TCO Classics

July 2020 Edition: The prometheus Project

This edition of TCO Classics revisits Franz Welser-Möst’s “Prometheus Project” from 2018. The end-of-season festival brought together a discussion of modern, everyday heroes with Beethoven’s musical genius — showcasing Franz’s innovative approach to re-examining masterworks in the context of their own time and as ideas relevant to today.

BeethovenBeethoven's Nine Symphonies

May 10, 2018

Severance Hall

  • Beethoven Overture to The Creatures of Prometheus
  • Beethoven Symphony No. 1
  • Beethoven Symphony No. 3

The concert and festival begin with Beethoven’s Overture to the ballet The Creatures of Prometheus. After which, Franz Welser-Möst pairs Beethoven’s First Symphony — which he sees as a precursor to the famous Fifth — alongside the powerful Third, nicknamed “Eroica” or “Heroic.” In the First, Beethoven was already testing what a symphony could do. With the Third, he created an indisputable masterpiece, centered around the idea of heroism — as sacrifice, endeavor, achievement, and success.

  • Performers
  • The Cleveland Orchestra
  • Franz Welser-Möst, conductor
May 11, 2018

Severance Hall

  • Beethoven Overture to Egmont
  • Beethoven Symphony No. 4
  • Beethoven Symphony No. 7

Beethoven’s Seventh was famously likened to the spirit of the dance, but Franz Welser-Möst sees it as a symphony filled with all kinds of human movement — from walking to running, leaping and celebrating. The Fourth adds a humorous side to this concert, while the Overture to Egmont offers a more serious sense of fate and understanding.

  • Performers
  • The Cleveland Orchestra
  • Franz Welser-Möst, conductor
May 12, 2018

Severance Hall

  • Beethoven Overture to Coriolan
  • Beethoven Symphony No. 8
  • Beethoven Symphony No. 5

In the Fifth Symphony, Beethoven builds a musical journey from dark to light — mirroring Prometheus’s gift of fire (light, knowledge) to humanity. This is paired with the Eighth Symphony, which Franz Welser-Möst sees as a study in new ideas, a yearning forward in experimentation. The concert opens with the Coriolan overture, Beethoven’s tribute to a Roman consul whose life is filled with contradictions, with praise and derision.

  • Performers
  • The Cleveland Orchestra
  • Franz Welser-Möst, conductor
May 13, 2018

Severance Hall

  • Beethoven Symphony No. 6
  • Beethoven Symphony No. 2
  • Beethoven Overture to Leonore Overture No. 3

This concert features Beethoven’s famous depiction and celebration of humanity as one with nature, his masterful depiction of country life with the Sixth Symphony, nicknamed “Pastoral.” This is paired with the Second Symphony, which Franz Welser-Möst sees as a precursor to the jubilant Ninth. The concert ends with the exuberant and uplifting music of Leonore Overture No. 3.

  • Performers
  • The Cleveland Orchestra
  • Franz Welser-Möst, conductor
May 19, 2018

Severance Hall

  • Beethoven Grosse Fugue
  • Beethoven Symphony No. 9

The “Ode to Joy” finale of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony wraps up the Prometheus Project and provides a summary of Beethoven’s concept of the “fight for good.” In this music, he distilled Enlightenment thinking about the larger world, ending with Schiller’s text about brotherhood and understanding.

  • Performers
  • The Cleveland Orchestra
  • Franz Welser-Möst, conductor
  • Erin Wall, soprano
  • Jennifer Johnston, mezzo-soprano
  • Norbert Ernst, tenor
  • Dashon Burton, bass-baritone
  • Cleveland Orchestra Chorus

Martin Luther King Jr.A Modern Prometheus

Jan. 14, 2018

Severance Hall

  • Walker Lyric for Strings
  • Mendelssohn Lord God of Abraham

For four decades, The Cleveland Orchestra has celebrated the ideals and work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in an annual musical program that has also featured presentation of special community service awards. In 2018, we tied this concert into the larger Prometheus Project, highlighting King’s life as a modern Prometheus working to build a better and fairer society. The program featured guest artists and video segments produced in partnership with Cleveland’s ideastream/PBS.

  • Performers
  • The Cleveland Orchestra
  • Franz Welser-Möst, conductor
  • Ryan Speedo Green, bass-baritone
View Program Pages

Prometheus in Today's World

The Cleveland Orchestra’s Centennial season opened in September with a groundbreaking education concert built on Franz Welser-Möst’s “Prometheus Project” concept. Titled “A Hero’s Journey,” the presentation was witnessed by 2,000 students from the Cleveland Metropolitan School District, created as a unique collaboration between the Orchestra and Cleveland School of the Arts (whose 500+ students all attended). The concert’s themes — both musical and intellectual — were designed to inspire students to use their individual gifts to help change the world. Featured in the performance was a dance set to Beethoven’s Overture to the ballet The Creatures of Prometheus.

The lead dancer in this performance, portraying the role of Prometheus, was Cleveland School of the Arts student Demetrius Lee. He recently graduated from CSA and plans to pursue a career in dance performance at the Boston Conservatory, who has awarded him a President’s Scholarship.

On a Personal Note (Podcast)

French Horn Player Richard King shares his earliest memories of hearing Beethoven’s "Eroica" on the family phonograph and how the disc ended up shaping his destiny. (Hear More)

About The Prometheus Project

The Festival

The Prometheus Project was a special festival of concerts presented as the grand finale of The Cleveland Orchestra’s 2017-18 Centennial Season. It culminated in a series of performances on three continents, of all nine of Beethoven’s symphonies along with important overtures — in Cleveland, in Vienna, and in Tokyo.

On one hand, this was a celebration of Beethoven’s genius, paired with the incomparable artistry of The Cleveland Orchestra under Franz Welser-Möst’s direction. But it was also Franz showing us how he approaches great musical works — asking us to re-examine music we think we know by looking at it in the context of its time and in the context of what it means today.

The Metaphor

Prometheus was an important figure in Greek mythology. He was descended from the gods, but chose to disobey them in order to give humanity the gift of fire. As a metaphor across the centuries, that spark of fire came to symbolize many things: fire itself (for cooking and heating), as well as the spark of wisdom and learning, for making discoveries, for inspiration, and for the idea of advancing society forward for the common good. He became a symbol for making personal choices, as individuals and to help others. In Beethoven’s view, Prometheus represented the “fight for good” — advocating for justice, truth, equality, and individual freedom.

Additional Media

A number of resources were created to augment the festival, several of which are available online. The extensive program book features articles and program notes by Franz Welser-Möst, along with stories about Beethoven’s changing world, historic performance practice, the Enlightenment, suggested reading, and quotes by a diverse range of historic heroes:

Full Program Book

Archived Essays on Beethoven's Symphonies

Pre-Concert Discussion with Franz Welser-Möst

Chief Artistic Officer Mark Williams

Mark Williams’s awareness of classical music took hold gradually, starting from obligatory public school clarinet lessons in the 4th grade, and then with increasing interest as he noted similarities between the soundtrack for “Jaws” and the last movement of Dvořák’s “New World” Symphony. As a teenager watching a telecast from the Metropolitan Opera, his future career was suddenly clear.

As Chief Artistic Officer for The Cleveland Orchestra since 2013, Mark Williams works closely with Music Director Franz Welser-Möst in planning and programming the Orchestra’s concert seasons, tours, and education offerings each year. He previously served as Artistic Administrator of the San Francisco Symphony (2009-12), and began his career in artist management in New York with Columbia Artists Management and IMG Artists. A native of Ohio, Mr. Williams holds a bachelor of music degree in horn performance from the Cleveland Institute of Music and Case Western Reserve University, where his primary teachers were Cleveland Orchestra principal horn players Richard Solis and Richard King. He has also played in masterclasses and studied with former Metropolitan Opera Orchestra horn players Julie Landsman and Michelle Baker.

Arriving in August: The Best of Blossom

This summer, we find a new way to return to Blossom Music Center: through some of our most memorable performances drawn from its 50-year history.

Once a month, our current limited-time collection for TCO Classics will change along with a new theme, curated by Chief Artistic Officer Mark Williams. Get notified about next month’s edition by signing up for our free digital newsletter.

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