CLEVELAND ── On Thursday, September 20, 2018, Franz Welser-Möst, Music Director of The Cleveland Orchestra, will receive The Cleveland Orchestra’s twenty-third annual Distinguished Service Award. The Musical Arts Association, the non-profit governing organization of The Cleveland Orchestra, established the annual Distinguished Service Award in 1996 to recognize ongoing and extraordinary service to the Orchestra. Welser-Möst will receive the award at the Orchestra’s 2018-19 season opening concert at Severance Hall on September 20, beginning at 7:30 p.m. Under the direction of Welser-Möst, the first concerts of the 2018-19 season on September 20 and 22 feature the world premiere of a Cleveland Orchestra commission, Pantheon, by Cleveland Orchestra assistant principal oboist Jeffrey Rathbun; the United States premiere of Hans Abrahamsen’s Left, alone (for piano left hand and orchestra) with soloist Alexandre Tharaud; and a suite of selections from Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake.
“There is no one more deserving of this award,” says Richard K. Smucker, Board President of The Cleveland Orchestra, who is presenting the honor to Welser-Möst at Thursday’s concert. “It is incredibly fitting that Franz’s leadership and vision be recognized in 2018, during The Cleveland Orchestra’s 100th birthday year. His programming and philosophy for our Centennial Season was an extraordinary success. He so rightly understood that we should look forward in celebration, and not just to the past — that the Centennial’s focus would celebrate the community that created The Cleveland Orchestra. Who else would have dreamed up his vivid exploration of the call for justice that Beethoven wove into his music?”
“Across a hundred years, each Cleveland Orchestra music director has made a difference and unique contribution, with each building on the accomplishments of those before,” says André Gremillet, Executive Director of The Cleveland Orchestra. “It is clearer with each season that Franz is in the midst of transformative change and growth here, to lead this great Orchestra into a new century. He understands that these musicians, as a collaborative ensemble, have the right mindset and tools, of flexibility and curiosity, to change with the times — to continue as one of the world’s very best music ensembles, each and every year. Such success does not happen overnight; it takes concentrated and ongoing work, with the kind of visionary leadership that Franz is providing. The partnership between Franz and this institution continues to evolve with each passing season. The success of the Centennial shows that this collaboration is as strong as ever, with continuing potential for the years ahead.”
“Franz’s strong belief that The Cleveland Orchestra must harness the life-changing power of music to make the world a better place, to push the limits of our art to create deep, meaningful experiences, and to take risks, is pushing us to pursue new directions with our education and community initiatives, “says Joan Katz Napoli, Senior Director, Education and Community Programs of The Cleveland Orchestra. “His vision, to touch every child with music, has led to the creation of new programs that enable more children, especially those with the least access, to make music and reap its lifelong benefits and joys. And we have been energized by his belief in music’s innate ability to transcend differences and bring people together, to serve a broader and more diverse community through neighborhood initiatives and new concert formats.”
“I am humbled by this honor,” commented Franz Welser-Möst. “But in accepting such an award, I must share credit where credit is due. Everything has been a team effort. The Cleveland Orchestra works together, and works with focus and determination to always do more. The musicians on stage are my musical partners. The board of trustees and the staff make our work possible. And what can I say about this community? I believe there is no smarter, more generous, more musically knowledgeable audience in this country and maybe even anywhere in the world. Whatever greatness The Cleveland Orchestra has achieved is because of all the people here who believe in what music can do.”
“No one could have known, twenty-five years ago, or even ten years ago, just what a profound difference that Franz would make in growing and advancing The Cleveland Orchestra as a world-class orchestral ensemble and as one of Greater Cleveland’s bedrock cultural institutions,” added Smucker. “The partnership and collaboration between Franz and these musicians — and this community — grows deeper each year.”
Franz Welser-Möst first stood in front of The Cleveland Orchestra as a guest conductor at Severance Hall in February 1993. Announcement of his appointment as the ensemble’s new leader followed six years later, with his tenure as the seventh Music Director beginning in September 2002. Having envisioned and led the Orchestra through the tremendous success of the Orchestra’s Centennial Season, Franz now begins his seventeenth year of leadership and has, to date, clocked a quarter-century of collaboration with The Cleveland Orchestra.
Franz’s charge from the beginning was to carry the ensemble forward, to build on the past and drive into the future. His playbook has been to argue with passionate directness for music’s ongoing and renewed relevance in a changing world, and to nurture a welcoming spirit of collaboration among the artists on stage and the audiences engaged with the Orchestra’s music-making.
Building on the achievements of his predecessors, Franz has expanded the ensemble’s repertoire while further honing the Orchestra’s flexibility within increasingly diverse styles of modern music. The Orchestra’s long operatic tradition has been intensified, witnessing the return of compelling, fully-staged opera productions to Severance Hall.
From the beginning, Franz has understood the power of community and institutions partnering together — for the Orchestra to be more than a world-class musical ensemble, but to truly be Cleveland’s Orchestra, serving all the people in and around Cleveland.
His advocacy for equal access to quality music education has created annual in-school performances by The Cleveland Orchestra for the first time in decades, augmenting our ongoing School Concerts at Severance Hall with experiences in the students’ own neighborhoods. A series of interlocking initiatives aimed at families, children, and students has resulted in a notable increase of younger people attending performances, with 20% of Cleveland Orchestra classical audiences now aged 25 and younger.
During his first twenty-five years associated with The Cleveland Orchestra, Franz has conducted nearly a thousand concerts — two-thirds of these here at home in Northeast Ohio. He has conducted over 500 works by nearly 150 different composers, including 16 complete opera scores. He has led performances with the Orchestra in 75 cities on three continents, with the Welser-Möst/Cleveland partnership appearing to unparalleled acclaim in ongoing residencies and national tours, and across 18 international tours to date. Counting this weekend’s performances, he has conducted 20 world premieres and 16 United States premieres with The Cleveland Orchestra.
With a steady hand, admiring discernment, and focused guidance, Franz shaped The Cleveland Orchestra’s Centennial season to be a celebration not just of the institution and its music, but to illuminate and celebrate the community that created this world-class ensemble and has sustained it for a hundred years. He rewarded audiences with a challenging and energizing re-examination of Beethoven’s music in the political context of Beethoven’s own life and beliefs with The Prometheus Project. He set Wagner’s epochal love story of Tristan and Isolde into the context of varying ecstatic and transcendent musical traditions. He revisited touchstone symphonic works and juxtaposed them against new pieces — just as he does every year. Because he believes that each and every season should engage the minds, bodies, and spirit of audiences, and inspire everyone.
Franz believes in the power of music — to tell stories, to propel ideas, to rally communities together in times of joy and to comfort in times of sadness or upheaval, to inspire children, people, ideas, and collaborative action. He believes that The Cleveland Orchestra epitomizes the best music-making possible anywhere. Through plan, action, and deeds, he repeatedly demonstrates his dedication and devotion to the music, the musicians, and the audiences and communities we serve. He believes in giving his utmost to deliver extraordinary musical experiences in the concert hall, to engage and nurture today’s audiences and to inspire future generations.
About Franz Welser-Möst
A native of Austria, Mr. Welser-Möst is one of the world’s most distinguished conductors working today who maintains relationships with a number of other European orchestras and opera companies. In addition to his work in Cleveland, he leads performances each year with the world’s top ensembles and institutions, including the Vienna Philharmonic, Salzburg Festival, and Milan’s Teatro alla Scala. His 2018-19 schedule includes concerts with the Czech Philharmonic and Dresden Staatskapelle. In 2019, he leads performances of Mozart’s The Magic Flute in a new production directed by Yuval Sharon with the Berlin State Opera, and Strauss’s Ariadne auf Naxos at Milan’s Teatro alla Scala. From 2010 to 2014, Franz Welser-Möst served as general music director of the Vienna State Opera. Prior to his years with the Vienna State Opera, Mr. Welser-Möst led the Zurich Opera across a decade-long tenure, conducting more than forty new productions and culminating in three seasons as general music director (2005-08). In 2017, Mr. Welser-Möst was awarded the Pro Arte Europapreis for his advocacy and achievements as a musical ambassador. Other honors and awards include the Vienna Philharmonic’s “Ring of Honor” for his long-standing personal and artistic relationship with the ensemble, as well as recognition from the Western Law Center for Disability Rights, honorary membership in the Vienna Singverein, appointment as an Academician of the European Academy of Yuste, a Decoration of Honor from the Republic of Austria for his artistic achievements, and the Kilenyi Medal from the Bruckner Society of America. For more information on Franz Welser-Möst and to read his bio, please visit this link: https://www.clevelandorchestra.com/about/musicians-and-conductors/franz-welser-most/.
History of the Distinguished Service Award
The Musical Arts Association established the annual Distinguished Service Award in 1996 to recognize ongoing and extraordinary service to The Cleveland Orchestra. Recipients are chosen from written nominations reviewed by a committee currently chaired by Cleveland Orchestra Trustee Marguerite B. Humphrey. Previous Distinguished Service Award recipients are Dorothy Humel Hovorka (1996-97), David Zauder (1997-98), Ward Smith (1998-99), Christoph von Dohnányi (1999-2000), Gary Hanson (2000-01), John Mack (2001-02), Richard J. Bogomolny (2002-03), Thomas W. Morris (2003-04), Alex Machaskee (2004-05), Klaus G. Roy (2005-06), John D. Ong (2006-07), Gerald Hughes (2007-08), Louis Lane (2008-09), Clara Taplin Rankin (2009-10), Robert Conrad (2010-11), Richard Weiner (2011-12), Milton and Tamar Maltz (2012-13), Pierre Boulez (2013-14), James D. Ireland III (2014-15), Rosemary Klena (2015-16), Robert Vernon (2016-17), and Dennis LaBarre (2017-18).