Cleveland Orchestra

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The Cleveland Orchestra
Cleveland Orchestra logo.svg
Founded1918; 101 years ago (1918)
LocationCleveland, United States
Concert hallSeverance Hall
Music directorFranz Welser-Möst

The Cleveland Orchestra, based in Cleveland, is one of the five American orchestras informally referred to as the "Big Five".[1] Founded in 1918 by the pianist and impresario Adella Prentiss Hughes, the orchestra plays most of its concerts at Severance Hall. As of 2017, the incumbent music director is Franz Welser-Möst.

In 2012 Gramophone Magazine ranked the Cleveland Orchestra number 7 on its list of the world's greatest orchestras, and The New York Times referred to the orchestra in 2018 as "America's most understatedly amazing orchestra."[2][3]


The orchestra was founded in 1918 by Adella Prentiss Hughes, with Nikolai Sokoloff as its principal conductor. From early in its existence, it toured throughout the eastern United States, made radio broadcasts, and recorded many albums. Subsequent principal conductors, with the title of Music Director, were Artur Rodziński (1933–1943), Erich Leinsdorf (1943–1944), and George Szell (1946–1970). Szell's music directorship has been largely credited for the orchestra's rise to eminence.[4][5] He reformed the orchestra in the late-1940s, firing a dozen musicians in the process with a dozen more leaving of their own volition.[4] Szell is also credited with giving the orchestra its distinct, European sound.[4] He pushed an ambitious recording schedule with the orchestra, bringing its music to millions worldwide. Szell's influence has continued, even decades after his death. Former principal horn Myron Bloom commented on Szell:

"He got the reputation of being difficult not because he was a tyrannical, impossible person, but for one reason only: The music came first."[6]

Subsequent music directors were Pierre Boulez, who served as Musical Advisor to the orchestra after Szell's death, from 1970 to 1972. Lorin Maazel then became music director, from 1972 to 1982. Christoph von Dohnányi was music director from 1984 to 2002, and now has the title of conductor laureate with the orchestra. The orchestra's current music director is Franz Welser-Möst, who has been Music Director since 2002. The orchestra announced the most recent extension of Welser-Möst's contract in September 2019, through the 2026-2027 season.[7][8]

In addition to a vast catalog of recordings created with the ensemble's music directors, the orchestra has made many recordings with guest conductors Vladimir Ashkenazy, Oliver Knussen, Kurt Sanderling, Yoel Levi, Riccardo Chailly, George Benjamin, Roberto Carnevale, Riccardo Muti, Michael Tilson Thomas, and Louis Lane (the orchestra's longtime Associate Conductor). Past assistant conductors of the Cleveland Orchestra include Matthias Bamert, James Levine, Alan Gilbert, James Judd and Michael Stern.


Severance Hall, the orchestra's home since 1931.

Severance Hall is the Cleveland Orchestra's home. It was built for the orchestra in 1931. The orchestra performs the majority of its concerts at Severance and also uses the hall for rehearsals and to house their administrative offices. The concert organ there is by Ernest M. Skinner IV-94.

During the summer months, the orchestra presents their annual Blossom Festival at the Blossom Music Center in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio. Until 2005, the Blossom Festival had its own music director. The last person to serve in that capacity was Jahja Ling. After he stepped down from that position, the orchestra eliminated the post, and now has current music director Franz Welser-Möst in charge of the classical music concerts at the Blossom Festival.[9]

The orchestra also has long-term performing relationships in Lucerne, Vienna, New York City, a residency in Miami, and has conducted multi-concert tours on the West Coast off and on since the 1960s.[10]

Music directors[edit]

Daniel R. Lewis Young Composer Fellows[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Michael Walsh (1983-04-25). "Which U.S. Orchestras are Best?". Time. Retrieved 2008-03-26.
  2. ^ The world’s greatest orchestras |
  3. ^ Zachary Woolfe (2018-04-27). "An Orchestra's Ecstatic, Once-in-a-Lifetime Birthday Party". The New York Times. Retrieved 2018-04-27.
  4. ^ a b c "The Glorious Instrument". Time. 22 February 1963. Retrieved 2007-07-15.
  5. ^ Michael Walsh (1994-01-01). "The Finest Orchestra? (Surprise!) Cleveland". Time. Retrieved 2007-07-15.
  6. ^ Michael Cooper (2019-09-27). "Myron Bloom, Revered French Horn Player, Is Dead at 93". The New York Times. Retrieved 2019-09-29.
  7. ^ "The Cleveland Orchestra and Music Director Franz Welser-Möst extend acclaimed partnership to 2027" (Press release). The Cleveland Orchestra. 21 September 2019. Retrieved 2019-09-29.
  8. ^ Zachary Lewis (2019-09-21). "Cleveland Orchestra extends Welser-Most contract, reveals plans for next five years". Cleveland Plain Dealer. Retrieved 2019-09-29.
  9. ^ Valerie Scher (2005-09-04). "Ling bids farewell to fest: 'It is time for me to move on'". The San Diego Union-Tribune. Retrieved 2007-07-15.
  10. ^ "The Cleveland Orchestra and Miami Performing Arts Center announce 10-year agreement for annual residency appearances" (Press release). 2005-05-09. Archived from the original on 2006-05-16. Retrieved 2007-07-15.
  11. ^ "The Cleveland Orchestra to give world premiere performances of Topos by Anthony Cheung at May 18 and 20 concerts". Retrieved 8 February 2018.
  12. ^ "The Cleveland Orchestra announces 101st Season for 2018-2019". Retrieved 16 April 2018.

Further reading[edit]

  • Rosenberg, Donald (2000). The Cleveland Orchestra Story. Cleveland: Gray & Company. ISBN 1-886228-24-8.

External links[edit]