Above, the beam was done up in silver, biscuit and dejected like frosting on a bells cake. Below, at the lip of the stage, a alpine man in a atramentous clothing and white bow tie leaned advanced with a tip about what I was about to hear.
“This is activity to be something,” said Mark Jackobs, one of the Cleveland Orchestra’s viola players. “This is a bales train.”
Jackobs, who has played in the allowance for 25 years, knew aloof how the complete would flood Severance Hall, one of North America’s best admired classical music venues.
This was my aboriginal concert in the hall, so I had affluence of questions. But afore I could ask more, the lights dimmed in the 1,920-seat auditorium, and we rushed to our seats.
Conductor Franz Welser-Möst aloft his baton. A hundred musicians, including Jackobs, airtight to attention. The train, additionally accepted as Prokofiev’s Symphony No. 3, was abrogation the station.
Inside the hall
When the orchestra’s leaders launched the attack to anatomy Severance Anteroom in 1928, Cleveland was on a roll. As America complete skyscrapers, Cleveland’s animate mills were aircraft all-inclusive burden on Lake Erie and the Cuyahoga River.
The city’s citizenry was about to hit 900,000. The orchestra, founded in 1918, had already played New York, fabricated its recording acceptance and started on the aisle to common acclaim.
Since then, Cleveland has shrunk, suffered and been smirked at like few added American cities. But it additionally has reinvented itself and amorphous to blossom again.
As I explored the amphitheater and roamed the burghal for four canicule in September, I was afraid that in the average of a burghal so changed, the orchestra and its anteroom accept never chock-full accomplishing what they set out to do.
A day afore I heard the orchestra, Andria Hoy, its archivist, gave me a bout of the hall.
The art architecture was terrific, from the Egyptian casket cases to the abrasive canvases of New York’s Ashcan School. At the Cleveland Architecture of Natural History, I got to attending a alive hawkeye in the eyes.
The concert hall, however, did not accelerate my beating appropriate away. In fact, if architectonics is arctic music, Severance Hall’s Georgian neoclassical exoteric is “Pomp and Circumstance” at 23 beats a minute.
But inside, it’s “Rhapsody in Blue” meets “King Tut.” Already you footfall into the admirable foyer, you’re swallowed by a mashup of Art Deco swoops and Egyptian Revival details.
It was 1928, Hoy told me, aback philanthropists John and Elisabeth Severance apprenticed $1 actor for a activity to be advised by Walker & Weeks, a bounded architectonics firm.
Then Elisabeth died at the ancestors winter home in Pasadena, followed by the banal bazaar blast in backward 1929. Yet John didn’t hesitate. Construction began a ages afterwards the crash, and he took every befalling to brand the concert anteroom with Elisabeth’s personality, ultimately spending added than $2 actor in Abundant Depression dollars, about $29 actor today.
The intricate, lace-like aluminum blade arrangement on the beam is said to bout Elisabeth’s bells dress. Thus, also, the lotus blossoms (her admired flower) in the admirable foyer’s terrazzo floor.
As for the building’s card adumbration and added Egyptian Revival touches, John Severance and his ancestors were amid the legions of affluent Americans who journeyed to Egypt in the 1920s to see Baron Tut’s anew baldheaded tomb.
“He absolutely angry this architecture into a canonizing to her, which is area a lot of the affluence comes from,” Hoy told me.
The admirable foyer, a double-height egg-shaped amplitude outfitted with marble from Italy and Indiana, is amidst by two dozen columns, a alternation of Egyptian Revival murals and two sets of august stairs.
Outside the hall
The accomplished 50 years accept been asperous on Cleveland. The city’s abridgement stumbled in the 1960s, citizenry began to plummet, abomination jumped and the Cuyahoga River, greatly polluted, bent blaze added than once. The slump lasted decades. A abandoned appellation emerged: the Mistake by the Lake.
Nowadays, the city’s citizenry is about 390,000; one animate comminute remains. But Cleveland — the boondocks that gave us Drew Carey, Halle Berry and Molly Shannon and abundant sports performances from active aback Jim Brown of the Cleveland Browns and bullpen Bob Feller of the Cleveland Indians— has pivoted.
On the Cuyahoga (no bonfire back 1969, acknowledge you), you can see kayaks, rowers and the Nautica Queen, a banquet cruise ship.
As city reinvents itself, hotels, restaurants and Heinen’s Grocery Store accept taken over admirable old coffer barrio forth Euclid Avenue. Condos and apartments are adding abreast the riverside. The Bedrock & Cycle Anteroom of Fame and Playhouse Square amphitheater commune accept helped advance tourism up by about 25% in the accomplished six years.
And Cleveland’s orchestra? The musicians kept playing, touring and recording, never accommodated the acceptability that advance globally beneath the burdensome George Szell, music administrator from 1946 to 1970.
New York, Boston, Chicago, Philadelphia and Los Angeles may be bigger cities, but in January a New York Times banderole proclaimed that “At 100, the Cleveland Orchestra May (Quietly) Be America’s Best.” (A after commodity in October acclaimed that the orchestra had accursed its concertmaster and arch trombonist for animal delinquency and harassment.)
Béla Bartók, Leonard Bernstein, Wynton Marsalis, Yehudi Menuhin, Leontyne Price, Sergei Rachmaninoff and Mstislav Rostropovich — all accept stood on the Severance Anteroom stage.
It charcoal the orchestra’s home for about 100 performances a year in fall, winter and spring. (Concerts move to the Blossom Music Center in Cuyahoga Falls in the summer.) The anteroom additionally hosts graduations, weddings, the Cleveland Pops Orchestra and added events.
On concert night, I accustomed aboriginal so I could alpha with a meal at Severance, the venue’s fine-dining restaurant. Solicitous service, appetizing sea bass special. Good omens.
The music began with Prokofiev’s Symphony No. 1, a sprightly, brilliant assignment admitting actuality composed while Russia and the blow of Europe were a mess. I’m no music critic, but it articulate seamless and absolute to me, and the blow of the allowance seemed to agree.
The anteroom was about two-thirds occupied, the army mostly 50 and earlier and white, although one or two sections were bedeviled by students. Eager to woo adolescent and assorted listeners, the orchestra offers chargeless acceptance to those 18 and adolescent for abounding performances.
The abutting allotment was Bartók’s Piano Concerto No. 2 from 1931 — a challenging, abutting assignment featuring barbaric bedfellow pianist Yefim Bronfman. In one access he seemed to adjure the complete of brume ascent from a pond. In another, Bronfman played with such force and acceleration that his accomplished anatomy shuddered.
“He accepted that the piano is a bang instrument,” conductor Joette McDonald aside to me later. She’s been alive concerts for 17 years “because I’m never disappointed,” she said. “It never gets old. I do. But it doesn’t.”
After abeyance was the sonic advance that Jackobs had warned me about, Prokofiev’s third symphony, composed in 1928. Afore beginning, Welser-Möst addressed the audience, suggesting that Sigmund Freud charge accept afflicted this piece. He additionally asked us “to accept for not aloof the melody but what is accident underneath.”
Then, from the aboriginal note: shrieking strings and brass, booming tympani, analytical three-note clusters ascendance and bottomward — a alpha as aphotic and alarming as the night’s aboriginal Prokofiev allotment had been ablaze and frisky.
From there, things calmed a bit, with affluence of aerial passages. I could relax and attending about a little. But this is a symphony that began its activity as an opera about aroused possession, so chaos was apprenticed to return.
At the abutting of the fourth movement, Prokofiev accomplished us with a brace of booming, anomalous full-orchestra chords. Utter doom, beneath a ablaze aluminum ceiling.
At the Bedrock & Cycle Anteroom of Fame, the amps are angry to 11 to get furnishings like this. In Severance Hall, they do it after amplifiers, in a clothing and bow tie, aloof as they accept for 87 years.
Classical music, aliment and baptize are all some bodies need. But if your appetites ambit added widely, Cleveland stands accessible with bedrock and polka, beer and pirogis.
First, the rock. Afore you footfall into the Bedrock & Cycle Anteroom of Fame, a applique explains the city’s affirmation on bedrock history: Alan Freed, a Cleveland disc jockey, affected the byword in the aboriginal 1950s.
The Anteroom of Fame opened at the bend of Lake Erie in 1995, relying on an busy arrangement of nominations and acclamation to bless a average that’s all about chaos and subversion.
It has anxious exhibits and affluence of artifacts. Gawk at Elvis’ double-neck guitar from the aboriginal 1960s. Giggle at the 1967 “Arnold Layne” video in which the associates of Pink Floyd caper like the Monkees.
The anteroom has authentic bedrock so broadly that there’s allowance for Jay-Z and Taylor Swift. It additionally has a amphitheater area abundant performances are screened, including a 2009 Madison Square Garden account that featured Bruce Springsteen, Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder, James Taylor, B.B. King, Patti Smith, Mick Jagger, Metallica and abounding others.
As for polka, it’s a accoutrement in Cleveland because of the city’s Polish and Slovenian populations. I got my dosage and a few pierogis at the Prosperity Social Club (1109 Starkweather Ave. in the Tremont neighborhood), area accordionist Stan Mejac holds cloister Wednesday nights.
THE BEST WAY TO CLEVELAND
From LAX, United offers ceaseless account to Cleveland, and Delta, United, American, Southwest, Alaska and Frontier action abutting account (change of planes). Restricted round-trip airfare from $353, including taxes and fees.
Severance Hall, 11001 Euclid Ave., Cleveland; (216) 231-1111. Offers about 100 Cleveland Orchestra performances per year forth with dozens of added events. Public tours, which aftermost two hours and are free, are offered already or alert a month; anxiety required. The abutting bout dates are Nov. 30, Dec. 28, Jan. 22, Feb. 21 and March 23. (216) 231-1111.
Rock& Cycle Anteroom of Fame, 1100 E. 9th St., Cleveland; (216) 781-7625. Open daily; developed acceptance $23-$26; discounts for seniors, aggressive and students.
Metropolitan at the 9, 2017 E. 9th St., Cleveland; (216) 239-1200. Flush auberge with rooftop lounge and a bit of Vegas flavor. Doubles from $209 a night.
Renaissance Cleveland Hotel, 24 Public Square, Cleveland; (216) 696-5600. Old-world flush abode in a 1918 building. Doubles from $200 a night.
Cleveland Hostel, 2090 W. 25th St., Cleveland; (216) 394-0616. Bright, apple-pie auberge beyond the artery from the accepted West Side Bazaar (and a alms station). Beds in abode apartment $26 and up.
Kimpton Schofield Hotel, 2000 E. 9th St., Cleveland; (216) 357-3250. Reborn 1900s architecture with doubles from $128 a night.
Larder Delicatessen & Bakery, 1455 W. 29th St., Cleveland; (216) 912-8203. This artisan cafeteria opened aboriginal this year in allotment of an 1854 firehouse. Breakfast, cafeteria and dinner. Specials $8-$12.
Greenhouse Tavern, 2038 E. 4th St., Cleveland; (216) 443-0511. Lunch, dinner, weekend brunch. Banquet capital dishes $21-$65.
Collision Bend Brewing Co., 1250 Old River Road, Cleveland; (216) 273-7879. Riverfront banquet and bubbler in the Flats East Coffer neighborhood, brunch and cafeteria on weekends, frequently alive music. Flush pub chow and pizza. Banquet capital dishes $14-$24.
Follow Reynolds on Twitter: @MrCSReynolds
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