his year’s Blossom Music Festival will feature everything from a return visit by renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma Aug. 16 to Wheel of Fortune’s Pat Sajak getting in on the fun for the Labor Day weekend Family Funfest Aug. 30.
Ma, always a highly anticipated artist at Blossom, appeared there with the Silk Road Ensemble in 2010 and as a soloist in 1988, when he played the Elgar Cello Concerto. He will reprise the piece this summer.
“Having Yo-Yo Ma come play the Elgar concerto will be a very, very special occasion,” Cleveland Orchestra Executive Director Gary Hanson said. “He is an amazing human being.”
The summer’s varied fare will see Sajak narrating Casey at the Bat for the Funfest, a pops program that will feature tunes from The Little Mermaid, The Wizard of Oz and Frozen, followed by fireworks.
“If you look at all of the popular concerts over the course of the summer, what you see is a long-term trend of the popular programs away from the traditional Rodgers and Hammerstein, Boston Pops-style concerts into something that is updated — the Beatles for example — and a lot of movie scores,” Hanson said. “That’s because Broadway overall has moved away from orchestral scoring but movies still retain orchestral scores.”
Pops concerts this summer will include A Beatles Tribute: Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of their U.S. Arrival Aug. 24 as well as Sci-fi Spectacular July 13, which will feature music from science-fiction TV shows and movies including Star Trek, Star Wars, E.T., and 2001: A Space Odyssey. It will include Hollywood Under the Stars in early August, with Hollywood maestro Richard Kaufman conducting memorable music from films ranging from Forrest Gump to Lawrence of Arabia.
Finally, Broadway Standing Ovations, with conductor Jack Everly and vocalists Ted Keegan, Christina Bianco and Ben Crawford, will perform Broadway showstoppers from The Phantom of the Opera (in which Keegan performed on Broadway), Wicked, Les Miserables and more. Bianco will offer impressions of stars including Julie Andrews, Barbra Streisand and Judy Garland from her Diva Moments solo show.
The Cleveland Orchestra crafts its Blossom program to mix pops concerts with its larger focus on the great classical masterpieces, including Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7, Mendelssohn’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream and a program titled The Magic of Mozart, all aimed at furthering audience development.
“From beginning to end, it is filled with the great masterpieces of the orchestral repertoire,” Hanson said of the summer’s classical program. “At Severance Hall, the audiences have certainly heard live in the past Beethoven Seven or Dvorak Nine or Shostakovich Five. But at Blossom, there’s every possibility that 1,000 people or more will be hearing a Beethoven symphony live for the first time.”
A big part of the Cleveland Orchestra’s outreach, the free Under 18s program, is growing in popularity. In 2012, 11,317 people under 18 took advantage of free Blossom tickets, with the number swelling to 22,275 in 2013.
Numerous guest conductors will make their Blossom debuts this summer, including Jaap van Zweden, Asher Fisch, John Storgards, Matthew Halls and Jeffrey Kahane. Also making their Blossom debuts will be pianists Benjamin Grosvenor and Francesco Piemontesi. Grosvenor was recently named Gramophone young artist of the year and Piemontesi recently achieved success at the Mostly Mozart Festival in New York.
Also of note, conductor Jahja Ling, who was a member of the Cleveland Orchestra conducting staff for 20 years, will mark the 30th anniversary of his debut with the Cleveland Orchestra.
Guest conductors will be at the helm until the final Blossom performance Aug. 31, when Cleveland Orchestra Music Director Franz Welser-Möst, conducting the opera Der Rosenkavalier this summer at the Salzburg Festival in Austria, will return to Northeast Ohio for the orchestra’s European Festivals Tour send-off performance.
The concert will feature the music of Widmann and Brahms. The European Festivals Tour in September will include Paris, Vienna, Amsterdam, and, orchestra officials hope, the Proms at London’s Royal Albert Hall. It is the world’s largest annual festival of orchestral music.
“This is a hint, not a statement, that the orchestra may be heading off to play at the Proms,” Hanson said.
The BBC will announce the Proms lineup in March. The Cleveland Orchestra last played the Proms in 2005.
Arts writer Kerry Clawson may be reached at 330-996-3527 or firstname.lastname@example.org.