The Cleveland Orchestra Maestri: Determiners of Repertoire, Artists of Determination

Faculty Mentor(s)

Dr. Julia Randel, Hope College

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Incorporating 20th-century repertoire into orchestra programming, while still appealing to general audiences, is a balance that orchestras struggle with today. This case study examines the repertoire selections of three music directors of the Cleveland Orchestra: George Szell, who was known to favor pre-20th century Austro-Germanic music, Lorin Maazel, who had a reputation for challenging audiences with 20th-century music, and Christoph von Dohnányi, who was seen as striking a balance. The most complete available list of the Cleveland Orchestra’s programs between 1948-2002 was analyzed in order to determine the number of pre-20th- vs. 20th-century composers programmed, highest programmed composers overall, and the most programmed 20th-century composers. The study finds that each conductor’s predilection did influence the repertoire, especially in the top ten performed composers. Though Maazel’s and Dohnányi’s lists overlap significantly, indicating their similar tastes in 20th century music, Dohnányi was more progressive. Despite popular opinion, Dohnányi exposed audiences to a larger variety and amount of 20th-century works than Maazel. This finding indicates that although audiences may not be familiar with or inclined to embrace 20th-century music, the way it is presented by the music director does play a role in how audiences accept it.

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