By Rebecca Bulnes
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The Cleveland Orchestra
Miami has no pressing need to borrow cultural institutions from smaller cities. On the contrary, classical music fans in Phoenix, Seattle, and San Diego can only dream of seeing an orchestra of New World Symphony's caliber. But The Cleveland Orchestra happened to have some winter downtime, so why not bring the show to balmy Miami? In May 2005 the Orchestra announced that it had inked a ten-year deal to become a resident at the Miami Performing Arts Center (later christened Carnival Center for the Performing Arts). For three weeks each year the Cleveland Orchestra is all ours.
Since the late Fifties this group has been considered one of the "Big Five," along with the New York Philharmonic, the Chicago Symphony, Philadelphia Orchestra, and the Boston Symphony. Under the baton of maestro George Szell, it became the most celebrated American orchestra of the Sixties. The late Szell demanded clean, crisp readings of musical compositions, and carved out performances of brilliant orchestral precision. Today his touch still informs the musical demeanor of the players. The young music director and conductor Franz Welser-Möst is accomplished enough, however, to forge his own style. Nor does he seem intimidated by the legacy of his immediate predecessor, Christoph von Dohnányi. (For his part, Dohnányi admitted feeling the weight of Szell's legacy; when he retired from the orchestra, he famously lamented that when the orchestra gives a good performance, it is Szell who gets the good review.)
It's still early to tell if Welser-Möst will become synonymous with the Cleveland, though he was lauded at length in a 2005 article in The New Yorkerand won the "Best Orchestral Conducting" award from the prestigious Gramophone magazine in 1996. He certainly shows bold confidence in choosing his collaborators. Guest conductor, Miguel Harth-Bedoya, is a savvy choice for the romantic Tchaikovsky and Falla program. Having conducted works such as Martin and Soler's Il Tutore Burlato and a 2006 compilation disc of Spanish and Latin American songs, Sentimiento Latino,Harth-Bedoya brings a unique tenderness and historical sensibility to the orchestra's sound. Back in Ohio Welser-Möst probably wouldn't be surprised to receive thank-you cards from Florida after tapping Cuban-born virtuoso pianist Horacio Gutiérrez to play Tchaikovsky's "Piano Concerto No. 1."