Philharmonic to perform in Cleveland

On May 3, the Carnegie Mellon Philharmonic will travel to Severance Hall (home of the Cleveland Orchestra) in Cleveland, Ohio. The orchestra will play an entirely Paul Hindemith program, including “Symphonic Metamorphosis on Themes of Carl Maria von Weber,” “Kammermusik Number 1,” “Five Dances from Der Daemon,” and Symphony Mathis der Maler under music director Juan Pablo Izquierdo.

In considering the concert program, Izquierdo researched the last seven years’ worth of concert programs of the Cleveland Orchestra and found that the orchestra had not played Hindemith in any of those concerts. Seeking to stir memories of the championship of Hindemith by George Szell, the Cleveland Orchestra’s music director from 1946 to 1970, Izquierdo selected pieces written by Hindemith in the 1920s, ’30s, and ’40s.

The Philharmonic’s trip to Severance Hall is a continuation of a history of successful tours, including two visits to Carnegie Hall in New York, the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., and Symphony Hall in Boston, in addition to performances at Heinz Hall in downtown Pittsburgh.

“We want to expose the orchestra,” Izquierdo said. The orchestra’s goal is to present itself to new audiences and to prospective students; Izquierdo called it “a way of inviting” the best players to the university. For students in the orchestra, playing concerts in venues away from home also “enhances the learning very much — that’s the most important thing” Izquierdo said.

The School of Music has been promoting this concert by posting flyers in Margaret Morrison and other buildings. Additionally, the university is offering free tickets and transportation to Cleveland (more information below). The School of Music has also teamed up with WQED Multimedia to advertise the concert. Izquierdo said that working with WQED has helped the orchestra reach a larger audience.

Attendance at Philharmonic concerts in Pittsburgh can be unkind. Izquierdo described a downward trend in attendance of Philharmonic concerts at Carnegie Mellon, typically held at Carnegie Hall. He said, “Here in Pittsburgh, we have an audience that’s very faithful, but very small.”

Izquierdo feels that promotion for the concerts is lacking. He said, “Turnout [at concerts] is not the priority of this institution. Perfection is priority.”

In other words, why promote something that isn’t the best it can be? The music must be perfect before it can be advertised. However, the Carnegie Mellon Philharmonic’s excellent concerts this season have done well to showcase the talents of its students. This, coupled with Hindemith’s music, makes for a promising show in Cleveland.

Hindemith’s music is accessible and exciting. Despite Schoenberg and Webern leading music toward serialism (a modern musical theory, where the 12 pitches of the chromatic scale and eventually dynamics, articulations, and even rhythm are ordered in a particular way, and then manipulated) in the 20th century, Hindemith continued to compose in the style of a late-19th-century composer — a great 19th-century composer. “Symphonic Metamorphosis” (1943) and Mathis der Maler (1934) both have melodies and recognizable harmony, not to mention soaring string lines, heroic brass lines, and shimmering chords. John Williams probably lies awake at night, wishing that he had written the last movement of “Symphonic Metamorphosis,” with all of its energy and forward propulsion.

Of Hindemith’s music, Izquierdo said that “for the players, it’s a joy to play Hindemith. It’s very demanding, but with good results.” Indeed, for Hindemith’s music, you need power, precision, and good ensemble. The Carnegie Mellon Philharmonic has all of these and has been rehearsing rigorously. In fact, the group has already played the Mathis der Maler at Heinz Hall on April 11. Overall, the Cleveland concert should be worth the trip.