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Posts Tagged ‘Cleveland Orchestra’

Alexandra Preucil (Roger Mastroianni)
Alexandra Preucil
(Roger Mastroianni)

The Cleveland Orchestra announced today (30 April) that violinist Alexandria Preucil has been named an assistant concertmaster. She fills the position opened when violinist Lev Polyakin retired last October (2012). The orchestra’s other assistant concertmaster is Yoko Moore.

Music is in Preucil’s blood: she’s the daughter of the Cleveland Orchestra’s concertmaster, William Preucil. She joined the orchestra’s violin section in 2008. She holds a bachelor’s degree from the Cleveland Institute of Music.

Previously, Preucil was concertmaster of the Cleveland Orchestra Youth Orchestra. She has also held posts as assistant concertmaster with the Akron Symphony Orchestra and the Canton Symphony Orchestra.

Further exploration:

Deciphering Cleveland Orchestra Player Hierarchy at

Little Rock School Integration, 1957
(Will Counts/Arkansas Democrat)

In 1954, in the landmark case Brown v. the Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, the US Supreme Court found that separate but equal schools for white and African American children were unconstitutional.

It would be another 22 years before a federal district court decision in the case of Reed v. Rhodes would finally force the desegregation of Cleveland public schools. But by the mid-1960s, voluntary busing programs were in place. Although these programs didn’t always fully implement side-by-side classroom education of black and white students, they were still controversial.

Gerald Sindell today
(Agency for Social Media)

In the mid-1960s, twenty-three year old Shaker Heights native Gerald Sindell decided that he wanted to "educate the world so that ignorance, war, and racism would end."

Sindell says, "Throughout my high school life in Cleveland, I had been concerned with what it would take to end racism in the country. The hope was that by integrating the schools, our cities could finally provide equal rights and equal opportunity to all our citizens. I was confident, in 1962, that within a few years racism would be a thing of the past."

Nor were social concerns Sindell’s only interest. In his childhood and youth, he’d been deeply immersed in music. He had seriously studied organ, flute, and piano, and played in a dance band. He’d grown up going to Cleveland Orchestra concerts, following a score as the orchestra played, sitting in a box right next to the Szells’.

But by 1967, Sindell had gravitated toward film as his medium of expression. With the help of his older brother Roger as co-writer and producer, he explored the issue of racial equality in an early independent film, Double-Stop.

Marrying his passions for social justice and music (double-stopping is the process by which a string player sounds more than one note at a time), Sindell built his story round a musical family. His protagonist is a fictional Cleveland Orchestra cellist, Mike Westfall (Jeremiah Sullivan). Westfall and his activist wife Katherine (Mimi Torchin) enroll their young son Pablo (Billy Kurtz; his character is named for the legendary cellist Pablo Casals) in a voluntary busing program.

When Westfall discovers the rough reality of conditions at his son’s new school, he pulls Pablo out, against the wishes of the more idealistic Katherine.

Daniel Domb
Daniel Domb
(Larney Goodkind)

Sindell hired the entire Cleveland Orchestra to appear in his film. Music director George Szell declined to take part, so they were led by assistant conductor Michael Charry.

Some of the film’s music was composed expressly for the purpose by David Davis and James Streem, but the Cleveland Orchestra and chorus performed music from Bach’s Cantata #40. Cellist Daniel Domb, who was married to Sindell’s cousin and would later serve as the Cleveland Orchestra’s acting principal cellist, played the Bach cello suites for the soundtrack. He also modeled for shots of fingers on a cello’s neck.

Scene from Double-Stop
Scene from Double-Stop

Visually, the film was ambitious and unusual. It was shot in the fall of 1967 in Cleveland, and all the hues – costumes, sets, accessories – were deliberately designed to suggest autumn leaves. Even the cars were painted.

When Double-Stop was chosen for the 1968 Cannes Film Festival, it looked as if Sindell’s movie was on its way to international distribution. But civil unrest cut the festival short, and Sindell’s distributor let him down. After a few more film festival screenings, Double-Stop was largely forgotten. Sindell made a few more films, then moved on to other pursuits. Today he operates a California-based PR firm, the Agency for Social Media.

Finally, over 40 years later – thanks in part to some help from the Cleveland Orchestra – Cleveland is about to see Sindell’s dream on the screen. WKSU’s Mark Urycki has more on the film, and the story of how Double-Stop was rescued from oblivion.

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Double-Stop will play at the Cleveland Cinematheque, Aitken Auditorium in the Cleveland Institute of Art’s Gund Building at the corner of East Boulevard and Bellflower Road in University Circle. Screenings are Saturday, 19 February 2011 at 7:25 pm, and Sunday, 20 February 2011 at 8:40 pm.

Further Reading:

Double-Stop at

Double-Stop at the Cleveland Cinematheque

Pierre-Laurent Aimard
Pierre-Laurent Aimard
(Vivian Goodman)

After last weekend’s Severance Hall concerts, former Cleveland Orchestra Artist-in-Residence Pierre-Laurent Aimard takes Bartok on the road with the orchestra. This Tuesday (25 January 2011) they’ll perform Bartok’s challenging second piano concerto in the auditorium at Indiana University in Bloomington.

Then it’s on to Miami. There, on Friday the 28th, Aimard and the orchestra bid Bartok farewell in favor of the Schumann concerto. Tuesday will find them at Hill Auditorium in Ann Arbor, Michigan. On Wednesday they land in Chicago’s Orchestra Hall, home to the Chicago Symphony. Friday it’s Carnegie Hall in New York, though Aimard won’t perform on that concert. The Cleveland Orchestra’s mini-tour wraps up in Newark on the 6th of February. Franz Welser-Möst will conduct all the concerts.

WKSU’s arts reporter Vivian Goodman spoke with Aimard about the Bartok concerto.

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Matthias Pintscher
(Cleveland Orchestra)

Next month (June 2010) you’ll have a rare opportunity. You’ll be able to hear one of the world’s most revered and lauded orchestras. Now, that’s not so rare for folks in Northeast Ohio; it’s been our privilege to hear the Cleveland Orchestra for decades. The rarity is that, this time, your ticket to Severance Hall will be free.

On Saturday 5 June 2010, the Cleveland Orchestra plays works of living composers in two evening concerts. At 7pm they’ll perform Susan Botti’s Translucence, originally commissioned by the Cleveland Orchestra; and Johannes Maria Staud’s On Contemplative Meteorology. At 9pm they’ll return to the Severance Hall stage for Concertate il suono by Marc-André Dalbavie and Matthias Pintscher’s with lilies white. Pintscher will be on hand and will conduct all the works.

Botti and Dalbavie will also be in town – the former now lives in New York and the latter in Paris. They’ll take part in a 6pm pre-concert discussion about "creation, performance, and the role of new music for orchestras," moderated by CIM composition department head Keith Fitch.

In the hour between the performances, the orchestra will throw a party in Severance Hall’s Grand Foyer and outside on the terrace (if the weather cooperates). Refreshments will be offered for sale. The entertainment during this interlude will be an amplified performance of Workers’ Union, created in 1975 by the Amsterdam-based composer Louis Andriessen for "any loud-sounding group of instruments."

The concert really is free, as is the reception, but you’ll still need tickets. Get them through the orchestra’s website.

Paid parking is available in the orchestra’s garage behind Severance Hall. You may be able to find free parking elsewhere in University Circle, but remember, it can be a bit of a stroll. The orchestra’s parking is a reasonable deal at $10-14, especially if you have health or security concerns.

The concert is supported by the National Endowment for the Arts.

Further Reading:

Louis Andriessen at Wikipedia

Susan Botti’s Website

Marc-André Dalbavie at NPR

Matthias Pintscher, The Radical Conservative at The Guardian

Johannes Maria Staud: Fifteen Questions at tokafi


Andriessen’s Workers’ Union at Youtube, performed by the Bang on a Can All-Stars

Dalbavie’s Concertate il suono, music download at Amazon, performed by Radio France Philharmonic

Severance Mobile
Could this be in Severance Hall’s future?
(Severance photo: Richard Scheinin; composite by the author)

Once upon a time, success in classical music, as in business, was pretty straightforward. If an orchestra played good music well, and infused it with commitment and emotional involvement, people came to their concerts.

A few ads in the newspaper, on the radio, and maybe (if the ensemble were well-heeled) on television, sufficed to remind folks of their previous good experiences in concerts, and keep them returning. Now and then the ads reminded somebody that he or she used to like concerts, say, back in college; or even persuaded a neophyte to give classical a try. The classical audience expanded. Success!

When these listeners decided that they liked the way the orchestra played most of the time, they became subscribers. Then the orchestra could assume that they’d attend most of the concerts, and count on their yearly payment as part of the budget.

Most orchestras had modest PR staffs (staves?). The folks on the artistic side of the operation spent their time between concerts researching history and interpretation, preparing the score, practicing, and rehearsing. Now and then, they took time out for an interview in the newspaper, or on the local classical radio station.

Life was pretty good.

Along came the world wide web, and soon every well-connected orchestra had to have a website.

Nearly instant information about programs surely made it easier for concertgoers to make last-minute decisions about which concerts to attend and which to skip. Online ticket sales made impulse purchases easier: you’re suddenly free tonight? Why not go to a concert? It worked that way for me, and still does. I can’t help but think that this may have had a hand in the trend away from subscriptions and toward a la carte concert attendance. (So did hectic lives and personal schedules.)

That first generation of the web brought us a flood of information. As "Web 2.0" arose in the early 2000s, the internet evolved from a chaotic public library to an equally chaotic two-way communication medium. Blogging became the thing to do, and the savvy orchestras joined in. Following the example of their kid brothers, the rock bands, they posted audio and video clips.

In this interactive, nearly-universal-access medium, orchestras’ management, and even the music director and musicians, now can be — in some cases, almost have to be — "accessible." That means at least blogging about upcoming concerts, posting on events in the music world, and responding to the inevitable comments and questions. Some have become podcasters.

Now the interactive buzz is moving from blogs to social networks. These make it even easier for "friends" to respond. The Chicago Symphony, to name just one, is on Facebook. So is the Cleveland Orchestra, though they’re not as active as Chicago. During their recent US tour, members of the London Symphony kept fans at home apprised via Twitter. British conductor Ivor Bolton "tweets" about his recording sessions.

I don’t think anybody doubts that this new, more direct involvement gives concertgoers (and potential concertgoers) a more solid connection with orchestras. But the downside is that it takes chunks of budget to pay for web development, produce audio and video, and handle rights issues. It takes orchestra staff time to do all the writing. If musicians join in the fray (and if I were an orchestra player I’d be sorely tempted), every hour they spend typing or recording is an hour they can’t spend on rehearsal, practice, program preparation, and research.

But what can the orchestras do? The media din is getting denser. They have to shout louder, and more effectively, if they want to be heard.

Are the new media really working for orchestras? Does all this activity bring in more listeners? Has it really made a significant proportion of their audiences more satisfied, more connected? Putting it in blunt economic terms, has the investment returned measurable and attributable increases in attendance, ticket sales, and subscription renewals?

I obviously don’t work in an orchestra’s office, but my impression is that trying to answer these questions isn’t easy — and like the new media effort itself, it doesn’t come free. It means yet more labor hours, more software, more surveys, and more contracted services. That represents still more resources that aren’t going to the core business of making music — but it seems to me that, even in the best of times, well-managed arts organizations have to be sure they’re using their limited resources effectively.

Meanwhile, the commmunication revolution continues apace at the other end. No longer are the consumers of all these tweets, blogs, and podcasts — the listeners, we hope — tethered to their desktop and notebook computers. Now they can interact with "content providers" anywhere, thanks to smartphones and wireless PDAs.

And here is where I get uneasy.

It used to be that listeners moved by a concert would talk about it with their companions on the way home, and with their friends the next week. But who needs friends and companions when the whole online world is hanging on your moment-by-moment responses, delivered wirelessly via Twitter as the orchestra plays?

When orchestras were merely diverting resources from making music to making PR, the most dedicated music lovers might have worried about declining musical standards (or not, depending on how well the orchestra handled the logistics). But how many are going to sit still while some cretin three seats over clicks the keys on his smartphone during a pianissimo passage?

You don’t think it will happen? It already has in rock concerts. Increasingly, bands find themselves playing to cameras, while the fans chat on their mobile phones and wirelessly tweet about the concert. Worse, this trend seems to be headed our way.

To my astonishment, our own Cleveland Orchestra is, in a sense, actually encouraging this.

They’ve just announced "Trivia Challenge." You don’t even need a smartphone or wireless PDA; an ordinary mobile phone will do. Take it to their community concert at Public Square in Cleveland on Thursday (2 July 2009) and "text" (when did that noun become a verb?) the word BLOSSOM to the phone number the orchestra provides. During the concert — yes, while the orchestra is playing — you’ll get to answer trivia questions about the orchestra via your phone. "Every participant will be a winner," they say. The prizes? Tickets to Blossom concerts, where I fervently hope they will NOT use their mobile phones.

(UPDATE: The folks at the Cleveland Orchestra contacted me Thursday (2 July, the day of the concert) to say that despite what the news release said — "Fans can play the trivia game on their mobile phones throughout the Festival and Concert" — they didn’t really mean to suggest that listeners in the Public Square audience should answer these questions during the performance. However, they say they think it’s OK for folks listening live on the radio to do so. Presumably they submit the questions to the different groups at different times, though they didn’t say how that works. I’m not familiar with the system they’re using, so I emailed them for clarification. When I hear back, I’ll post it.)

Don’t misunderstand me. I’m all for anything that expands the audience for classical music. I’m all for increasing attendance at Cleveland Orchestra concerts, and for listening to listeners. (I have to admit, I was impressed at the caliber of the audience dialogue that I saw on the Chicago Symphony’s Facebook page.) And to be fair, the Public Square concert is after all a very casual setting, far removed from the elevated mood of Severance Hall.

But I wonder what their core audience will think of this. These are the folks who attend concert after concert, year after year, because they know they can expect outstanding interpretations of great music. Many ante up something close to (or in) the three-figure range for a pair of Severance Hall seats. How will they react to someone nearby clicking keys, or engrossed in a brightly glowing screen? Just as importantly, how much of the concert is that tweeter really hearing?

Maybe I’m concerned about nothing here. Maybe this experiment is a one-time deal. Maybe it won’t encourage more concert distractions. Maybe the response won’t be strong enough to make it worth pursuing.

Maybe it’ll even lead to positive uses for this technology — for example, transmitting program notes, translations of sung texts, even bar-by-bar interpretive guides, to listeners’ wireless devices. Now that would be a good use of new media.

Still, it seems to me that when the folks at the Cleveland Orchestra suggest that their listeners need to stay busy with gadgets while they perform, they’re not exactly demonstrating confidence in the power and value of the music. If they don’t, will their listeners?

Further reading:

Orchestras and New Media: A Complete Guide at Dutch Perspective

Detroit Symphony Unmasked at the League of American Orchestras

Are Cellphones Ruining the Concert Experience? at the Dallas Morning News

Horns Up, Bows Ready, Cellphones On at New York Times (registration may be required)

Chicago Symphony at Facebook

Cleveland Orchestra at Facebook


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