May 13, 2019
Upon returning from its first European tour in 1957, The Cleveland Orchestra was greeted at Severance Hall by throngs of proud Clevelanders. Led by Collinwood High School’s marching band, the cheering crowds unanimously hailed George Szell’s project a success. But the honors didn’t stop there — the jewelry firm Charles S. Rivchun & Sons Company was compelled by the occasion to give one of its most expensive pieces, an opulent baton purportedly used by Richard Wagner to conduct his first performance of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony in Vienna in 1843.
Encrusted with more than 1,200 Bohemian garnets set in sterling silver, the teakwood baton’s tip is decorated with an ivory carving of a scroll-wielding hand. On presenting the gift to concertmaster Josef Gingold, Louis B. Seltzer, editor of The Cleveland Press, passed along Rivchun’s commendations of the orchestra’s tour: “We hope this baton will be displayed in Severance Hall to remind Clevelanders constantly and forever of the momentous good-will mission accomplished by the orchestra.” The baton, valued at $5,000 in 1957 (roughly $45,000 in 2019) was a fitting honor for the orchestra, which had astounded international crowds during twenty-nine concerts in twenty-two cities over a span of forty days.
George Szell shows baton to Central National Bank President James N. Nance in 1965.
Wagner’s jeweled baton is presented to Concertmaster Josef Gingold by Editor Louis B. Seltzer of The Cleveland Press.
Sanford Richun, of Charles S. Rivchun & Sons, shows the baton his firm donated.
The baton purportedly used by Richard Wagner to conduct his first performance of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony in Vienna in 1843. The baton’s tip features an ivory carving of a hand holding a scroll.
In this photo of the same piece, the baton’s 1,200 bohemian garnets appear in the foreground.