The Cleveland Orchestra, in a press conference known as The Decision, announced that they were taking their talents away from the Midwest. Their goal in leaving Cleveland wasn't to win six, seven or eight titles. There is no world championship for orchestras, even though they'd be perennial contenders based on what we heard this week. The 94 year old Cleveland Orchestra only came in town to celebrate the SF Symphony 100th anniversary season, and just for two concerts Sunday and Monday night at Davies Symphony Hall. While Franz Welser-Möst's orchestra likes to get out on the road and take up residencies in New-York, Lucerne or, obviously, Miami, it isn't stabbing Cleveland in the back. And it does not falter in crunch time either: the Cleveland Orchestra has a marvelous, homogenous sound, and when the repertory turns to the romantic era, they can out-lush anybody.
The template for the visits of the great American orchestras is that they bring new works that they commissioned and some other stuff that they are really good at. For the new stuff, Cleveland did not go the way of Chicago who played brand new works with a fresh paint signs still attached to them: the 2002 Orion by Kaija Saariaho and the 2007 Dances from Powder Her Face from Thomas Adès felt like venerable classics in comparison. On the other hand, a little test of time does not hurt and these pieces felt much more substantial and satisfying and perfectly executed.