The Cleveland Orchestra Announces 103rd Severance Hall Season

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The Cleveland Orchestra Announces 103rd Severance Hall Season

Franz Welser-Möst and The Cleveland Orchestra have announced their schedule for the ensemble's 2020-21 season at Severance Hall. The season of twenty-six concert weeks, running from September 2020 to May 2021, will be Welser-Möst's 19th season as music director, continuing the ongoing growth and evolution of a partnership that is both world-renowned and a source of local pride in its hometown and throughout Northeast Ohio. The new season continues Welser-Möst's recent explorations of both well-known and less frequently played works by Prokofiev and Schubert and concludes with a spring festival devoted to ideas about outsiders in art and society. The festival is centered around the Orchestra's annual opera presentation in May 2021, in-concert performances of Verdi's opera Otello. The season's schedule also includes touring dates to New York City, Europe, and Miami.

"The announcement of each new season is made with great excitement, after years of planning and preparation," says André Gremillet, President & CEO of The Cleveland Orchestra. "Announcing in this time of uncertainty is doubly important. Despite the realities that the coronavirus pandemic has created today, we know that concert life around the world will reawaken and continue, and it is vital that we proceed with our plans to welcome audiences to future performances and seasons. Music and the arts offer hope, comfort, and focus for everyone going forward. Franz Welser-Möst and all of us within the Cleveland Orchestra community are dedicated to not just helping to contain and control the virus, but to being ready and able to resume everyday life with the joys and pleasures that include live concert performances. The resilience of the arts community will stand as a reflection of human creativity and compassion - and a clear signal of solidarity among artists and audience alike."

"For so many of us, music is a special language that brings us new understanding of the world around us," says Franz Welser-Möst, who begins his 19th year as Music Director of The Cleveland Orchestra with the 2020-21 season. "In today's uncertain times, the arts are as important as they ever have been, to provide grounding and perspective to the tumultuous world around us. Every season features new discoveries and old favorites, and the 2020-21 season is no exception. The season is filled with brand-new works and works that The Cleveland Orchestra has never played before. I am particularly looking forward to the journey that these programs offer us, both for those of us onstage and for Cleveland audiences eager to come together to participate in the excitement of a live concert. The communication between performers and audiences, the give and take, brings inspiration and new insight to all of us."

During the 2020-21 season, Music Director Franz Welser-Möst leads twelve weekends of concerts at Severance Hall. In September, he conducts programs featuring Stravinsky's Concerto in D, Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 2 (with Yefim Bronfman as soloist), and Scriabin's Symphony No. 2. Later in the month, he conducts a program of Morton Feldman's Rothko Chapel (with Principal Viola Wesley Collins as soloist) along with Mozart's Requiem and Ave verum corpus, both at home in Severance Hall and at Lincoln Center, where they will open the season's Great Performers Series. At the start of 2021, Welser-Möst leads programs with Tchaikovsky's Suite No.3 and Symphony No. 2, followed by the world premiere of Bernd Richard Deutsch's Intensity, along with Sibelius's Symphony No. 7, and Grieg's Piano Concerto in A minor (with Leif Ove Andsnes), while in March he leads a program of two works performed for the first time by The Cleveland Orchestra, Corigliano's Conjurer Concerto (for percussion and string orchestra, with soloist Martin Grubinger), and Korngold's Symphony in F-sharp. In May, Welser-Möst conducts The Cleveland Orchestra in Ligeti's Violin Concerto (with Leila Josefowicz), alongside three tone poems of Richard Strauss: Don Juan and Till Eulenspiegel's Merry Pranks as well as the first Cleveland Orchestra performance of Macbeth.

Welser-Möst also continues his exploration of works by Sergei Prokofiev and Franz Schubert. Begun in the 2018-19 season, this examination of both well-known and lesser-known works includes programs of Prokofiev's Sinfonia concertante (for cello and orchestra, with Principal Cello Mark Kosower) alongside Tchaikovsky's Suite No. 3 and Magnard's Hyme A Venus, as well as Schubert's Symphony No. 6 appearing alongside Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 1 (with soloist Yuja Wang) and Dvořák's A Hero's Song.

"Schubert and Prokofiev are very well known - and rightfully so - but for a very small portion of their overall catalogs," says Franz Welser-Möst. "We are taking the opportunity to explore those catalogs in more depth, and I think audiences will enjoy some fascinating discoveries with us. Both of these composers wrote music that is intensely personal, and filled with meaning. The Cleveland Orchestra and I have been offering some of their works, paired together, for two seasons now. And the new season continues this exploration - of their similarities and differences, and simply of how inventive they each were as composers. Both were masters of melody, harmony, and of bringing emotional weight into their music."


Continuing The Cleveland Orchestra's tradition for ambitious festival programming and innovative opera presentations, Welser-Möst has devised a festival for May 2020 celebrating musical and societal outsiders, constructed around Verdi's opera Otello. The opera will be presented in-concert and introduce tenor Fabio Sartori to U.S. and Cleveland audiences and feature baritone Simon Keenlyside in his role debut as Iago. One of the great roles for Keenlyside's voice, he will perform it for the first time ever in Cleveland with Welser-Möst. In addition to the performances of Otello, the festival will include two nights of music conducted by Welser-Möst to examine and pose questions about who is and who isn't an "outsider." Complete details of the festival and related presentations and offering will be announced in the coming months.

"Verdi wrote Otello in his old age and was still growing and showing us new skills as a musician," says Franz Welser-Möst. "In this opera, he made huge steps in using the orchestra as a character - to shoulder much of the storytelling. It is not only the singers and the text that tell the story. In Otello Verdi infuses the orchestra with an incredible depth of emotion and detail-as well as utilizing the orchestra to comment on the action in new and subtle ways."

"And we have an unbelievably strong cast for this opera," continues Welser-Möst. "Fabio Sartori will sing the title role. He may not be well known in America yet, but his is one of the greatest Italian tenor voices I've heard. With him is soprano Krassimira Soyanova as Desdemona, and baritone Simon Keenlyside will sing his first Iago with us, choosing to make his role debut in Cleveland."

Alisa Weilerstein in Recital

Cellist and frequent Cleveland Orchestra collaborator Alisa Weilerstein will perform a recital of Bach's Complete Solo Cello Suites on February 2. A longtime artistic partner (and former member of the Cleveland Orchestra Youth Orchestra), Ms. Weilerstein has played with The Cleveland Orchestra more than two dozen times since her 1995 debut, in a range of repertoire from Tchaikovsky and Barber to Shostakovich and Elgar.

Cleveland Orchestra Debuts

Seventeen artists are making their Cleveland Orchestra debut during the 2020-21 season, including conductors Edward Gardner, Thomas Adès, Daniel Harding, and Lahav Shani; basses Peter Kellner and Jeffrey Mattsey; tenors Fabio Sartori and Pene Pati; sopranos Latonia Moore and Krassimira Stoyanova; pianists Vikingur Ólafsson and Nikolai Lugansky; percussionist Martin Grubinger; and violist Antoine Tamestit.

Guest Conductors

Acclaimed guest conductors, who work regularly with the world's leading orchestras, opera companies, and festivals will lead the Orchestra during the 2020-21 season. They include Edward Gardner, Alan Gilbert, Jakub Hrůša, Bernard Labadie, John Adams, Michail Jurowski, Fabio Luisi, Thomas Adès, Daniel Harding, Stéphane Denève, Semyon Bychkov, Ton Koopman, Michael Tilson Thomas, Vasily Petrenko, and Lahav Shani.

Cleveland Orchestra Premieres led by Franz Welser-Möst

The 2020-21 season features twenty-nine works presented for the first time by The Cleveland Orchestra, including thirteen conducted by Franz Welser-Möst. Among them, Mr. Welser-Möst will lead the Orchestra in performances of Feldman's Rothko Chapel (September 24, 27, and 30), Magnard's Hymne à Vénus (January 7-10), Dvořák's A Hero's Song (January 14-16), Corigliano's Conjurer and Korngold's Symphony in F Sharp (March 4 and 6), Strauss's Macbeth (May 13, 15, and 21), Schwertsik's Herr K. entdeckt Amerika and Barber's Toccata Festiva (for organ and orchestra) (May 28), and Adams's Common Tones in Simple Time, as well as Walker's Lilacs and Gubaidulina's Light of the End (May 29).

Commissions, Premieres, Works by Living Composers

During the 2020-21 season, the Orchestra will perform eighteen pieces by fourteen living composers, including the United States premieres of four Cleveland Orchestra co-commissioned works, among them Thomas Adès's Angel Symphony (October 1-2). On February 25, 27 and 28 the world premiere of Intensity für Orchester by Bernd Richard Deutsch (the Orchestra's current and tenth Daniel R. Lewis Young Composer Fellow), the U.S. premieres of a new Deutsch work (November 19 and 21) and a new work by Julian Anderson (a former Lewis Young Composer Fellow) on April 8, 10, and 11. Also during the season The Cleveland Orchestra's performs works for the first time including Unsuk Chin's "Puzzles and Games" from Alice in Wonderland (November 12-15), Gabriella Smith's Tumblebird Contrails (December 3-5), John Adams's Must the Devil Have All the Good Tunes? (December 3-5), John Corigliano's Conjurer: Concerto for Percussion and String Orchestra (March 4 and 6), the United States premiere of Jörg Widmann's Viola Concerto (March 18-20), and Guillaume Connesson's Flammenschrift (April 1 and 3). For a complete list of works being performed for the first time by The Cleveland Orchestra in the 2020-21 season, see the calendar list section below.

Cleveland Orchestra Family of Artists

The 2020-21 season features conductors and guest artists who have extensive collaborative connections with the Orchestra, including pianists Yefim Bronfman, Yuja Wang, Leif Ove Andsnes, Garrick Ohlsson; violinists Julia Fischer, Nikolai Szeps-Znaider, and Leila Josefowicz; cellist Alisa Weilerstein; organist Paul Jacobs; vocalists Tamara Wilson, Jennifer Johnson Cano, Stuart Skelton, Raymond Aceto, and Simon Keenlyside; and conductors Alan Gilbert, John Adams, Fabio Luisi, Stéphane Denève, Semyon Bychkov, Ton Koopman, and Michael Tilson Thomas.

Cleveland Orchestra Members Featured as Soloists

Four members of The Cleveland Orchestra will be featured soloists during the 2020-21 season starting with Wesley Collins (Principal Viola) playing Feldman's Rothko Chapel on September 24, 27, and 30. Next, associate concertmaster Jung-Min Amy Lee will perform Pärt's Fratres (version for violin solo, strings, and percussion) on December 3-5; principal cellist Mark Kosower will play Prokofiev's Sinfonia Concertante (for cello and orchestra) on January 7, 9, and 10; and first associate concertmaster Peter Otto performs Walton's Violin Concerto on February 11, 13, and 14.

Cleveland Orchestra Choral Ensembles

The Cleveland Orchestra Chorus, one of the few professionally trained, all-volunteer choruses sponsored by a major American orchestra, will be featured in a variety of performances throughout the season. Its members hail from nearly fifty Cleveland-area communities and together contribute more than 25,000 volunteer hours to the Orchestra's music-making each year. In addition to performances in December for the annual Christmas concerts, the Cleveland Orchestra Chorus sings Feldman's Rothko Chapel and Mozart's Requiem and Ave verum corpus (September 24, 27, and 30), Beethoven's Symphony No. 9 (November 12-15), Janáček's Glagolitic Mass (April 8, 10, and 11), during a program conducted by Michael Tilson Thomas featuring a number of choral pieces and Ives's Holidays Symphony (April 22-24), and in Verdi's opera Otello (May 22, 25, and 30), where members will be joined by the Cleveland Orchestra Children's Chorus.


The Fridays@7 series was created a decade ago to provide an entry point for attracting new audiences, and it continues to evolve and appeal to first-time Cleveland Orchestra attendees - featuring an early start time, no intermission, and an after-party. The 2020-21 season includes three Fridays@7 concerts: November 20, February 26, and April 23, each with a 7:00 p.m. start time. Previous Fridays@7 activities have included pre-concert conversations with guest artists and conductors, special food and beverage offerings themed around the concert program, guest appearances by local radio personalities, an after-party with a live band, and trivia nights with Cleveland Orchestra musicians.

Holiday Festival for 2020

The 2020 Holiday Festival features The Cleveland Orchestra's annual Christmas concerts, including beloved seasonal music with the Cleveland Orchestra Chorus, Cleveland Orchestra Children's Chorus, members of the Cleveland Orchestra Youth Chorus, and guest choral ensembles - all in the yuletide splendor of Severance Hall. This year's festival will take place on December 10, 11, 12, 13, 17, 18, 19, and 20, with a dozen concerts led by conductor Brett Mitchell.

The Cleveland Orchestra NYC Performance, International Touring and Miami Residency
The Cleveland Orchestra and Franz Welser-Möst return to Lincoln Center to open the Great Performers season with Morton Feldman's introspective Rothko Chapel paired with Mozart's Requiem and Ave verum corpus on October 4. The Orchestra's calendar includes a European Tour immediately following the New York City concert, with details to be announced in the coming months. The Cleveland Orchestra's season also includes its fifteenth Miami residency in partnership with the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami-Dade County, details of which were announced in January :

Concerts for Families, Schools, and Community

The season also includes an array of annual programming demonstrating the Orchestra's continuing commitment to education concerts (for schools and families) and community programs. Details of these events and performances will be announced in the coming months.

At Severance Hall, the Under 18s Free program offers complimentary tickets (one per regular-priced adult paid admission) to young people ages 7-17 to select Cleveland Orchestra subscription concerts, as well as the Orchestra's Family Concert Series supported by the Weiss Family Foundation, PNC Music Explorers (ages 3-6), and Cleveland Orchestra Youth Orchestra concerts. Further details of these series will be announced in spring of 2020. More information about Under 18s Free to follow.

In January 2021, the 41st annual free Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration Concert in recognition of the life and legacy of Dr. King takes place at Severance Hall. Details about the ticket distribution, concert program, Severance Hall free MLK Community Open House will be announced later this year.

For additional information about The Cleveland Orchestra's Education and Community Engagement programs and youth ensembles, visit

Center for Future Audiences, Young Audience Development

The Cleveland Orchestra's Center for Future Audiences was established to fund programs to develop new generations of audiences for Cleveland Orchestra concerts in Northeast Ohio. The Center was created in 2010 with a $20 million lead endowment gift from the Maltz Family Foundation, and its programs focus on addressing economic and geographic barriers that may prevent young people from attending Orchestra concerts at Severance Hall and Blossom Music Center. The programs include research, introductory offers, targeted discounts, student ticket programs, and integrated use of new technologies. For more information, please visit

More young people than ever are attending Cleveland Orchestra concerts at Severance Hall and at each summer's Blossom Music Festival. More than 20 percent of the classical concert audience is now made up of patrons 25 years old and under, up from only eight percent before the expansion of programs made possible by the Center's funding. The Center for Future Audiences programs include Under 18s Free, Members Club, The Circle, Student Advantage Program, and Frequent Fan Cards. For more information, please visit

Under 18s Free, which is the cornerstone program of The Cleveland Orchestra's Center for Future Audiences, continues to foster young audiences by making attendance at orchestra concerts affordable for families, offering free tickets to young people age 17 and under for select concerts. The Under 18s Free program celebrates its 10th anniversary this summer at Blossom Music Festival, and continues the celebration through the 2020-21 season. As of the summer of 2020, more than 200,000 children will have attended Cleveland Orchestra and Blossom Music Festival concerts for free through the Under 18s Free program. For more information, please visit

Subscription and Ticket Information

Subscriptions for the 2020-21 season are on sale now and start at only $69 for a three-concert package. Subscribers receive seating priority, ticket exchange privileges, and other benefits, including savings of up to 35% off individual-ticket prices.

Cleveland Orchestra Memberships can be purchased at any time during the year. Memberships are designed to offer convenience and value for patrons who want to experience more Cleveland Orchestra concerts each season and include access to year-round concerts at both Severance Hall and the Blossom Music Festival. In exchange for a monthly membership fee of $35 (billed automatically), members can reserve a single ticket for $10 to any concert at any time. For more information about the Members Club, please visit

Tickets to individual performances go on sale in mid-August 2020. For more information about the variety of subscription packages offered, or for other questions, call Cleveland Orchestra Ticket Services at 216-231-1111 or 800-686-1141, or visit

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