Franz + Cleveland = 2027

The Cleveland Orchestra has just renewed Franz Welser-Möst’s contract as music director to 2027,a tenure that will amount to 25 years.

Over that period, he has survived the departure of two chief executives and the turbulent #Metoo removal of his concertmaster, focussing all the while on the orchestra, its content and its quality.

Chairman Richard K. Smucker said: ‘From Franz’s work here over the past quarter century, from everything we’ve witnessed and experienced across our Centennial Celebrations in 2018 to today, and through ongoing discussions and plans for the future, I know there is so much more to look forward to. This pairing, of Franz Welser-Möst and The Cleveland Orchestra, is already among the most successful artistic partnerships in the world today. Newspapers regularly proclaim Cleveland’s Orchestra under Franz’s baton as ‘America’s finest,’ as ‘America’s best,’ as ‘one of the top three in the world.’ This recognition inspires in us great pride and deep humility — as well as extraordinary awe and thanks to these exemplary, hard-working musicians. But, and let me say this loud and clear, together we know that Franz Welser-Möst and The Cleveland Orchestra can do even more. Franz’s vision and leadership reach across all areas of our institution, building and fostering our commitment to music education, dedicated to excellence, and determined to play more music for more people, to inspire young and old alike through the incredible power of music.’

Franz said: ‘I am humbled by the faith that the musicians of the Orchestra and everyone in Cleveland has placed in my hands,” commented Franz Welser-Möst. “From the beginning, I have been inspired by Cleveland’s musicians and by the support and keen interest that the entire Cleveland community provides to The Cleveland Orchestra. I continue to be energized by these incredible artists and by all that we are able to do together. There is no better place in the world to work and to create music together than what The Cleveland Orchestra and community have offered to me.’

 

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  • Mustafa Kandan says:

    The orchestra I have heard under his baton is definitely the best orchestra I have heard from USA (and I have heard Chicago under Solti), let alone anywhere else. It is a well deserved recognition. I am convinced this must be the greatest orchestra from USA, even though I have not heard the current Chicago Symphony. The Boston is quite good too.

  • Berlin says:

    Barenboim‘s Staatsoper contract also ends in 2027… Welser-Möst will probably follow Barenboim as GMD in Berlin.

  • Michael says:

    His performances are boring! Dull as dirt! But the orchestra sounds excellent, and he has European connections, so evidently that is enough for them.

    • sam says:

      As I like to put it: “Listening to the Cleveland is the sonic equivalent of watching paint dry. Beige paint.”

      Their playing is just so exceedingly and unfailingly polite, like drinking tea with the Queen, not a crumb on the table, but you don’t dare breathe too hard either.

      The bit about “America’s best” etc., they mean best in terms of sound, not best in terms of programming/finances/community outreach/pointing to the future, that honor always, universally, goes to LA.

      • hsy says:

        Even in terms of sound the bit about “America’s best” is debatable. LA has a far superior brass section, for a start.

        • JBB says:

          LA? The NSO in D.C. has the brass section to beat at the moment. (Definitely not the flutes or the strings, and I’m on the fence about the conductor, but I can’t see anyone taking issue with the brass.)

    • Tom says:

      Yes they are! I often wait to hear exciting guest conductors that can ignite the orchestra much more than FWM.

    • Sue Sonata Form says:

      It’s a wonder, then, that he enjoys the success that he does. I found Barenboim’s conducting (not with opera; I haven’t heard any) extremely dull. And routine. It’s in the ear of the beholder, though, isn’t it! One of the greatest examples of frisson I experienced with an orchestra was Adam Fisher and the Budapest Festival Orchestra; they were on fire!! And the LAPO with The Dude.

  • Mark says:

    Yes this is very disappointing news. I don’t find much to commend in his performances, with limited exceptions. It doesn’t matter if this is the best or most refined orchestra if the performances are dull.

    • The View from America says:

      And for proof of that, listen to the difference when a guest conductor takes to the podium in Cleveland. Almost always it’s a more engaging, emotionally involving listening experience.

    • Sue Sonata Form says:

      Wasn’t there some controversy with FW-M and the Clevelanders some years ago? That was about quality wasn’t it?

      • Petros Linardos says:

        The controversy I remember was about a local critic’s consistently negative reviews on Franz Welser-Möst’s concerts.

        A major local newspaper, Plain Dealer of Cleveland, decided to withdraw their chief music critic, Donald Rosenberg, from reviewing Cleveland Orchestra concerts. Rosenberg insisted he was doing his job by expressing his opinions.

        https://www.nytimes.com/2008/09/25/arts/music/25crit.html

        I just saw in wikipedia that Rosenberg was eventually laid off from the Plain Dealer in 2014 and has moved on.

  • Petros Linardos says:

    Franz Welser-Möst is poised to surpass Szell in years of music directorship. Szell was music director in Cleveland from 1946 to 1970.

    That’s just the numbers game. Will a future director paraphrase Christoph von Dohnanyi and quip “We give a great concert, and Franz Welser-Möst gets a great review” ?

  • Peter says:

    FWM’s Cleveland performances often were dull…years ago. But if you have heard them recently, you would likely change your mind. He is much more energized than he was years ago.

  • mhtetzel says:

    Interesting interview. The job of a MD is not only about conducting.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RLvt-MhwIGk

  • Mick the Knife says:

    Rodzinski, Szell, Maazel, Dohnanyi, Welser-Most. Yes, the CO has benefitted from great music directors. But it seems a near miracle that a city like Cleveland can maintain an orchestra at the top over such a long period of time. The demographics in Cleveland and Baltimore are nearly the same, but in Cleveland they’ve evidently discovered how to continue a great tradition. They need to coach the admin in Baltimore, real soon!

    • Petros Linardos says:

      Interestingly both Cleveland and Baltimore have world class medical care and research. But the profiles of their orchestras cannot be compared.

    • Greg Bottini says:

      And let’s not forget the stunning work Boulez did with the orchestra after the death of Szell, before Maazel became MD.

      • Mick the knife says:

        musical advisor for two years….

      • Amos says:

        Boulez also did impressive work with the Orchestra before Szell died because Szell first invited him in 65 and appointed him Principal Guest Conductor in 67 or 68.

      • Amos says:

        Sorry neglected to mention that there is a 30 minute interview with Boulez in which he details the initiation of his collaboration with the CO and his relationship with GS. The interview was released as part of the 7 CD Szell centennial issued by the orchestra in 1997.

    • Cleveland patron says:

      It’s a common mistake to assume that because it’s called The Cleveland Orchestra, it’s just a Cleveland institution. Even though Severance Hall is located in Cleveland, a short walk from the Cleveland Heights border, the orchestra is more of a regional institution. The majority of ticket purchases come from suburban Cuyahoga County and many from bordering counties – especially in summer when the orchestra plays at Blossom Music Center which is closer to Akron. Most of the players live in “the Heights”: Shaker Heights, Cleveland Heights, or University Heights. A substantial portion of the orchestra’s non-ticket and non-recording revenue comes from the Cuyahoga County Arts and Culture which funnels “sin” taxes to various arts organizations. But The Cuyahoga Orchestra doesn’t really have much of a ring to it.

      • Mick the Knife says:

        So you assume Baltimore has a moat around it? Howard County has the second highest household income in the nation and 350k people. Its a 20 min drive to Baltimore. Montgomery County, which is the second home to the BSO is 17th in the nation. So, there is no demographic or economic reason that I can see for the CO being so much better of than the BSO.

  • Tom says:

    Can you imagine what this “best” orchestra in the country would sound like with a conductor that actually had some fire in his interpretations?

  • Jack says:

    Notwithstanding the comments of all the haters, the reality is that the orchestra, the audience and the community as a whole like Franz and he likes them.

    He’s proven to be a perfect fit for Cleveland and that’s why he’s staying on.

    As for the reason why Cleveland is a success and Baltimore is not, the reality is that Cleveland is fiercely proud of their world-class orchestra while the people of Baltimore are barely aware that theirs exists.

    • Mick the Knife says:

      Why is that? That is the question BSO management needs to answer.

      • Jack says:

        I don’t think there’s much that the Baltimore management can do about it.

        Baltimore only became a great orchestra under David Zinman, whereas Cleveland became not just a great orchestra, but one of the greatest, much earlier under George Szell. The Cleveland Orchestra thus became associated, along with the Cleveland Clinic, as the best that Cleveland can offer.

        Baltimore has never been in the same category as the Cleveland Orchestra.

        • The View from America says:

          You’ve nailed it — correct on all counts.

          • Jack says:

            Thanks TVFA.

          • Mick the Knife says:

            Though you have a cheerleader, you are also are spouting some nonsense along with the sense. I agree about Zinman and the lack of committed musical leadership may be part of the answer. But the Cleveland Clinic? I suppose you must know that Johns Hopkins is ranked significantly higher than CC.

  • David says:

    A terrible disappointment. After attending his Mahler Sixth a couple of seasons ago, I vowed never to hear one of his concerts again. The scherzo almost fell apart. Textures were thick and loud. Pedestrian interpretation.

  • Bruce says:

    Well, they seem to like each other regardless of what everyone else thinks.

    (Hopefully my “they” includes the musicians, not just the conductor, board and management. Still, he doesn’t come across as an unpleasant man, so if you’re a musician who’s not excited by him, there are worse fates than playing in the Cleveland Orchestra and having guest conductors for half the season.)

    • The View from America says:

      You may have hit on the relevant points. (Sometimes it’s worth it to scroll all the way to the bottom of the comments.)

      And I’ve heard the same from a Clevelander on the scene, too.

  • Daniel F says:

    Szell was the huge difference maker in the fortunes of this orchestra. He turned a very good provincial orchestra into what it (still) is today. A lot of blood, sweat, and tears flowed from his autocracy but it took nothing less to reach Szell’s standards.

  • Tom says:

    I have always found the Minnesota Orchestra more enjoyable to listen to as they usually sound much more engaged in their performances

  • Lee says:

    I have been a frequent concert-goer in Cleveland going back to the mid-fifties. Ten years ago I was frustrated — sometimes infuriated — by Welser-Most’s performances for their apparent lack of commitment and even shape. (I was definitely on the pro-Rosenberg side of that controversy — of course not only for musical reasons.) Now, ten years on, I find many Welser-Most performances very satisfying and technically impressive. I was actually pleased to read the news of his latest contract extension, although I am pretty sure I would agree with my earlier negative views if I were to hear those performances again.

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