Cleveland Orchestra Youth Orchestra warming up for historic tour of Europe


Zachary Lewis The Plain Dealer, Cleveland (TNS)



CLEVELAND, Ohio – History and memories are in the making this month at the Cleveland Orchestra Youth Orchestra.

Not only is the group of serious teenage musicians embarking on a four-city tour of Europe. For the first time, it also plans to meet up and perform overseas with Franz Welser-Most, music director of the Cleveland Orchestra, and collaborate with students in a European university.

“This really is a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” said Vinay Parameswaran, music director of the group commonly known as COYO. “This whole season has been preparation for this. It’s all been building up to this experience.”

Were it not for that word “Youth,” the casual viewer easily could mistake COYO’s schedule June 12-19 for that of its namesake and professional overseer.

Vienna, Austria? Bratislava, Slovakia? Budapest, Hungary? These are the haunts of the Cleveland Orchestra, three of the musical capitals of Europe.

Soon, though, along with Saint Florian in Austria, they’ll also be hosts of Cleveland’s most talented young artists, many of whom have never traveled overseas or played anywhere outside Northeast Ohio.

“I’m just speechless,” said COYO trumpeter Xan Denker, a recent graduate of Twinsburg High School. “Already this has been the most formative musical experiences I’ve ever had. It’s really helped me realize that this is what I want to do with my life.”

For most COYO members, the highlight of the tour is likely to be the appearance June 15 in the famed Golden Hall at the Musikverein in Vienna. There, in that historic space home to the Vienna Philharmonic and frequented by the Cleveland Orchestra, the group will perform Brahms’ Symphony No. 2, Bartok’s Dance Suite, and an American piece, “The Chairman Dances,” by John Adams.

Looking back on his own first visit to the hall, Parameswaran said even he didn’t fully appreciate the significance of the venue as a young percussionist in the San Francisco Symphony Youth Orchestra.

“I don’t know if I realized at the time what it really meant,” he said of the Musikverein. “I don’t know if the gravity of it really hit me. It’s going to be quite an experience.”

Those same artists also will take their talents down the Danube from Vienna to Bratislava (June 16) and Budapest (June 19). In both cities, as in Vienna, the group will have time outside concerts and rehearsals for sightseeing and relaxing. Many players are traveling with family and friends.

But if there’s one thing that makes this trip historic, it’s the involvement of Welser-Most. On this tour, the music director of the Cleveland Orchestra will conduct COYO not at Severance Hall but in the monastery of St. Florian in Austria, where the Cleveland Orchestra recorded two Bruckner Symphonies.

A few select players will have an additional special opportunity. While in Linz, Austria, four COYO players will join four students from Anton Bruckner Private University to perform the Schubert Octet. The Austrian students got the ball rolling during a May visit to Cleveland, when all were coached by members of the Cleveland Orchestra.

“They had a different dynamic,” said violinist Kaylee Bontrager, a recent graduate of Central Christian School and a member of the COYO quartet. “It was cool to compare our musical ideas.”

Don’t feel bad if you don’t have the luxury of following COYO around Europe. You can support the group right here at home, by attending a free send-off concert Friday, June 7, at Severance Hall featuring almost everything the Europeans will hear, minus Welser-Most and the Schubert.

For graduating high school seniors about to depart COYO for good, it’ll be the last local hurrah, one final opportunity to play Severance Hall in company of friends before leaving to take on the world.

“This group is never satisfied,” Parameswaran said. “They’re always seeking to improve, always searching for depth and new ideas. I’m in awe of the level we’ve reached.”

PREVIEW

Cleveland Orchestra Youth Orchestra

What: European Tour Sendoff Concert, featuring works by Brahms, Adams and Bartok.

When: 8 p.m. Friday, June 7.

Where: Severance Hall, 11001 Euclid Ave., Cleveland.

Tickets: Free, but tickets required. Go to clevelandorchestra.com or call 216-231-1111.

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Zachary Lewis The Plain Dealer, Cleveland (TNS)

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