Video: Brett Mitchell appears on Denver arts magazine

Colorado Symphony music director Brett Mitchell during the taping "In Focus with Eden Lane" at Boettcher Concert Hall in downtown Denver. (Photo by Eden Lane)

Colorado Symphony music director Brett Mitchell during the taping "In Focus with Eden Lane" at Boettcher Concert Hall in downtown Denver. (Photo by Eden Lane)

On the eve of his first season as Music Director of the Colorado Symphony, Brett Mitchell appears on the current episode of "In Focus with Eden Lane," a local arts program produced by Colorado Public Television. Watch the complete episode below.

Season Preview: "Single tickets to Colorado Symphony 2017-18 season on sale now"

Single tickets are now on sale for Brett Mitchell's inaugural season as Music Director of the Colorado Symphony. (Photo by Peter Lockley)

Single tickets are now on sale for Brett Mitchell's inaugural season as Music Director of the Colorado Symphony. (Photo by Peter Lockley)

The Denver Post has published a preview of Brett Mitchell's inaugural season as Music Director of the Colorado Symphony as single tickets go on sale on Tuesday, August 1:

This is [...] the first season with 38-year-old Brett Mitchell at the helm as the new music director. Mitchell comes from the renowned Cleveland Orchestra, where he served as associate conductor and as music director of the organization’s Youth Orchestra.

“Our entire 2017/18 season is an outstanding mix of repertoire with concerts for every musical taste,” said Mitchell, who assumed the role of music director on July 1, in a release. “I’m as proud of the wide variety and high quality of programming as I am honored to take the podium for our first season together.”

Mitchell’s arrival has raised hopes of revitalizing the 28-year-old orchestra....

The season will officially kick off on Fri., Sept. 15 with a three-day performance of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5. The canonical classic will be held at the Colorado Symphony’s home, Boettcher Concert Hall, the first “in-the-round” symphony hall in the U.S.

To read the complete preview, please click here.

Review: Debut with the Grant Park Orchestra

Chicago on the Aisle has published a review of Brett Mitchell's debut with the Grant Park Orchestra:

Brett Mitchell leads the Grant Park Orchestra on Wednesday, July 19 at the Pritzker Pavilion in downtown Chicago.

Brett Mitchell leads the Grant Park Orchestra on Wednesday, July 19 at the Pritzker Pavilion in downtown Chicago.

Americana and Romanticism, as well as a thoughtful view of America’s shadowed past, were on display at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion on July 19 when Brett Mitchell led the Grant Park Orchestra in works by Kenji Bunch and Copland as well as Saint-Saëns’ Violin Concerto No. 3 with soloist Angelo Xiang Yu....

The final work on the program was the suite Copland pulled from his 1947 score for the film “The Red Pony” (based on a Steinbeck novella). While audiences might not be familiar with this piece, it was still known territory: Copland used all his beloved tricks, and it was the perfect treat for a breezy summer evening in the middle of America....

As Copland was the defining master of Americana in program music, you didn’t need to have seen the movie to conjure up clear images. We all awoke, yawning and stretching, as the opening movement, “Morning on the Ranch,” illustrated twittering birds, drops of dew, and the lengthening lines of the western landscape at sunrise. Mitchell succeeded in evoking a sense of wonder, in part thanks to the delicate lacing of harp chords and the woodwinds’ lonesome call. It was impossible not to think of rhythmic motifs and harmonic language from Copland’s ballet “Billy the Kid.”

The least predictably Copland-like movement is the third, called “Dream March and Circus Music.” The dream section is dissonant and halting, as if a puppet were dancing. Some passages are strictly tonal, but with the orchestra divided into two keys at once. Mitchell was not afraid to unleash some wild weirdness in the circus section, which features an unsettling calliope tune and an onslaught of piano chords with tambourine accents galumphing up and down to simulate creepy laughter.

“The Red Pony” Suite is not without angst – in “Grandfather’s Story,” movement five, the brass melody marching over strident string patterns tells a tale of peril – but this is Copland’s world, not to mention that of 1940s Hollywood, so you know everything will turn out fine. In fact, the last movement is called “Happy Ending,” bringing back the grand chords and angular melody from the opening. Mitchell and the Grant Park Orchestra made us believe, if only for half an hour, that Copland’s Technicolor soundscape was reality and the American Happy Ending was possible.

Review: Debut with the Grant Park Orchestra

Brett Mitchell led the Grant Park Orchestra on Wednesday, July 19 at the Pritzker Pavilion in downtown Chicago.

Brett Mitchell led the Grant Park Orchestra on Wednesday, July 19 at the Pritzker Pavilion in downtown Chicago.

The Chicago Tribune has published a review of Brett Mitchell's recent debut with the Grant Park Orchestra:

Mitchell, who may be remembered from two years of orchestral and operatic work at Northern Illinois University, was to be thanked for reviving the suite from Aaron Copland’s 1948 film score “The Red Pony.” It’s not top-drawer Copland, though the film was improved by it, and the six movements extracted are rambunctious and heartwarming by turns, making for fitting outdoor listening.... Copland’s homespun tenderness shone through, and its successfully calculated naiveté came across.

Mitchell’s allegiance to American composition presumably shows as associate conductor of the Cleveland Orchestra and will carry over to his music directorship of the Colorado Symphony, which begins this fall.

Preview: "Recommended Chicago-area classical concerts"

Brett Mitchell (pictured here with The Cleveland Orchestra) will make his debut with the Grant Park Orchestra with works of Kenji Bunch, Saint-Saëns, and Copland on Wednesday, July 19. (Photo by Roger Mastroianni)

Brett Mitchell (pictured here with The Cleveland Orchestra) will make his debut with the Grant Park Orchestra with works of Kenji Bunch, Saint-Saëns, and Copland on Wednesday, July 19. (Photo by Roger Mastroianni)

The Chicago Tribune has published a preview of Brett Mitchell's upcoming debut with the Grant Park Orchestra on Wednesday, July 19:

Grant Park Music Festival: Brett Mitchell, associate conductor of the Cleveland Orchestra, makes his first festival appearance, leading the Grant Park Orchestra in works by Saint-Saens, Copland and Kenji Bunch. Violinist Angelo Xiang Yu is the soloist. 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Jay Pritzker Pavilion, Millennium Park...

To read the complete article, please click here.

Profile: "Meet the Colorado Symphony’s New Maestro"

5280 Magazine (Denver) has published a profile of Brett Mitchell as he assumes the music directorship of the Colorado Symphony:

Brett Mitchell assumes the role of Music Director of the Colorado Symphony on July 1, 2017. (Photo by Roger Mastroianni)

Brett Mitchell assumes the role of Music Director of the Colorado Symphony on July 1, 2017. (Photo by Roger Mastroianni)

Growing up in Seattle, the Colorado Symphony’s new music director didn’t listen to a single Beethoven piece until high school. He was too busy rocking out to Kurt Cobain. Brett Mitchell, 38, officially takes over as the symphony’s new conductor when the 2017-18 season kicks off on July 1. Every bit a product of his era, Mitchell’s musical tastes formed while listening to ’90s Seattle grunge bands and iconic scores from films like Raiders of the Lost Ark (not to mention his parents’ Beatles records). That affinity for pop culture and relatability is just what the Colorado Symphony has been seeking.

In recent years, the group has catered to younger audiences with programs like its well attended Movie at the Symphony series (Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and La La Land are in the lineup this year) and Red Rocks concert accompaniments. Now, with a bona fide Star Wars and Game of Thrones fan holding the baton, the symphony hopes to bring in even more newcomers. “If we have all these other things in common, I bet I can get you excited about the orchestra, even if you don’t think it’s for you,” Mitchell says.

The black sheep of his otherwise nonmusical family, Mitchell started playing piano at age six and conducted his first concert when he was 16 at Lynnwood High School. Around that time, Mitchell made the connection that his rock idol, Cobain, patron saint of the Seattle ’90s music scene, was a sort of modern-day version of Beethoven. The two were “both these rebels leading tortured lives,” Mitchell says. (Like Cobain, Beethoven was known for suffering bouts of depression and challenging authority.) When Mitchell entered college, he knew he wanted to pursue a career in music, regardless of genre. After completing degrees in composition and conducting, he advanced to assistant conductor roles with groups like the Houston Symphony, the French National Orchestra, and the Cleveland Orchestra (his latest post).

This summer, as Mitchell and his wife, Angela, settle in the Mile High City, he’ll be infusing the Colorado Symphony’s new programming with classical takes on popular culture—and nothing appears to be off-limits. The upcoming season includes a performance of the music from The Legend of Zelda video game, alongside more familiar fare like the symphony’s annual All Beethoven weekend in December. And if a little teen spirit sneaks in this year, well, you’ll know who to thank.

To read the complete article, please click here.

Preview: "Breckenridge’s National Repertory Orchestra performs Copland’s Third"

Brett Mitchell (pictured here with The Cleveland Orchestra) will lead the National Repertory Orchestra in works of Kenji Bunch, Schumann, and Copland on Saturday, July 1. (Photo by Roger Mastroianni)

Brett Mitchell (pictured here with The Cleveland Orchestra) will lead the National Repertory Orchestra in works of Kenji Bunch, Schumann, and Copland on Saturday, July 1. (Photo by Roger Mastroianni)

Summit Daily (Colorado) has published a preview of Brett Mitchell's upcoming concert with the National Repertory Orchestra:

Another weekend in Summit County means another National Repertory Orchestra concert. This weekend's feature concert is Aaron Copland's Third Symphony featuring music director Brett Mitchell, the associate conductor with the Cleveland Orchestra. This sought-after guest conductor will help bring to life a compelling and diverse program. Benjamin Fryxell, a 22-year-old cellist, will guide attendees through the soulful journey of Robert Schumann's Cello Concerto in A minor....

Aaron Copland...began Symphony No. 3 in 1944, often known as "The Great American Symphony," and said it was meant to "reflect the euphoric spirit of the country at the time." The fourth movement features his popular Fanfare for the Common Man, an inspiring and uniting close to this magnificent work. This program will also include Supermaximum by living American composer Kenji Bunch. Maestro Mitchell's expertise with contemporary music is sure to make this a memorable performance.

To read the complete preview, please click here.

Review: "Mitchell conducts a vivid program at Texas Music Festival"

Brett Mitchell takes a bow with the Texas Music Festival Orchestra on Saturday, June 24 at the University of Houston’s Moores Opera House. (Photo by Andrew Davis)

Brett Mitchell takes a bow with the Texas Music Festival Orchestra on Saturday, June 24 at the University of Houston’s Moores Opera House. (Photo by Andrew Davis)

Texas Classical Review has published a review of Brett Mitchell's recent performance with the Texas Music Festival Orchestra:

The Texas Music Festival gives college and conservatory students a glimpse of how professional orchestras work—beginning with making the young instrumentalists tackle a new concert program each week. When an orchestral work springs to life during the weekend’s performance, one can hear the lessons taking hold.

So it was Saturday when conductor Brett Mitchell, the Colorado Symphony’s music director designate, led the 100 players in Edward Elgar’s Enigma Variations in the University of Houston’s Moores Opera House. The orchestra may not consistently boast the well blended instrumental choirs and overall lushness of groups whose musicians collaborate year-round. But Elgar’s character sketches of his loved ones came across with vividness and warmth.

Mitchell and the orchestra set the tone immediately. The sound was full and mellow, and Mitchell gave Elgar’s lyricism a natural ebb and flow–which gained ardor when the cellos welled up with their countermelody near the theme’s end. All that established the air of family-and-friends coziness that suffuses the entire work.

From there on, the orchestra’s airiness, gusto and heft made each portrait come alive. The crisp, bustling strings in the second variation conjured up the enthusiasm of Elgar’s amateur-musician pals. Mitchell steered the group adroitly through the fifth variation’s contrasts between sonorous strings and breezy winds. The famous “Nimrod” unfolded naturally and with a supple grace, Mitchell guiding the music to a gradual crescendo of apt nobility.

The orchestra’s lustiness, especially on the part of its brasses and lower strings, captured the bounding energy of the bulldog belonging to the subject of “G.R.S.” At the other extreme, the diaphanous clarinet solo in the “Romanza” evoked feelings whose tenderness is palpable even though their real-life object remains uncertain. And the orchestra built the final variation to a ringing, jubilant close.

To read the complete review, please click here.

Profile: "Texas Music Festival’s Brett Mitchell loves football, just like you"

Houstonia Magazine has published a profile of Brett Mitchell in advance of his concerts this weekend with the Texas Music Festival:

This week’s guest conductor brings a decidedly everyman vibe to the conductor’s podium for a performance of Elgar’s Enigma Variations. (Photo by Peter Lockley)

This week’s guest conductor brings a decidedly everyman vibe to the conductor’s podium for a performance of Elgar’s Enigma Variations. (Photo by Peter Lockley)

“The only way I can be helpful to an orchestra is if I’m actually listening,” says 37-year-old, Seattle-born conductor Brett Mitchell, who led over 100 performances as assistant conductor of the Houston Symphony before becoming associate conductor of the internationally renowned Cleveland Orchestra. “So much of being a leader is about listening. And that’s just as true in a board meeting in corporate America as it is on the podium in front of an orchestra.”

Before heading north to Denver with his wife Angela to begin his tenure as music director of the Colorado Symphony for its 2017-18 season, Mitchell is in Houston this week to lead the Texas Music Festival Orchestra in performances of Finnish conductor and composer Esa-Pekka Salonen’s sprawling L.A. Variations (1997), a concerto featuring this year’s Cynthia Woods Mitchell Young Artist Competition winner, and Edward Elgar’s lush and haunting Variations on an Original Theme, better known as the Enigma Variations. It’s the kind of program Mitchell loves: an engaging mix of the classical and the contemporary.

“I am big on contemporary American music,” Mitchell says. “It’s one of the reasons why I’m so bound to the composer’s message in the score, because I know what it’s like to look at an empty piece of staff paper and try got put some notes on that thing . . . it’s not easy! So if I can help my colleagues say what they need to say, that’s awesome.”

“Having these two sets of orchestral variations on the program, each written about 100 years apart at either end of the 20th century is very interesting to me,” says Mitchell, who will be conducting L.A. Variations for the first time. “It’s not in our blood the way the Elgar piece is. But by the end of the week, it will be.”

The TMF orchestra is made up of pre-professional musicians from all over the world, each chosen through a rigorous audition process to come to Houston and study and perform with some of classical music’s most celebrated conductors, faculty and performers. For Mitchell, who has appeared as a guest conductor with orchestras across the country and served as music director of the Cleveland Orchestra Youth Orchestra, preparing for a performance with young musicians isn’t all that different from working with a seasoned professional orchestra.

“The piece is the piece,” Mitchell says matter-of-factly. “If we’re going to do the Enigma Variations, we’re gonna do the Enigma Variations. The ensemble is kind of incidental to that.”

“Part of working with a young orchestra is letting them know you have these high standards,” he continues. “But how you inspire them to get there is telling them you believe in them, that they are better than they think they are and can do more as a group of musicians than any of us can do by ourselves.”

Audiences at the Texas Music Festival will no doubt appreciate Mitchell’s warm, down-to-earth demeanor, which serves him well in his roles as a conductor of major orchestras, advocate for contemporary composition and a mentor to younger musicians.

“I have many of the same tastes and inclinations as my peers,” says Mitchell, whose résumé includes appearing as a contestant on Who Wants To Be A Millionaire. “Each fall I get beside myself when the NFL comes back. I was so excited when season six of Veep premiered a couple months ago. I just happen to have this sliver of something that I do, that I have chosen to make my life’s work, which is classical music.”

To read the complete profile, please click here.

Audio: "Special Interview: Former Longhorn conductor Brett Mitchell talks Texas Music Festival"

Photo by Gregg Barckholtz

Photo by Gregg Barckholtz

Brett Mitchell spoke with KMFA 89.5 (Austin) about his upcoming performances with the Texas Music Festival and his decade of musical experiences in Texas:

Thirty-seven-year-old conductor Brett Mitchell has served as both the assistant and associate conductor of the venerable Cleveland Orchestra for the last four years. Prior to that, he spent six years in Houston where he was the assistant conductor of the Houston Symphony and later, for a brief time, was music director of the Moores Opera Center at the University of Houston. Effective next month, he’ll start a new job as music director of the Colorado Symphony. But before Denver, Houston, and Cleveland, Brett Mitchell was a Longhorn. He received both masters and doctorate degrees from UT’s Butler School of Music, where he was a student from 2001 to 2005. Coincidentally, Mitchell also made his Cleveland Orchestra debut in Austin when they were here on tour back in 2014.

Mitchell returns to Texas this month for a week-long residency with the Texas Music Festival at the University of Houston. He’ll conduct Elgar, Shostakovich, and Salonen in two concerts. Rideshare host Chris Johnson called him last week to catch up while he was in Florida for a residency with the Sarasota Music Festival.

To hear the complete interview, please click here.

Review: "Students and faculty continue to impress in Sarasota Music Festival's second weekend"

Brett Mitchell led the Sarasota Music Festival Orchestra in works of Stravinsky and Mozart at the Sarasota Opera House on Saturday, June 17. (Photo by Peter Lockley)

Brett Mitchell led the Sarasota Music Festival Orchestra in works of Stravinsky and Mozart at the Sarasota Opera House on Saturday, June 17. (Photo by Peter Lockley)

The Sarasota Observer has published a review of Brett Mitchell's recent performance with the Sarasota Music Festival Orchestra:

Mozart’s Symphony No. 40 in G Minor ended the evening, showcasing both the increasing artistry of the orchestra and introducing a new conductor to the Festival. Brett Mitchell, conductor of the Colorado Symphony and a slew of guest engagements, is a real find. His spare yet eloquent technique brought forth all the lovely contours of the work without sacrificing any of the precision. Often conducting phrases more than measures, Mitchell and the orchestra created a beautiful, moving and mature performance that made it even more difficult to realize this is nominally a student festival orchestra and not an ongoing entity. Yes, it was that good!

To read the complete review, please click here.

Video: Brett Mitchell and Alexander Kerr discuss Sarasota Music Festival's "Mostly Mozart"

Guest conductor Brett Mitchell and violin soloist Alexander Kerr appeared on ABC 7's Suncoast View to discuss the Sarasota Music Festival's orchestral concert on Saturday, June 17. On that program, Mr. Mitchell will lead Stravinsky's Dumbarton Oaks, Mozart's Violin Concerto No. 3 with Mr. Kerr as soloist, and Mozart's Symphony No. 40. To watch this segment, please click here.

Review: "Cleveland Orchestra: 'West Side Story' at Severance Hall"

Brett Mitchell leads The Cleveland Orchestra in Leonard Bernstein's West Side Story at Severance Hall. (Photo by Roger Mastroianni)

Brett Mitchell leads The Cleveland Orchestra in Leonard Bernstein's West Side Story at Severance Hall. (Photo by Roger Mastroianni)

Cleveland Classical has published a review of Brett Mitchell's recent performances of West Side Story with The Cleveland Orchestra:

After the deaths of Riff and Bernardo during the rumble in West Side Story, Ice tells the simmering Jets to “keep cool, boy.” Associate conductor Brett Mitchell minded that advice early on Sunday afternoon at Severance Hall when his video monitor gave up the ghost right after intermission. Calmly watching two technicians grapple with that show-stopping problem, he quipped to the audience, “We could just tell you how it ends.” After some tugging on wires, the monitor came to life and the 1961 film version of the show went on to its inevitable, tragic climax amid the symphonic splendor of live music from The Cleveland Orchestra.

Mitchell’s role was crucial and tricky. Thanks to the way movies are made, vocal and orchestral tracks are recorded separately, making it an easy matter to nix the prerecorded orchestra but complicating things for the guy on the podium. It’s one thing to coordinate music between pit and stage in a Broadway musical and quite another to sync live musicians with the inexorable timing of a film. That’s where Mitchell’s video monitor came into play: a series of “streamers” (warnings of upcoming events) and “punches” (dots indicating precise moments of coordination) marched across his screen, superimposed on the movie, giving him both conductorial flexibility and the possibility of exactitude. It was fun to watch.

Conductor and orchestra did an admirable job of playing excitingly and expressively while matching their music to the singing and dancing on the big screen — and Jerome Robbins’ choreography makes West Side Story nearly as much of a ballet with singing and dialogue as it is a beloved piece of American musical theater.

When the original stage version of the show opened at New York’s Winter Garden Theater in 1957, an orchestra of 31 players — large for Broadway — included 5 percussionists, guitarist, and a piano/celesta player. On Sunday, the Severance Hall stage was teeming with musicians, providing an opulent symphonic palette for Leonard Bernstein’s music....

The management kept the lights down during the end titles, staving off the normal run for the exits and allowing the audience to enjoy retrospective music from the score. Brett Mitchell and The Cleveland Orchestra won a huge ovation at the end. After several bows, Mitchell responded by hoisting Bernstein’s score aloft for its own round of applause.

To read the complete review, please click here.

Preview: "28th Annual Immanuel and Helen Olshan Texas Music Festival highlights classical music rising stars in June and July"

Brett Mitchell, pictured here with The Cleveland Orchestra, will conduct two performances of works by Esa-Pekka Salonen and Edward Elgar at the 2017 Texas Music Festival. (Photo by Roger Mastroianni) 

Brett Mitchell, pictured here with The Cleveland Orchestra, will conduct two performances of works by Esa-Pekka Salonen and Edward Elgar at the 2017 Texas Music Festival. (Photo by Roger Mastroianni) 

Hot in Houston Now has published a preview of the 2017 Texas Music Festival, during which Brett Mitchell will conduct two performances of works by Esa-Pekka Salonen and Edward Elgar:

This summer, expect to be engaged, enraptured and invigorated when classical music’s rising stars perform major classical and contemporary works by luminaries including Daniel Catán, Chausson, Elgar, Mussorgsky, Rachmaninoff, Ravel, Shostakovich and Strauss at the 28th Annual Immanuel and Helen Olshan Texas Music Festival (TMF).

The TMF “Cool & Classical” Orchestra Series, set for June 10, June 17, June 23-24 and July 1, will showcase the crème de la crème of pre-professional musicians here to study and perform with world-class conductors, soloists and faculty artists at the University of Houston (UH) Moores Opera House and the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion.

The 2017 TMF Season will feature two TMF conductor debuts, [including] Brett Mitchell (Week 3), Houston Symphony assistant conductor 2007-11.

June 23 (Woodlands Pavilion) and June 24 (Moores Opera House)
“Orchestral Variations”

Brett Mitchell, conductor
Cynthia Woods Mitchell Young Artist Competition Winner, soloist
Esa-Pekka Salonen: L.A. Variations
TBA: Solo with CWMYA Competition Winner
Edward Elgar: Variations on an original theme, “Enigma”

To read the complete preview, please click here.

Review: "Cleveland Orchestra closes season in style with spectacular 'West Side Story' film presentation"

The Plain Dealer (Cleveland) has published a review of Brett Mitchell's subscription performance of Leonard Bernstein's West Side Story:

Call it unorthodox. Call it populist. Just don't call the Cleveland Orchestra's season finale anything less than spectacular.

Sure, by performing "West Side Story" live with the film, the orchestra is breaking a few tired, unwritten rules. Instead of its traditional subscription brochure, the orchestra is taking a page out of its "At the Movies" pamphlet.

But who cares? The reward justifies the risk. Any number of core classical works might have filled the season finale slot, but the fact is "West Side Story" suits the occasion perfectly, better than just about anything else.

It's not just the season finale, you see. In addition to Severance Hall for the year, the orchestra is also bidding farewell to associate conductor Brett Mitchell, a staunch advocate of American music and of Leonard Bernstein's in particular. In that sense, then, this "West Side Story" is also an homage to his memorable tenure.

But let's make one clear: Even out of all context, this presentation is a joy. You may know "West Side Story" like the back of your hand. You may have seen the film or show a million times. Unless you were in attendance Thursday night, however, you've truly never seen a "West Side Story" quite like this.

Talk about larger than life. The screen Thursday night was big, but the Cleveland Orchestra was even bigger. To the experience the ensemble provided, no studio or pit orchestra comes close.

Anyone who's attended an "At the Movies" showing knows of the orchestra's ability to amplify a film, to bring a soundtrack into the forefront and make every action and emotion doubly poignant. Well, imagine the effect when that score is already one of the greatest of its kind, the tale is centuries old, and the film is an acknowledged classic boasting star power on just about every front.

The success of the overture might have been expected. As a stand-alone piece, it's part of the orchestra's repertoire. The rest, though, came as a series of miniature triumphs, surprisingly bold performances that made even the most familiar of tunes sound fresh and new.

Again and again, too, there was something magical in the contrast between the realistic (for the time) grit of the visuals and the supreme elegance of the music. At times, even as Mitchell kept the players in seamless balance with the film, not even Rita Moreno or a dubbed Richard Beymer or Natalie Wood were equal to the orchestra.

To call out highlights would be to list almost every musical number in "West Side Story." Still, a few moments stand out from the pack. "America" is always a hit; in this account, it was a smash. "Tonight," too, was thrilling, and "Gee, Officer Krupke" was a tsunami of song. "Cool" never gets much respect, but in this version, it fully lived up to its name, right along with the rousing "Jet Song."

At first, Thursday night, the audience kept its clear desire to applaud in check. But that restraint did not last long. After two or three of the bigger numbers, the floodgates burst open and remained open through the credits and beyond.

Bernstein. Jerome Robbins. Stephen Sondheim. The orchestra and Mitchell. All, in the end, received due praise for a job exceedingly well done.

To read the complete review, please click here.

Preview: Cleveland Orchestra closing 2016-17 season with ‘West Side Story’

Brett Mitchell will lead The Cleveland Orchestra in four performances of West Side Story to close their 2016-17 season.

Brett Mitchell will lead The Cleveland Orchestra in four performances of West Side Story to close their 2016-17 season.

The News-Herald (Cleveland) has published a preview of Brett Mitchell's final subscription concerts as Associate Conductor of The Cleveland Orchestra:

Brett Mitchell is, unabashedly, a fanboy of legendary composer Leonard Bernstein. However, unlike Comic Con-goers — whose adoration is limited to “Star Wars” and such things — the Cleveland Orchestra Associate Conductor’s love affair begins with “West Side Story.”

“When you think about American music in the 20th century, it’s impossible not to think of Leonard Bernstein,” Mitchell said. “Notice, I didn’t say American classical music or American orchestral music. I mean, Lenny had his hands in every possible cookie jar he could.

“It’s amazing to me to think Bernstein was music director of the New York Philharmonic from 1958 to 1969. It was literally the year before he started that they released ‘West Side Story,’ which is one of the great Broadway hits of all-time. You’ve got somebody that really was every bit as comfortable in the Broadway world as he was in the classical, orchestral world.”

The Cleveland Orchestra is merging those worlds for “West Side Story,” which is the season finale of its “At the Movies” series. Performances run June 1 through 4 at Severance Hall.

This year marks the 60th anniversary of the Broadway production.

With Mitchell conducting, the Cleveland Orchestra will perform Bernstein’s electrifying score (including iconic songs “Something’s Coming,” “Tonight,” “America,” “I Feel Pretty” and “Somewhere”) while the remastered film is shown on a high-definition big screen with the original vocals and dialog.

When looking over the score, Mitchell said the challenge for the Orchestra stems around the material, which is very much symphonic but also based in dance music and jazz. The latter finds the musicians coming out of their collective comfort zone.

“It’s very much letting our hair down, and it’s a whole lot of fun for all of us,” Mitchell said. “The great joy for me in particularly doing film projects like this with the Cleveland Orchestra is that there is no more-flexible orchestra in the world. We’re basically kind of retrofitting the accompaniment onto these pre-existing sung vocal lines.

“Having an orchestra like the Cleveland Orchestra — that has no problem playing as quietly and as subtly and as sensitively as possible — that is really a boon for me on the podium and fantastic for the audience. It’s great to do a project like this because it really lets both the Orchestra and the film shine.”

What makes this program different is normally the world-renowned Cleveland Orchestra performs the most challenging material that may not appeal to neophytes. This is one example where universal appeal exists for the casual music or movie fan.

“Everybody knows ‘West Side Story,’ everybody can sing a tune from ‘West Side Story,’” Mitchell said. “And the idea you can see it on the big screen, that’s fantastic. But what’s really fantastic is having one of the world’s greatest orchestras, along with a conductor who is an unabashed devotee of Leonard Bernstein, doing this project together in Severance Hall on subscription as the season finale.

“It doesn’t get bigger than that. This is not just a performance, it’s an event. I couldn’t be more excited.”

To read the complete article, please click here.

Preview: "Cleveland Orchestra bidding farewell to conductor Brett Mitchell with 'West Side Story' film"

Associate conductor Brett Mitchell is about to conclude his tenure with the Cleveland Orchestra with a live performance with film of Bernstein's "West Side Story," a project he describes as "tailor-made for my relationship with the Cleveland Orchestra." (Photo by Roger Mastroianni)

Associate conductor Brett Mitchell is about to conclude his tenure with the Cleveland Orchestra with a live performance with film of Bernstein's "West Side Story," a project he describes as "tailor-made for my relationship with the Cleveland Orchestra." (Photo by Roger Mastroianni)

The Plain Dealer has published a preview of Brett Mitchell's upcoming subscription concerts with The Cleveland Orchestra, his final Severance Hall performances as the ensemble's associate conductor:

No one conceived the Cleveland Orchestra's season finale next week as a farewell to associate conductor Brett Mitchell.

As it turns out, however, that's exactly what it is, and with "West Side Story" as the main attraction, even Mitchell himself couldn't have planned it better.

"For someone like me, it's just about perfect," said Mitchell, the future music director of the Colorado Symphony. "It's tailor-made for my relationship with the Cleveland Orchestra."

Indeed, it's hard to imagine a program more representative of Mitchell's four years at Severance Hall than a live performance of Bernstein's "West Side Story" along with the film.

During Mitchell's tenure, the orchestra's commitment to film music expanded significantly. Meanwhile, all along, he served as a staunch advocate for American music of all stripes, Bernstein's included....

"I wish I could take credit for it, but it wasn't even my idea," said Mitchell of "West Side Story," a film that also taps his lifelong love of American musical theater. "I just feel very fortunate that my musical background has prepared me for this kind of project."

It's a good thing he's prepared. Performing "West Side Story" this way, live and in synch with the film, is a task far more complicated than it would be with many other films, or conducting a traditional performance in concert or as part of a theater production.

The challenge, in this case, is the film itself. Long before anyone could have dreamed of an orchestra performing the film live, the editors of "West Side Story" spliced together tidbits from any number of recorded takes, all of which differ slightly in terms of tempo.

Following along, therefore, becomes something of a "high-wire act," Mitchell explained. "You've got to hit every single one of those transitions live. You really don't have any choice."

Not that there's any real risk of falling. During their time together, Mitchell and the orchestra have become old pros at performing film scores in this manner.

Mitchell therefore knows of what he speaks when he predicts that this account of "West Side Story," his last scheduled appearance as a member of the Cleveland Orchestra, will be unlike any other he's seen or been a part of.

"This is a really special way to experience 'West Side Story,'" Mitchell said. "When you get to hear this score with this orchestra, it's really going to highlight Bernstein's music in a way other versions simply cannot do."

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Brett Mitchell receives commendations from Cleveland mayor and Confucius Institute

Anthony Yen presents Brett Mitchell with commendations from the Cleveland mayor and the Confucius Institute on Friday, May 12 at Severance Hall. (Photo by Zhang Xuhong

Anthony Yen presents Brett Mitchell with commendations from the Cleveland mayor and the Confucius Institute on Friday, May 12 at Severance Hall. (Photo by Zhang Xuhong

Hanban News (Beijing) has published an article about two commendations bestowed upon Brett Mitchell at his final concert as Music Director of the Cleveland Orchestra Youth Orchestra:

In 2015, Brett Mitchell led the Cleveland Orchestra Youth Orchestra on an international tour to Beijing, Shanghai, Tianjin, and Ningbo, and conducted a barrier-free communication through the language of music to promote cultural exchange between China and the United States.

In recognition of Mr. Mitchell's contributions to exchanges between China and the United States, and to honor his musical achievements, Anthony Yen [Chairman of the Confucius Institute at Cleveland State University] presented Mr. Mitchell with a Certificate of Appreciation on behalf of the Confucius Institute. Mr. Yen also presented Mr. Mitchell with a Certificate of Recognition on behalf of the mayor of Cleveland.

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Review: Brett Mitchell's final performance with the Cleveland Orchestra Youth Orchestra

Brett Mitchell led his final concert as Music Director of the Cleveland Orchestra Youth Orchestra on Friday, May 12 at Severance Hall. (Photo by Roger Mastroianni)

Brett Mitchell led his final concert as Music Director of the Cleveland Orchestra Youth Orchestra on Friday, May 12 at Severance Hall. (Photo by Roger Mastroianni)

Cleveland Classical has published a review of the Cleveland Orchestra Youth Orchestra's 2016-17 season finale, which also marked Brett Mitchell's final performance after four seasons as the group's Music Director:

The Cleveland Orchestra Youth Orchestra played an ambitious program of works by Joan Tower, Maurice Ravel, and Sergei Prokofiev at Severance Hall on Friday evening, May 12, the last concert of their 2016-17 season. It was a bittersweet occasion. Not only did the Orchestra bid farewell to a group of graduating seniors, but it was conductor Brett Mitchell’s 29th and final concert with COYO, marking the end of his four-year term as Associate Conductor of The Cleveland Orchestra before taking up duties as Music Director of the Colorado Symphony.

Given the unsettled political climate in the United States, American composer Joan Tower’s Made in America seemed a particularly apt bit of programming. A 15-minute tone poem that draws on ongoing struggles in American history, its music is urgent and often quite dissonant. But phrases of America the Beautiful emerge from the musical texture, reminding the listener of the country’s strengths. COYO was up to the work’s challenges....

Ravel’s Piano Concerto in G is a minefield, full of exposed entrances, tricky ensemble, and important solos in the orchestra, with plenty of opportunities for things to go awry. On top of all that, the music needs to sound elegant and effortless. The stakes are high. Catharine Baek, a 17-year-old junior at Willoughby South High School and winner of the 2016-17 COYO Concerto Competition, was a fluent soloist. She had the fistfuls of notes well in hand, and she caught the spirit of Ravel’s difficult solo part.... It was an enjoyable reading. Brett Mitchell and COYO were supportive accompanists throughout.

Mitchell stretched the young performers to their limits in Prokofiev’s wartime masterpiece, Symphony No. 5. The opening movement features both soaring lyricism and Prokofiev’s own brand of high drama, reaching a volcanic fortissimo at the final chord. The second movement Allegro (essentially a scherzo) is full of chattering winds, with only a brief moment of repose at its center. Although the sense of the Adagio is funereal, Mitchell emphasized its mercurial mood changes, from calm to bombast. The fourth movement finished with a madcap race to the Symphony’s end.

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