Stories from the Archives

A series of explorations and stories from The Cleveland Orchestra's past and a look at traditions and innovations that inform the Orchestra's performances today.

2020

Still Second to None: On the Fiftieth Anniversary of George Szell’s Death

From his appointment as Musical Director and Conductor of The Cleveland Orchestra in 1946 until his death on July 30,1970, George Szell was the inescapable, dominating presence in Cleveland’s musical life.

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2019

The Mother of The Cleveland Orchestra: Adella Prentiss Hughes

This month, we celebrate the 150th birthday of Adella Prentiss Hughes, whose vision, determination, and largesse led to the founding of The Cleveland Orchestra in 1918.

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Opening the Doors: Celebrating 50 Years of Key and Family Concerts

From his appointment as Musical Director and Conductor of The Cleveland Orchestra in 1946 until his death on July 30,1970, George Szell was the inescapable, dominating presence in Cleveland’s musical life.

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A Gift Befitting Success: Wagner's Baton

Upon returning from its first European tour in 1957, The Cleveland Orchestra was greeted at Severance Hall by throngs of proud Clevelander – and an opulent baton purportedly used by Richard Wagner to conduct his first performance of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony in Vienna in 1843.

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Rychtarik’s Cleveland Operas: The Birth of Modern Stage Design

A romantic story of artistry if ever there were one, Richard Rychtarik’s rise to prominence as one of the world’s foremost stage designers traces a vibrant trajectory of displacement, disenfranchisement, ingenuity, and artistic conviction that revolves around Cleveland.

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Can a Grammy Spell Trouble?

At the twelfth annual awards ceremony in 1970, The Cleveland Orchestra under Pierre Boulez received its first Grammy for its recording of Debussy’s Images Pour Orchestra with Columbia Records. And although little ink seems to have been spilled on the accolade, plenty was said about what success in the recording industry would entail for performance back home.

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Stravinsky and the Fashion Revolution of 1916

In The Cleveland Orchestra Archives, a single scrapbook usually contains press clippings related to the better part of a season. But the press surrounding the promised arrival of the Ballet Russe occupies a book of its own.

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2018

A Holiday Favorite Gets a Twist: Robert Page and his Messiah Sing-Alongs

“Have you always secretly wanted to perform with The Cleveland Orchestra?” read the headline of a 1974 Plain Dealer article announcing Page’s plans to put on a sing-along of the iconic holiday work, a tradition carried on until 1984.

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The Szell Shell

As any player of Szell’s orchestra would attest, the conductor had an uncompromising ear grounded in a strong understanding of acoustics and sound technologies. Not even professional decorum precluded his implacable pursuit for the orchestra he envisioned.

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A “Martyred Opera” Comes to Cleveland

Perhaps no cultural history informs the modern political trajectory as well as that of opera. From its inception, governments and subversive factions alike have capitalized on the opera as a vehicle for allegorical commentary on urgent contemporary issues.

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Of "Monstrous Sounds" and Music History

“Good art lasts forever,” goes the age-old adage. It was in pursuit of the elusive recipe for timelessness that parodist and literary critic Cyril Connolly penned his 1948 Enemies of Promise, a how-to manual on creating immortal art. The primary ingredient, he concluded? Ugliness.

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2017

A Tale of Three Oboists

Philip Kirchner, Marc Lifschey, and John Mack. These three have helped shape the sound of The Cleveland Orchestra, and are legendary members of its history.

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2016

Bohuslav Martinů: Czech Composer, Citizen of the World, and Cleveland Favorite

“Have you always secretly wanted to perform with The Cleveland Orchestra?” read the headline of a 1974 Plain Dealer article announcing Page’s plans to put on a sing-along of the iconic holiday work, a tradition carried on until 1984.

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Photos from Finland: Sibelius, Szell, and The Cleveland Orchestra

Jean Sibelius’s Symphony No. 2 in D major is certainly a popular work — to date, The Cleveland Orchestra has performed the piece an impressive 152 times.

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A Song of Flight and Fire: Stravinsky’s Firebird

In 1982, to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Igor Stravinsky’s birth, the Junior Committee of The Cleveland Orchestra commissioned a children’s book based on his first ballet, The Firebird (1910).

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Oistrakh, Rostropovich, and Szell, Oh My!

The history of Johannes Brahms’s Concerto for Violin and Cello in A minor, Opus 102 is one of bringing people together through music.

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Miss Baldwin’s Opus: The Early History of The Cleveland Orchestra’s Education Programs

The Cleveland Orchestra’s involvement in music education programs is almost as old as the Orchestra itself.

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The Uchida Connection: Mitsuko Uchida’s Twenty-Five Year History with The Cleveland Orchestra

Her long connection with the orchestra began in September of 1990, when she performed Schoenberg’s Piano Concerto with the Orchestra under Christoph von Dohnányi at the Lucerne Festival in Switzerland.

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“Happy Birthday To You!”: Severance Hall Turns Eighty-Five

John L. and Elizabeth DeWitt Severance were the original founding donors of the Hall, pledging the seed money of one million dollars on December 11, 1928 at the Orchestra’s Tenth Anniversary Gala. However, shortly after the beginning of the fundraising campaign, Elizabeth Severance died unexpectedly of a stroke on January 25, 1929.

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2015

Hallelujah!: Handel’s Messiah and The Cleveland Orchestra and Chorus (1965-2015)

“Have you always secretly wanted to perform with The Cleveland Orchestra?” read the headline of a 1974 Plain Dealer article announcing Page’s plans to put on a sing-along of the iconic holiday work, a tradition carried on until 1984.

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Even Beethoven Was Once New: Commissions and Premieres with The Cleveland Orchestra

It’s hard to imagine it, but there was a time when Beethoven’s nine symphonies were not performed regularly, or even at all.

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A Signature is Worth a Thousand Words: The Cleveland Orchestra’s Guest Artist Autograph Book

Deep within the archives of The Cleveland Orchestra lies a set of large, unassuming books – until you open them, that is, and find a collection of signatures, messages, and illustrations by many of the leading musicians of the past century.

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Planes, Trains, and Automobiles: The Cleveland Orchestra on Tour

This isn’t the first time The Cleveland Orchestra has gone on tour; in fact, the Orchestra has been touring almost as long as it has been in existence.

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111 Year's Worth of Richard Strauss's Tone Poems in Cleveland

The symphonic poems of Richard Strauss (1864-1949) have been ubiquitous in the world of the symphony orchestra ever since he wrote his first major one, Don Juan (after the legend of the same name) in 1888.

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The Story of Two Pen Pals and the Emil Hess, Jr. Collection of Dvořák Memorabilia at Severance Hall

A stamp collector and a bakery owner began an unlikely friendship shortly after the end of World War II.

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From "Anarchistic Radical" to concert-hall favorite: Changing perceptions of Stravinsky and his ballet Pétroushka

In 1913, Claude Debussy proclaimed that Igor Stravinsky had "enlarged the boundaries of the permissible" in music.

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Remembering Ravel's Conducting Debut in Cleveland

Many great composers of the twentieth century have come to Cleveland at the invitation of The Cleveland Orchestra to conduct concerts of their own music. ...surely one of the most unforgettable was the time that Maurice Ravel came to town.

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From Score to Sound: Recording Rachmaninoff's Symphony in 1928

From 1923 to 1942 Rachmaninoff visited Cleveland at the invitation of the Orchestra to perform his three piano concerti and his Rhapsody on a Theme by Paganini.

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The Voice of the Orchestra

There is nothing quite like experiencing a live Cleveland Orchestra concert at Severance Hall. But for some, hearing the Orchestra in person is not a possibility, so listening to concerts over the airwaves is the next best thing.

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The Restoration of the Norton Memorial Organ

Many of us are familiar with the rich legacy of Severance Hall, built in 1931 as the home of The Cleveland Orchestra. But you might be surprised to find out that Severance Hall’s symphonic organ, known as the Norton Memorial Organ, has quite a history of its own as well.

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A Spotlight on Mahler's Sixth Symphony

Sometimes, composers continue to make drastic changes to pieces even after they are first performed. This was certainly the case with Mahler and his Symphony No. 6, where the composer made constant adjustments to the score in an effort to grapple with the piece’s intensely tragic ending.

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2014

Dancing Through Time: The Cleveland Orchestra and Ballet

A rare opportunity to witness the collaboration of two world-class performing forces is upon us in Northeast Ohio: The Joffrey Ballet will visit Cleveland once again in November 2014 to perform Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker with The Cleveland Orchestra.

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