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The Miami Herald’s Lawence Johnson reports here that Christoph von Dohnanyi, music director of The Cleveland Orchestra for 18 years from 1984, will sweep through Miami on his farewell tour with The Philharmonia.

Dohnanyi rightly receives his due in Johnson’s piece: “… in many ways, the corporate tonal refinement and tightly disciplined ensemble are the legacy of the 78-year-old intellectual maestro who led the orchestra for almost two decades.”

Music Director Franz Welser-Moest inherited an orchestra at the peak of its game. We can – and should – thank Christoph von Dohnanyi for that. Let no one ever diminish the sheen of his legacy.

Yet it’s important to remember the deep origins of the Cleveland sound – notably, the chamber music precision and ensemble that are this orchestra’s hallmarks. Ironically, one could argue that we have one of history’s most nefarious dictators to thank for it. Had it not been for Adolph Hitler’s insanity and the nightmare of World War II, George Szell might not have emigrated to the US, or taken the helm of an orchestra in Cleveland, Ohio.

Franz Welser-Moest is building his own rewarding Cleveland musical legacy, just as Christoph von Dohnanyi did. For that we can be deeply grateful. But even though most of the musicians are now too young to have played under George Szell, his voice still sings softly from every chair on the Severance Hall stage. Northeast Ohio’s music lovers will never forget him, this Vienna-raised maestro who got the world talking about the unbeatable band in Cleveland.

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