The Florida Philharmonic breathed its last gasp only months before construction began on the Carnival Center for the Performing Arts. Its instruments had been auctioned off by the time the venue finally opened. It seemed that we would have to make do with the green (though by no means slight) talent of the New World Symphony. But then the Carnival Center's programmers announced that the first professional orchestra to debut in the space would be one of the finest if not the best in the country. The Cleveland Orchestra played a series of three concerts beginning in early January and ending in March. The repertoire included Ludwig van Beethoven's Ninth Symphony and Gustav Mahler's First. Also performed before packed houses were pieces by Leonard Bernstein, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, and Argentine composer Osvaldo Golijov. There were lectures about the music, too. But mostly it was the glorious use of a still-unfamiliar space that made the series memorable. In the Carnival Center, the strings seemed to soar, the cymbals crashed with grandeur, and we felt like a city whose cultural offerings were second to none.