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Music in the Spacing of the Spheres

A spectacular version of
Holst's 'The Planets' in Cleveland,
reviewed by Kelly Ferjutz


Cleveland's University Circle area is home to an abundance of arts and sciences. The Cleveland Orchestra lives at Severance Hall, which is across the street from Case Western Reserve University and the adjoining University Hospitals. Less than ten blocks down the street is the Cleveland Clinic, while half a dozen museums, churches, several theaters and the Institutes of Music and Art plus the Music School Settlement fill in the intervening spaces. It's a marvelously enriching area in which to work or play.

And so, when the Cleveland Orchestra does a multi-media spectacular, it pulls out all the stops, even going so far as to align a subscription concert weekend featuring The Planets, complete with filmed depictions and narration, with an actual planetary happening [Mercury, Jupiter and Mars appeared to reside in the same area, low in the south-eastern sky on 10 December 2006]! Cool.

Small wonder, then, that in the late 1990s the Cleveland Orchestra wanted to do something really special during the summer season at Blossom Music Center, an outdoor facility with a spacious pavilion that houses the stage and protected seating plus a huge lawn for casual listening. The plan was this. The Orchestra, conducted by the then-music director of Blossom, Jahja Ling, would perform The Planets of Gustav Holst. The music would be enriched by a film shown simultaneously on huge screens to either side of the stage. The films came from various space vehicles under the aegis of NASA, the US National Aeronautic and Space Administration.

A scene from the December 2006 Cleveland performances of 'The Planets'. Photo © 2006 Roger Mastroianni
A scene from the December 2006 Cleveland performances of 'The Planets'. Photo © 2006 Roger Mastroianni

The films by themselves would be a treat, but why not add narration by someone familiar with this spacious topic? Just so happens that CWRU has a super-star of its own -- Dr Lawrence Krauss, renowned as scientist, lecturer and author. He readily agreed to write a suitable narration for each planet, after which the orchestra would play the appropriate section of the music, accompanied by the filmed portions. The concert, on 5 August 2000, succeeded beyond anyone's expectations.

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Copyright © 17 December 2006 Kelly Ferjutz, Cleveland USA


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