The Cleveland Museum of Art's Performing Arts Series Offers a Wide Mix of Music

Dona Onete
Dona Onete

For nearly all of its 100-year history, the Cleveland Museum of Art has presented music from around the world, which makes its annual Performing Arts series part of a longstanding mission.

  "There's a rich history of concerts at the museum," says the museum's Director of Performing Arts, Tom Welsh. "We present a wide range of contemporary, classical and global music, as has always been the case. The performing arts series is robust, covering lots of ideas and traditions – old and new, East and West. The program mirrors the museum's collections by presenting the history of human thought and creative endeavor. I'm just carrying on a long tradition."

 The series launches on Wednesday, Oct. 5, with a CIM/CWRU Joint Music Program that features artists from the Cleveland Institute of Music and Case Western Reserve University's early and baroque music programs. The musicians will present mixed programs of chamber music, and the concerts regularly feature instruments from the museum's keyboard collection. Those concerts take place in the museum's galleries on the first Wednesdays on the month through May of next year.

 The viol consort Fretwork (Oct. 12) will present works from the 16th and 17th centuries as well as works by contemporary composers. "With classical music, I want to cover lots of bases from old to new," says Welsh. "Fretwork are fascinating because they have for many years not only been performing early music but commissioning works from composers like Nico Muhly, Gavin Bryars and Maja Ratkje."

A 2013 MacArthur Fellow and DownBeat magazine's 2014 Pianist of the Year, Vijay Iyer, a composer and improviser who has a huge body of work in jazz and classical music, will perform with International Contemporary Ensemble (Oct. 19). "He's an extraordinary thinker and great musician," says Welsh. "He wrote a long piece for ICE that he'll play with them, called 'Radhe Radhe – Rites of Holi.' It's ravishing." The museum will screen the Prashant Bhargava film for which the piece was written and Iyer and ICE will perform while it screens. The program, which ties into the museum's current major exhibit, Art and Stories from Mughal India, will also feature a new arrangement of Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring played by ICE.

 The Oberlin Contemporary Music Ensemble (Nov. 5) returns for a series of programs under the direction of Tim Weiss. "They're a top tier chamber group devoted to the music of our time," says Welsh. "Tim Weiss is kind of a hero of mine. What Weiss does so well is show us how expansive the classical music landscape is."

 Currently an organist at St. Ouen Church in Rouen, Jean-Baptiste Monnot (Nov. 13) will make his way to Cleveland via New Orleans, where he is the artist in residence at the St. Louis Cathedral in New Orleans. He'll perform in Cleveland for the first time.

 Violinist Francesco D'Orazio (Dec. 9 at the Transformer Station) has performed the Italian premiere of the violin concertos by a variety of composers. For the program at the Transformer Station, he'll play pieces by Luciano Berio, Sequenza VIII, Curt Cacioppo, Salvatore Sciarrino and other notable composers. "I love the intimacy of performances inside the Transformer Station," says Welsh. "D'Orazio is the major champion of Italian masterworks for solo violin of the 20th and 21st century." 

The Crossing (Jan. 6 to 8) features three vocalists whistling and breathing around an Allora and Calzadilla sculpture, to subtly move a Hadean-period rock like a pendulum. The Philly-based choral group will perform a piece by American composer David Lang, commissioned by the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

 From Jan. 27 to 29, the museum celebrates Philip Glass' 80th birthday with a presentation of The Qatsi Trilogy, cinematic works by Glass and filmmaker Godfrey Reggio: Koyaanisqatsi, Powaqqatsi and Naqoyqatsi. "There will be a lot of well-deserved attention around his birthday, says Welsh, "and these scores are among Glass' greatest works. Here's a rare opportunity to see the three films together. You can enjoy them all in one sitting, for a truly mind-altering experience, or take them in separately over the course of the weekend."

 A student at the Conservatoire national supérieur de Paris since 2012, where he is simultaneously pursuing studies in organ, harpsichord and basso continuo, Emmanuel Arakélian, another organist artist in residence at St. Louis Cathedral, also makes his first trip to Cleveland. He performs on Feb. 19.

 Quince Contemporary Vocal Ensemble (March 22) thrives on "unique musical challenges" and "a genre-bending repertoire." Norwegian composer, and accordionist Frode Haltli (March 29) teams up with Swedish nyckelharpa virtuoso Emilia Amper to play Scandinavian folk-inspired music. The preeminent tabla virtuoso of our time, Zakir Hussain teams up with Santoor player Rahul Sharma to play a program of Indian classical music on April 12. One of the most versatile cellists of our time, Jeffrey Zeigler (April 26), a former member of the forward-thinking Kronos Quartet, presents and evening of his music for cello and electronics. Brandee Younger & Courtney Bryan (May 10) team up to present an evening of the music of Alice Coltrane as well as Younger's original compositions. Unless otherwise noted, performances take place at CMA's Gartner Auditorium. Go be part of the tradition.

About The Author

Jeff Niesel

Jeff has been covering the Cleveland music scene for more than 20 years now. And on a regular basis, he tries to talk to whatever big acts are coming through town, too. If you're in a band that he needs to hear, email him at [email protected]
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