Cleveland Orchestra

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The Cleveland Orchestra is an American orchestra based in Cleveland, Ohio. It is one of the five American orchestras informally referred to as the "Big Five".[1] Founded in 1918, the orchestra plays most of its concerts at Severance Hall. The music director is Franz Welser-Möst.



The orchestra was founded in 1918 by Adella Prentiss Hughes, with Nikolai Sokoloff as its principal conductor. From early in its existence, it toured throughout the eastern United States, made radio broadcasts, and recorded many albums. Subsequent principal conductors, with the title of Music Director, were Artur Rodziński (1933–1943), Erich Leinsdorf (1943–1944), George Szell (1946–1970), Pierre Boulez (Musical Advisor 1970-1972), Lorin Maazel (1972–1982), and Christoph von Dohnányi (1984–2002). Franz Welser-Möst has been Music Director since 2002 and is contracted to remain through the 2017-2018 season.[2][3]

George Szell's long reign as Music Director has been largely credited for the orchestra's rise to eminence. He reformed the orchestra in the late-1940s, firing a dozen musicians in the process with a dozen more leaving of their own volition.[4] Szell is also credited with giving the orchestra its distinct, European sound.[4] He pushed an ambitious recording schedule with the orchestra, bringing its music to millions worldwide. Szell's influence has continued, even decades after his death.

Cleveland is the smallest city amongst the traditional "Big Five" orchestras; the others are based in Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and Chicago. However, musicians in Cleveland are often treated as local celebrities, and, much like sports heroes elsewhere, fans seek autographs after performances and greet musicians on the street. Clevelanders are proud that their city boasts an orchestra rated on par with or above those in much larger cities.[4][5] In the 1960s fans were known to "have airport rallies when the orchestra comes home from tour [and] chant, 'We're the best! We're the best!' and carry placards reading 'Bravo!'" [4]

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