At 100, the Cleveland Orchestra May (Quietly) Be America’s Best


CLEVELAND — Sound the trumpets, peal the bells! The Cleveland Orchestra, which many consider one of the finest ensembles in the nation and the world, turns 100 this year.

But don’t necessarily expect the orchestra, which plays two soberly sensible programs at Carnegie Hall this week, to join the clamor. There is no major commissioning project, such as you might see from other orchestras; no nationally televised gala.

“It’s kind of an understated celebration,” said Gary Hanson, the ensemble’s executive director from 2004 to 2015, “and that is absolutely true to the Cleveland Orchestra’s character. It would rather not make noise. The quality of the performances is always supposed to be the loudest voice.”

Franz Welser-Möst, music director since 2002, elaborated: “We shouldn’t be celebrating ourselves. We should be celebrating the city and the community.”

The city and community have backed the orchestra through thick and thin. Mostly thin, in recent decades, though Cleveland seems finally to be rebounding economically.