WEB EXCLUSIVE: Summer’s musical blossoms

Cleveland Orchestra, Jahja Ling give festival a sound start

The Cleveland Orchestra kicked off the 2005 Blossom Festival season under a cloudless sky at Blossom Music Center Saturday.

Audience members created a rainbow of blankets, chairs and coolers that filled the lawn surrounding the Blossom pavilion.

Couples sipped their red and white wines and families relaxed with their picnics as Festival Director Jahja Ling conducted the world-renowned orchestra in the season opener.

Such sights and sounds are common most summers at Blossom since the complex opened as the summer home of the orchestra in 1968.

This year’s festival began with what Lakewood resident Mike Bennett said was a masterful performance of Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 4 and Chopin’s Piano Concerto No. 1.

“The Tchaikovsky was one of the best performances ever here at Blossom,” he said.

This season’s festival marks Ling’s 21st and final season with the Cleveland Orchestra.

Several accomplishments have marked his career since his debut with the orchestra in 1985, including world premieres of James Horner’s “A Forest Passage” and Augusta Read Thomas’ “Song in Sorrow,” written to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the Kent State shootings.

Virginia and Bill Keller of Mentor, season pass holders for 18 years, said they consider Ling to be one of the best conductors they’ve seen.

“You can tell that he loves the music and he’s happy when he’s up there,” Bill Keller said.

Ling’s passion for the music and his animated style were the best part of the event for Akron resident Laura Thompson, 22.

Mike Bennett and his wife Linda, who make the drive from Lakewood to the Blossom Festival four times a year, said Ling’s departure would be a great loss.

In August, before he leaves for his new position as music director of the San Diego Symphony, Ling will perform on piano with his wife, Jessie Chang, in Mozart’s Concerto for Two Pianos.

Blossom Festival activities will continue throughout the summer until the Cincinnati Pops close the season with a two-night Star Wars Spectacular on Sept. 3 and 4. Both concerts will conclude with fireworks displays, weather permitting.

Other features of this summer’s festival include a Mainly Mozart night, a musical salute to Leonard Bernstein and an evening of circus music, featuring a ringmaster and “special surprises,” according to the official schedule of events.

In addition to the musical portions of the festival, pre-concert events are held certain evenings.

Wine tastings are scheduled prior to the July 30 and Aug. 13 concerts. Patrons can purchase a ticket entitling them to a Blossom wine glass, breads, cheeses and five wine samples to wash it all down.

On Aug. 6, those with a palate for beer can enjoy the Microbrew Tasting, which includes a Blossom pub glass and five samples from local breweries per ticket.

Contact performing arts and entertainment reporter William L. Teckmyer III at [email protected].