Press Clipping
Cleveland Orchestra, Mahler shine on new digital ‘Symphony Night Live’ feature

CLEVELAND, Ohio – It’s hard to deny yourself a new streaming platform when the product is great orchestral music.

Case in point: Symphony Night Live. Even if you attend Cleveland Orchestra concerts in person or subscribe to Adella, you may find the orchestra’s new digital concert outlet has a place in your musical life and be well worth its $10 monthly fee.

The first of four Cleveland Orchestra programs headed to the platform this season, featuring September’s performance of Mahler’s “Resurrection” Symphony No. 2, isn’t better than the real thing, or better than the version of the same event destined for Adella, the orchestra’s in-house digital platform.

It is, however, substantially different. In addition to a superb, insightful recording of the concert, the Symphony Night Live broadcast includes a genuinely interesting pre-concert program and a post-concert wrap-up the likes of which this veteran music-lover has never seen. Subscribers also get access to concerts by other great ensembles including the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, the London Symphony Orchestra, and the Czech Philharmonic, among several others.

First, the concert itself. The main attraction is indeed highly attractive, a remarkably vibrant and intimate recording (of a memorable performance) that rewards close listening and makes possible a deeper understanding and love of the score.

Microphones and cameras alike bring the viewer into the thick of the action, spotlighting individuals or sections at key passages and allowing one to hear the playing in all its articulate fullness. Novice listeners will appreciate the guidance while experienced concert-goers will relish the novel angles and richness of sound.

No matter where you sat in Severance Music Center, you weren’t this close to the horns, percussion, or Cleveland Orchestra Chorus. Even after hanging on every note sung live by mezzo-soprano Marie-Nicole Lemieux, this listener still found more to love in the Symphony Night Live edition.

There was also much to enjoy in the pre-concert show, a sort of mini-documentary highlighting several musicians, the history of Severance Music Center, and the Mahler Two manuscript the orchestra recently received as a gift.

This sucker for history fell head-over-heels for the images of Severance Hall (now Severance Music Center) under construction and in early use, with cars pulling into what is now the East Blvd. pedestrian entrance. President and chief executive Andre Gremillet did a good job establishing a real sense of place.

Most rewarding was the commentary by the musicians, their candid thoughts on what Mahler’s music means to them and what it’s like to perform. Profound reflections by music director Franz Welser-Most, uttered while gently handling the manuscript, hit home with surprising force.

The only element about which this listener had mixed feelings was the post-concert feature, a conversation about the performance between three personalities, filmed at a studio in Amsterdam.

On the one hand, there’s nothing wrong with treating music a little like a sporting event or sharing dialogue about music in a relatable format. On the other: the conversation itself, a fair but somewhat jarring overview marred by tired critical tropes and an insensitive dig at the Chorus for choosing to wear masks.

Happily, that’s a feature one can take or leave. If you come to Symphony Night Live for the music, you’ll be glad you did.