Music of the galaxies heads for Hancher

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By Claire Dietz

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The Cleveland Orchestra, though commonly referred to as one of the “Big Five” American classical ensembles, is widely considered second to none. While it keeps company with only the highest order in this select group — flagship orchestras from Chicago, New York, Boston, and Philadelphia — Cleveland’s outfit has long guarded a particular air of excellence.

Now, the group — deemed “the best in America” by the New York Times — is bringing that excellence to Hancher for the first time since the facility opened.

The orchestra, founded in 1918 by the pianist Adella Prentiss Hughes and now conducted by Music Director Franz Welser-Möst, will bring its signature sound to Hancher  at 7:30 p.m. Friday.

The Cleveland Orchestra received praise from Zackary Woolfe in the New York Times article “Cleveland Orchestra plays to Mozart and to its strengths.”

“The glory of the Cleveland Orchestra remains its balances: the smooth yet complex blend of its winds, the way the lower strings offer subtle depth to the higher ones,” he wrote.

Seeing this glory firsthand will be an especially significant experience for some Iowa City residents.

In addition to its unending commitment to the arts, the Iowa City community also boasts another connection to the orchestra: Violinist and concertmaster William Preucil is a member of the Preucil family, who founded Iowa City institution the Preucil School of Music.

In the months leading up to Friday’s event, and with the doors of the new auditorium now open, Hancher team members found themselves presented with a unique opportunity to break in their space through a performance by a top-tier, world-renowned orchestra.

Hancher Programming Director Jacob Yarrow  said the new facility presents officials with an opportunity to engage with unique artists of all different stripes, part of Hancher’s mission statement.

“We stayed committed in bringing in artists who are asking these big questions about the world,” Yarrow said. “[They’re] trying to find some answers to those questions and reveal truths to all of us. To create space for the conversation to happen has been our goal the whole time.”

For him, the Cleveland Orchestra is “incredibly accomplished” and fits with what Hancher hopes to see in its season lineup.

“[The Cleveland Orchestra] comes from a great lineage; it’s an orchestra that has been known for its accomplishments for decades,” Yarrow said. “It has been the leading ensemble in the United States, period.

“We have commitment to all sort of arts forms. One commitment we have is to Western music, and the Cleveland Orchestra comes straight out of that.”

Hancher Executive Director Charles Swanson also sees an interesting opportunity that will benefit future artists heading for the auditorium.

“I’m anxious to see the orchestra backstage, to see how it works backstage for a major orchestra,” Swanson said. “It’s a very complex thing to tour from city to city as an orchestra, so it will be interesting to see how everything works this first year. It’s like a test.”

In his eyes, one of the evening’s high points will be to see the concert grand piano played by the orchestra. He believes it is an opportunity that cannot be missed.

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