, and before that simply using my imagination. I write, think and love deeply.

Posted on May 22, 2010, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.

  1. Linda Yanega

    Great article and interviews. Love the reporter! Can’t wait to see the rest.

  2. Larry (Grumps) Prahst

    I think FOX or CNN will be looking for ya’ll! VERY professional.

  3. How long has Most been Music Director? Sorry to say I don’t even know the name, but that doesn’t mean anything negative … I’ve never been much of a “groupie.” Can hardly keep the names of the apostles straight. 🙂 I do tend to forget how small a city Cleveland is to have had a top-ranked orchestra for so many years. I believe it was Philly, NY, Chicago, Cleveland, and maybe LA. Boston may rank in there with Cleveland now. And there’s a new 2nd-tier that includes the likes of rising orchestras like Buffalo, Baltimore, Kansas City, etc. St. Louis was probably somewhere in between. Anyway. This interview bit was fun from more than one perspective! I have little memory of the outside of Carnegie, but I did sing there with an amateur/semi-pro choir once: Beethoven’s 9th with the NYC Youth Orch. The magic inside is, well, magical. So glad you’re having this experience.

    • He’s been the director for 8 years. Before that, the director was Christoph Von Dohnyani, who is also the nephew of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. I still desperately want to meet him because his uncle is one of my favorite theologians and members of the German Resistance. If you get the chance to listen to the interview with Welser-Most, it’s fun and actually a little bit interesting 😉

      The funniest comment I heard was from my cellist friend regarding my recognizing Welser-Most on the street. Some of the people in this journalism program have seen celebrities since they’ve been here – I gawk when I run into my city’s orchestral musical director. My friend told me that while I may feel silly being perhaps the only person on the streets of NY to do that, I shouldn’t feel bad. When he goes back to Austria for concerts, people stare and gape in awe. He’s practically a celebrity there. I feel a little bit better. I love my city (in the great state of Ohio) and I love my orchestra! Thanks for reading!

  4. Really interesting writing. Honestly.

  1. Pingback: Cleveland's classical pride journeys to the house that music built … | austriatoday

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