Ever wonder how the Cleveland Orchestra grew to be a world class institution? On Saturday, May 11th a large audience gathered at the Cleveland Hungarian Heritage Society Museum to learn about George Szell, the Hungarian-born musician, composer, and conductor who built the Cleveland Orchestra into one of the finest orchestras in the world today.
Marcia Hanson Kraus, wife of oboist and English hornist Felix Kraus, gave a fabulous talk. Her husband played in the orchestra for over four decades [1963-2004]. Seeing all the publications of Mr. Szell, Ms. Kraus recognized that much was factual biographical and densely scholarly. She felt compelled to write a book about the man and his work from the musicians’ point of view and also for the general reader interested in classical symphonic music. She then undertook a significant task of interviewing over 43 people taking copious notes and weaving an interesting account of Mr. George Szell. She writes about his love of music and his insistence that musicians arrive on time to rehearsals, come in appropriate attire, have a well-tuned instrument and perform their best. She talked about the struggles to achieve a livable wage for the musicians. With the purchase and construction of Blossom Music Center, the summer home of the Cleveland Orchestra, work was assured year-round. Though Mr. Szell was exacting and demanding, musicians never doubted his deep underlying commitment and devotion to the highest standards of excellence and to the orchestra.
The internationally known structural engineer of the Blossom Music Center Hungarian born Cleveland native, Mr. Miklos Peller was responsible for bringing the architectural vision into reality. In the second half of the talk, Mr. Peller discussed some of the details of building the Blossom Music Center. After finding suitable property between Akron and Cleveland, in Peninsula, Ohio, they eventually purchased a farm that used the contour of the earth as a bowl to enable viewing on the lawn that we know so well. Mr. Peller described challenges and the innovation in using tubular steel to create the sturdy and lightweight roof of Blossom which meets both acoustical and aesthetic requirements in sheltering the musicians and a part of the audience.
The audience was riveted. The book George Szell’s Reign was published in 2017 by the University of Illinois Press and a paperback edition of the book is scheduled for publication this fall.
Summary written by Dr. Klara Papp