Tuesday, September 30, 2008

my thoughts on the Cleveland Orchestra

This afternoon on the way home from work I caught this story on NPR's All Things Considered. It seems The Plain Dealer's long-time classical music critic is ceasing to be just that via possible 'demotion' for writing less than stellar reviews of the Cleveland Orchestera. Or at least that's what it looks like to most people, despite the refutations of the newspaper's editor.

Being a former resident of Cleveland and one who attended many, many Cleveland Orchestra concerts, I have a special attachment to all things Cleveland. I read The Plain Dealer regularly because it was delivered to my house every day. I also read Don Rosenberg's reviews of Cleveland Orchestra concerts with some degree of religiosity, especially since I was in attendance at a lot of those performances, even after college was over.

I like to brag that while in Cleveland, I got to hear quite a few famous musicians, including Alfred Brendel, Mitsuko Uchida, Vladimir Ashkenazy, and Joshua Bell. I was at a performance when it was learned that the great Robert Shaw had died, which prompted a spontaneous rendition of Wie lieblich sind deine Wohnungen (How lovely is thy dwelling place) from the Brahms Ein deutsches Requiem.

Christoph von Dohnányi was the Music Director back then. As a theory and composition major in college I was even fortunate to attend one of the master classes he occasionally gave down at Severance Hall. It was more like a lecture, but really, it was Dohnányi so who cares what it was? Back in those days, I used to watch him conduct the orchestra and fantasize that is was me up there on the podium, flailing my arms around, commanding those glorious harmonies to come forth. He was a fascinating, intense personality to observe in action.

When it was announced that Franz Welser-Möst would be taking over for Dohnányi in 2002, I admit I was shocked. Not long after, I went to a concert under the new direction. The difference in energy was noticeable. It wasn't as exciting or captivating, and I remember hearing similar complaints from friends. There was a reason why good old Franz Welser-Möst earned the nickname "Worse-than-Most" among us.

So, in summary, I agree with you, Don Rosenberg. I knew what you meant when you said, in your review of a performance of a Mozart symphony, that "the key of C had never sounded so mirthless." I hope everything works out for you. It's good to know there are people out there who still refuse to sacrifice honesty and integrity.


Mr. Nighttime said...

That guy who commented, Brad Kava, seems to have the inside scoop on the Plain Dealer's editor. If he is to be taken at his word, that editor is a real shit that had it out for Rosenberg. She reminds me of a lot of health care CEO's that, when hired in my old medical center, would essentially gut the hospitals in it of its best people, then drive it into the ground.

Sounds like the Plain Dealer is headed for the same fate as the Mercury News, and that is just plain sad.

Pamela said...

It's too bad. Rosenberg has been spot-on for years and years. The choice of Welser-Möst was surprising.

And you are completely correct: "It's good to know there are people out there who still refuse to sacrifice honesty and integrity." It seems the ranks are shrinking.

Mr. Nighttime said...

Thanks for the link to the Slate article. You were right, it was terrific.