The Cleveland Orchestra is the youngest of the Big Five orchestras, the 5 most important orchestras in the USA. I will show why the Cleveland Orchestra is a special orchestra with three facts.
1) The Cleveland Orchestra has always cared about young audiences
In 1921, just 3 years after the Cleveland Orchestra was founded, the orchestra played its first children’s concert. This was the beginning of a long series of concerts for children and young people from local schools. Many decades later, Cleveland developed its own concert format, the “Key Concerts,” to get people excited about classical music.
To this day, education activities remain a focal point of the Cleveland Orchestra’s work.
2) A conductor led the Cleveland Orchestra to world fame
Among conductors, one name in particular is associated with the Cleveland Orchestra to this day: George Szell. The Austro-Hungarian conductor, pianist and composer served as music director in Cleveland between 1946 and 1970. A period of 24 years is a really long tenure for a music director!
George Szell was known for his meticulous approach to his work and his not always easy character. It is undisputed, however, that he brought the Cleveland Orchestra to international prominence. Under Szell’s direction, the orchestra made its first concert tour to Europe in 1957. The Cleveland Orchestra also bridged the so-called “Iron Curtain” during that tour. Numerous high-quality recordings bear witness to Szell’s valuable work with the orchestra.
George Szell would probably have remained the music director of the Cleveland Orchestra much longer – had he not died unexpectedly in 1970. Shortly before his death, he had conducted the orchestra on a tour of Japan, Korea and Alaska.
3) The Cleveland Orchestra goes digital
In Cleveland, orchestral music is going digital: During the Covid 19 pandemic, the Cleveland Orchestra released the Adella app. This is a streaming service where both current and historical productions of the orchestra can be consumed. Similar to Opera Philadelphia, this adds a digital component to the Cleveland concert experience.
Now you’ve gotten to know the Cleveland Orchestra a little better. You can learn more about the other Big Five orchestras in the articles about the New York Philharmonic, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the Boston Symphony Orchestra and the Philadelphia Orchestra.