|(Photo taken by my friend, Cliff)|
Every summer I try to make it to at least one performance of the Cleveland Orchestra at their summer home, Blossom Music Center. Blossom is located in the forested countryside between Cleveland and Akron.
Last Saturday, a friend and I had tickets for a concert. The concert was longer than usual, beginning at 7 PM and ending around 10. It began with a couple of pieces played by the Kent / Blossom Chamber Orchestra. Each summer a five week institute for professional music training is held for select students. It is operated by Kent State University in cooperation with the Cleveland Orchestra. The institute culminates with a performance at Blossom. The young musicians began the concert with a piece by the English composer Ralph Vaughn Williams based on British folk dances. Then they performed Mendelssohn's Symphony No. 4 (the "Italian Symphony").
After intermission, the Cleveland Orchestra took the stage. As good as the institute students were, once the seasoned professionals began to play, there was no mistaking that we were now listening to one of the greatest orchestras in the world. The orchestra was conducted by Jahja Ling, a favorite of Cleveland audiences. Mr. Ling was a longtime member of the conducting staff here, and he is now the music director of the San Diego Symphony. He frequently returns to Cleveland as a guest conductor, and it is always a joy to watch his enthusiastic direction.
They started with Rossini's lively overture to "The Barber of Seville". Next was the Violin Concerto No. 1 by Paganini, masterfully played by one of the orchestra's own violinists, Eli Matthews.
There was a another intermission, and then the two orchestras joined forces to play Dvorak's Symphony No. 9 ("From the New World"). The Czech composer wrote this work in 1892 while he was spending a year in the United States. The symphony is influenced by Native American dances and African-American spirituals. It has long been one of my favorites, and it was wonderful to hear this superb performance.
It was a great evening of music, and we are so fortunate to have this world-class orchestra here in Cleveland!