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.

To read the complete review, please click here.

Audio: "Brett Mitchell's final concert with the Cleveland Orchestra Youth Orchestra"

Brett Mitchell and COYO musician Catharine Baek at the WCLV studios on Wednesday, May 10. (Photo by Mark Satola)

Brett Mitchell and COYO musician Catharine Baek at the WCLV studios on Wednesday, May 10. (Photo by Mark Satola)

Brett Mitchell spoke with WCLV's Bill O'Connell about the Cleveland Orchestra Youth Orchestra's upcoming 2016-17 season finale, which also marks Mr. Mitchell's final performance as the ensemble's Music Director. Mr. Mitchell was joined in the interview by COYO member Catharine Baek, who won the orchestra's annual concerto competition, and will perform Ravel's Piano Concerto in G Major on the concert, presented on Friday, May 12 at Severance Hall. To hear this interview, please click here.

Mr. Mitchell and Ms. Baek also spoke with WCLV's Mark Satola in an interview that will air during the intermission of Friday's concert. To hear this interview, please click here.

Preview: Brett Mitchell's final concert with the Cleveland Orchestra Youth Orchestra

The Cleveland Orchestra Youth Orchestra and outgoing music director Brett Mitchell kicked off this season with a momentous program pairing: a commissioned work by Roger Briggs with Bruckner's Symphony No. 4. (Photo by Roger Mastroianni)

The Cleveland Orchestra Youth Orchestra and outgoing music director Brett Mitchell kicked off this season with a momentous program pairing: a commissioned work by Roger Briggs with Bruckner's Symphony No. 4. (Photo by Roger Mastroianni)

The Plain Dealer (Cleveland) has published a preview of Brett Mitchell's final concert as Music Director of the Cleveland Orchestra Youth Orchestra:

This weekend marks more than just the end of another season.

The Cleveland Orchestra Youth Orchestra's concert Friday marks both the group's season finale and its final performance with conductor Brett Mitchell, music director since 2013.

"It's hard for me to even talk about," said Mitchell. "I will never have another relationship with an orchestra like the one I have with COYO. It's going to be very hard to say goodbye."

After four years with Mitchell, future music director of the Colorado Symphony, the group is more than ready to present a season finale featuring Prokofiev's Symphony No. 5, the Ravel G-Major Piano Concerto (with pianist Catharine Baek) and Joan Tower's "Made in America."

And that's just the capstone. Under Mitchell's watch, COYO grew by leaps and bounds, taking on such challenges as Bruckner's Symphony No. 4, Bernstein's Symphony No. 1, several contemporary scores and a tour of China. The group soon to be inherited by conductor Vinay Parameswaran will be one capable of just about anything.

For COYO, Mitchell said, what matters most isn't excellence in any one piece but rather a supportive culture. "We have to play for each other. It's not just about playing together. I'm a big fan of everybody being in it for everybody."

Mitchell, for his part, said he's just glad to be going out with Prokofiev's Fifth. If he'd programmed a work that ends with a long note instead of a bang, "I'd be tempted to hold it for five minutes," he said. "I wouldn't want to let go."

To read the complete preview, please click here.

Feature: "Brett Mitchell to lead his final COYO concert on May 12 at Severance Hall"

Brett Mitchell will lead 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 will lead 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 feature about Brett Mitchell on the eve of his final concert as Music Director of the Cleveland Orchestra Youth Orchestra:

“I don’t know where four seasons went,” Brett Mitchell said by telephone. On Friday, May 12 at 8:00 pm in Severance Hall, Mitchell will conduct his final concert as music director of the Cleveland Orchestra Youth Orchestra before relocating to Denver to become music director of the Colorado Symphony. The program will include works by Joan Tower, Sergei Prokofiev, and Maurice Ravel.

Friday’s concert will be performance number 29 for Mitchell. He said there is something to be proud of in all of them, although the accomplishment of which he is most proud goes beyond the music. “It is the sense of family that we have built. What I find most rewarding is when I compliment someone or a section during rehearsal, the automatic response from the rest of the orchestra is to shuffle their feet and cheer.”

Mitchell recalled that following COYO’s tour to China, he reminded his players that there are no great achievements in life that can be accomplished on their own. They need their colleagues and their colleagues need them. “It’s not only about the individual, it’s everyone wanting to make their colleagues look as good as humanly possible. It’s about playing supportively so that your colleague has their moment to shine.”

Even though two of the works on Friday’s concert were programmed long before Mitchell’s new position was ever discussed, it could not have been planned any better to send him off. “Programming American contemporary music is an enormous part of who I am. It could not be more perfect than to open the concert with Joan Tower’s Made in America.”

In addition to Tower’s work being a great composition, Mitchell feels it is important to program music written by women, especially when working with young people. “It’s important to remember that COYO is comprised of 50% young men and 50% young women..."

Mitchell will literally be going out with a bang with a performance of Prokofiev’s Symphony No. 5, the first of the composer’s symphonies to be performed by the ensemble. “I have been thinking about this because there are two ways to end a work loudly — either with a long last note, or in tempo with a big final short one like this piece. I think the loud short note is going to be good for me and the orchestra because if there were a fermata on that final bar, it would give me the opportunity to reflect and savor the moment. And the symphony would last another five minutes because I wouldn’t want to let it go. But this ending provides a great lesson for all of us. When the time comes, the time comes — it’s over and we need to move on to our next things.”

To read the complete article, please click here.

Feature: "Cleveland Orchestra associate conductor Brett Mitchell says farewell this Friday"

Cool Cleveland has published a feature about Brett Mitchell on the eve of his final performance as Music Director of the Cleveland Orchestra Youth Orchestra:

Photo by Roger Mastroianni

Photo by Roger Mastroianni

Just over four years ago, Brett Mitchell and his then-fiancée, Angela, packed up their home in Houston and moved to Cleveland. While picking up their first round of groceries in University Heights, they told the cashier they were new in town. The cashier asked why they moved here. Brett said he was the new assistant conductor of the Cleveland Orchestra.

The Cleveland Orchestra?” the cashier said. “Oh my god, that’s awesome!”

Mitchell was stunned.

“I’ve never lived anywhere that takes such pride in their orchestra like Cleveland,” he said.

In July, Mitchell will say goodbye to Cleveland and replace Andrew Litton as music director of the Colorado Symphony. And this Friday, Mitchell will lead the Cleveland Orchestra Youth Orchestra (COYO) in their last concert of the season.

“I will never have another relationship with an orchestra like I do with COYO,” he said over the phone.

For Mitchell, leading some of the best young musicians in the country has had its share of rewards and challenges. Unlike most professional orchestras, youth orchestras have a high turnover rate.

“We have these kids for a maximum of six years. Once you’re done with high school, that’s it,” he said. “If somebody wins a job in the Cleveland Orchestra at the age of 28, they may well be there four decades later.”

Keeping a certain standard of excellence while adjusting to a constantly changing roster of players is a challenge every youth orchestra faces. But it’s a challenge that, when met, yields high returns.

“If you can do it like we have, then it becomes one of the most rewarding things,” Mitchell said. When players move on, he gets to watch some of them pursue careers as professional musicians.

“But it’s hard on a personal level,” he said. “It’s like saying goodbye to anybody.”

Unlike the young players he’s mentored for the last four years, Mitchell didn’t hear a live orchestra until his late teens.

“Like a lot of people born in 1979, I’m sure I’m not alone in saying the first orchestral music I ever heard was coming out of a TV,” he said. “It was Star Wars, and it was Superman, and it was Indiana Jones and it was E.T.

Mitchell’s musical upbringing is also unconventional when compared to that of his peers.

“I know a lot of my colleagues began their musical journey when they were three years old playing ‘Twinkle, Twinkle’ on their violin. I wasn’t doing that.”

Instead, Mitchell was listening to the Beatles, Simon and Garfunkel, Elton John and Billy Joel.

“It was the pop music of my parents’ generation that I grew up around.”

Mitchell grew up in Seattle. Later, after winning his first job, he became close with the conductor of his hometown symphony, the legendary Gerard Schwarz.

“Every time I would go home to Seattle to visit my family, I would get together with Gerry at his house on Queen Anne Hill, which was wonderful. I learned a ton from him,” Mitchell said.

During his long tenure as conductor of the Seattle Symphony, Schwarz was a champion of composers like Walter Piston, Alan Hovhanness, Paul Creston, Peter Mennin and David Diamond. He programmed and recorded American music that most American orchestras, for whatever reason, won’t even touch.

In a way, Mitchell, whose first season with the Colorado Symphony will include the likes of Kevin Puts, Missy Mazzoli and Mason Bates, could be the next great champion for contemporary American orchestral music....

Still, there’s no denying Mitchell will soon be leading an orchestra that, as he puts it, doesn’t “just think outside the box, but will actually go outside the box.” ...

As the music director, Mitchell sees his mission as a simple one: “We have to give people a reason to not stay at home.”

“I could put on a recording of Karajan and Berlin doing Beethoven 9, and I don’t have to put on pants and I could open a bottle of wine in my kitchen, and it’s an amazing, glorious sound,” he said.

But what you can’t get at home, said Mitchell, are thoughtful musical combinations that move you in unexpected ways.

“I love playing Beethoven,” he said. “But I think it’s a hell of a lot more effective if you play it in the context of what the Beethovens of today are trying to do.”

Mitchell recalls a concert he did with Colorado back in January.

“I programmed Kevin Puts’ second symphony. And then we took a little intermission, and then we did Beethoven 9.”

Juxtaposing the “Ode to Joy” with a present-day symphony written in response to 9/11? You can’t buy that off the record store shelf.

Things seem to happen quickly for Mitchell in the music world. Just two years into his tenure with the Cleveland Orchestra, he was promoted from assistant conductor to associate conductor. He was only the fifth person in the organization’s nearly 100 years to hold that title.

Mitchell’s audition for the Colorado Symphony was no exception. Last July, he flew to Denver to conduct a season preview concert that featured an eclectic mix of classical and pops repertoire.

“It was actually the perfect program for a music director audition,” he recalled.

Mitchell not only had immediate chemistry with the orchestra, but with the management and the audience.

The next afternoon, the symphony board chair called Mitchell to offer him the job.

“I think it was seeing me be able to work with the orchestra on all of this very different kind of repertoire” that impressed them, he said....

This Friday, Mitchell will lead COYO in a challenging program of Joan Tower, Maurice Ravel and Sergei Prokofiev. Mitchell has conducted Prokofiev’s fifth symphony a number of times, but he’s energized by the fact that it’s new and fresh to these young musicians.

“I have to remind myself it’s not just another Prokofiev 5,” Mitchell said. “This is the first time these kids are ever playing this piece. For some of them, it’s the first time they’ve ever played any music by Prokofiev. And it’s a hell of a first dive into the pool.”

Mitchell doesn’t start his new job in Denver until July 1st. But Friday’s concert will be a bittersweet occasion.

“As great as professional orchestras are, there’s something about working with young musicians exploring this music for the first time,” he said.

“You can never recapture that.”

To read the complete article, please click here.

Video: "Brett Mitchell reflects on his time in Cleveland"

Brett Mitchell speaks with WCLV Classical 104.9's Bill O'Connell on this week's episode of WVIZ/PBS's Applause.

Brett Mitchell speaks with WCLV Classical 104.9's Bill O'Connell on this week's episode of WVIZ/PBS's Applause.

This week's episode of Applause, a local arts magazine produced by WVIZ/PBS in Cleveland, features a story about Brett Mitchell's four seasons with The Cleveland Orchestra and his upcoming tenure with the Colorado Symphony, and includes a sit-down interview with Mr. Mitchell and WCLV Classical 104.9's Bill O'Connell. To watch this video, please click here.

Preview: Brett Mitchell to lead two world premieres with members of The Cleveland Orchestra

Brett Mitchell will lead members of The Cleveland Orchestra in two world premieres this weekend at Knight Concert Hall in Miami.

Brett Mitchell will lead members of The Cleveland Orchestra in two world premieres this weekend at Knight Concert Hall in Miami.

El Nuevo Herald (Miami) has published a preview of this weekend's Cleveland Orchestra concerts in Miami, including two world premieres by composers from the University of Miami's Frost School of Music, presented by members of The Cleveland Orchestra under the baton of Associate Conductor Brett Mitchell. To read the complete preview (in Spanish), please click here.

Review: "For young listeners, a poignant, relevant reminder of history"

Brett Mitchell led The Cleveland Orchestra in six performances at the Maltz Performing Arts Center at Temple-Tifereth in Cleveland. (Photo by Roger Mastroianni)

Brett Mitchell led The Cleveland Orchestra in six performances at the Maltz Performing Arts Center at Temple-Tifereth in Cleveland. (Photo by Roger Mastroianni)

Seen and Heard International has published a review of Brett Mitchell's recent concerts with The Cleveland Orchestra:

Are we doomed to repeat our history?

Not if we do the work necessary to wake people up with the arts, humanity’s mirror. In light of fractious political movements worldwide, this Cleveland Orchestra presentation of “Violins of Hope” can be seen as not merely an educational program, but a critically important call for awareness....

The music was led with poise by Brett Mitchell, the Cleveland Orchestra’s outstanding associate conductor. Mitchell started with Gerald Finzi’s gravely beautiful Prelude for string orchestra, one of the few orchestral works by the always expressive but never prolific English composer, born of a Jewish family, though himself an agnostic....

The “Allegro molto” from Shostakovich’s Chamber Symphony (an arrangement of his harrowing String Quartet No. 8) brought to life the terror that came with the rise of the Nazis and their attendant monstrosities. Mitchell’s direction made the explosive movement part of the program’s whole—intense but less violent than it might be in a complete performance, and showing a shrewd sense of musical storytelling....

The actors then told the story of violinist Bronislaw Huberman, who formed the Palestine Symphony—today the Israel Philharmonic. Their first concert was in 1936, led by Arturo Toscanini, who opened with Rossini’s overture to La scala di seta. Mitchell made no attempt to imitate Toscanini’s fierce manner, again maintaining the program’s context: joyous in relief, but guarded.

The orchestra performed this important program six times to student audiences in the Milton and Tamar Maltz Performing Arts Center on the campus of Case Western Reserve University, reaching three thousand elementary and middle school students, who had been prepared with in-class study guides. The seriousness and attentiveness of these young thinkers are reasons to hope that this time, history will not be allowed to repeat itself.

To read the complete review, please click here.

"Violins of Hope" concert teaches about the Holocaust

Brett Mitchell led The Cleveland Orchestra in "Violins of Hope," a series of education concerts presented at the Maltz Performing Arts Center at The Temple-Tifereth Israel in Cleveland. (Photo by Roger Mastroianni)

Brett Mitchell led The Cleveland Orchestra in "Violins of Hope," a series of education concerts presented at the Maltz Performing Arts Center at The Temple-Tifereth Israel in Cleveland. (Photo by Roger Mastroianni)

Cleveland Jewish News has published an article about Brett Mitchell's concerts this week with The Cleveland Orchestra:

More than 3,000 local students and community members listened to music, learned about the Holocaust and were taught how music can invoke hope even in the most challenging times during The Cleveland Orchestra’s “Violins of Hope” concert’s encore presentations March 8 to 10 at the Milton and Tamar Maltz Performing Arts Center at The Temple-Tifereth Israel in Cleveland.

The hour-long show consisted of music played by the orchestra, interspersed with eight actors telling the audience about what Jews endured in the Holocaust and how music helped them survive.

The performance was conducted by The Cleveland Orchestra’s associate conductor Brett Mitchell and featured first associate concertmaster Peter Otto and assistant principal cellist Charles Bernard.

“They didn’t really realize how successful it was going to be, so immediately when we started it last time everybody I think had this collective feeling that there was something very special and so it would be a shame to just do it one time,” Otto told the Cleveland Jewish News. “I think even though it’s not particularly gruesome in its descriptions of what happened, it still gets the major points across and I think even for young kids the message is very uplifting because it’s ultimately about hope.”

The Cleveland Orchestra and the Case Western Reserve University / Cleveland Play House Master of Fine Arts Program in Acting put on the program. It included “Simchas Torah” (“Rejoicing”) from “Baal Shem,” by Ernest Bloch; “Kol Nidrei,” Opus 47 by Max Bruch; Overture on Hebrew Themes, Opus 34 by Sergei Prokofiev; and John Williams’s music from the film “Schindler's List.” The actors played Jewish, European characters, dressed in 1930s and 40s attire, who between songs described the role of music in Jewish life before, after and during the Holocaust.

“Music was central to Jewish life,” said one of the eight characters, who described when the Nazi’s came to power and began forcing restrictions on Jews.

“The instruments are the voices of the victims,” a character said, adding that some Jews survived the concentration camps because they were given jobs playing music. “As long as they wanted music, they couldn’t put us in the gas chamber.”

The first presentation of the program in December 2015 was attended by more than 10,000 students. For that production, The Cleveland Orchestra played instruments preserved from the Holocaust, which were collected by Israeli violin maker Amnon Weinstein. Although for the 2017 program those instruments were not available, Otto said that the program retains the always-relevant message.

“I think it’s a great educational tool for children and I think ultimately a lot of them don’t know anything about it,” said Otto, who in the original show played a violin saved from Auschwitz. “And in an environment with anti-Semitism on the rise again, I think it’s never too early to start educating people.”

To read the complete article, please click here.

Feature: "From Beethoven to Prince: New Colorado Symphony director hooked on classics"

Conductor Brett Mitchell is the new Colorado Symphony music director. (Photo by Peter Lockley)

Conductor Brett Mitchell is the new Colorado Symphony music director. (Photo by Peter Lockley)

KUNC Public Radio has published a feature about Brett Mitchell's upcoming tenure as Music Director of the Colorado Symphony:

At 37, Brett Mitchell is one of the youngest music directors in the Colorado Symphony’s history. He’s tied with Marin Alsop, who led the symphony from 1993 to 2005. But Mitchell is walking into a better situation than Alsop: the symphony’s first budget surplus in its 28 years.

So there’s a little pressure to make his upcoming debut season stand out.

Mitchell’s response: Challenge accepted.

“I think we’re in the business of taking risks,” said Mitchell, who is currently wrapping up contracts as the associate conductor of the Cleveland Orchestra and the music director of the Cleveland Orchestra Youth Orchestra.

That’s why for the Colorado Symphony’s 2017-2018 season Mitchell’s youth is perhaps showing.... For his season debut in September, he’s pairing Beethoven’s classic Symphony No. 5 with works by two living composers, including composer-by-day/electronica-artist-by-night Mason Bates.

“Part of the way that we keep audiences and donors and sponsors engaged is by showing them that we’re not becoming ossified,” he said. “We’re not set in our ways. We are taking risks.”

Interview Highlights With Brett Mitchell

On His Non-traditional Musical Inspirations

“I started playing piano when I was a kid but I wasn’t playing Mozart, I was playing Billy Joel and Barry Manilow and Elton John and Simon & Garfunkel and Beatles and all of that. Because what I grew up listening to -- at least up until high school -- was the pop music that my parents listened to (…) So I tend to be, I think more than your average conductor let’s say, I tend to be a little more understanding of people for whom going to an orchestral concert is a foreign experience. It can feel very daunting. It can feel very intimidating.”

On The Next Big Thing For Symphonies

“I think you’re going to start seeing more kind of mixed media performances like (film and video game soundtracks) without so much emphasis on: come to the concert hall, sit down, conductor comes out, bows, turns around, conducts the orchestra, turns back around, bows, leaves, everybody gets up and leaves the theater. I think it’s going to become a much more interactive experience, and I for one look forward to that.”

To read the complete feature and listen to Mr. Mitchell's interview, please click here.

Review: "Cleveland Orchestra: Fridays@7 with William Preucil & Brett Mitchell"

Brett Mitchell leads The Cleveland Orchestra in performance at Severance Hall. (Photo by Roger Mastroianni)

Brett Mitchell leads The Cleveland Orchestra in performance at Severance Hall. (Photo by Roger Mastroianni)

ClevelandClassical has published a review of Brett Mitchell's recent subscription program with The Cleveland Orchestra, presented on Friday, March 3:

For his next-to-last [subscription] appearance with The Cleveland Orchestra before taking up his new duties with the Colorado Symphony, associate conductor Brett Mitchell presided over a program of American music on Friday evening at Severance Hall. Two “Third” works were on the program: Aaron Copland’s stirring Third Symphony, and Augusta Read Thomas’s elusive Third Violin Concerto with concertmaster William Preucil as soloist....

Thomas has a fine ear for color and impressive skill in orchestration. Preucil, Mitchell, and the Orchestra put this eminently listenable piece across with all the nuanced care it deserves.

Mitchell let the first movement [of Copland's Third Symphony] unfold with a gentle sense of purpose and spaciousness. He took a laid-back approach to the second-movement scherzo, and...sculpted an understated lament in the third.

To read the complete review, please click here.

Review: "Cleveland Orchestra meets with success on refreshing all-American program"

On his second-to-last scheduled subscription appearance before becoming music director of the Colorado Symphony, Cleveland Orchestra associate conductor Brett Mitchell (seen here in March 2014) demonstrates once more the strength of his commitment to American music with a program of works by Bernstein, Copland, and Augusta Read Thomas. (Photo by Roger Mastroianni)

On his second-to-last scheduled subscription appearance before becoming music director of the Colorado Symphony, Cleveland Orchestra associate conductor Brett Mitchell (seen here in March 2014) demonstrates once more the strength of his commitment to American music with a program of works by Bernstein, Copland, and Augusta Read Thomas. (Photo by Roger Mastroianni)

The Plain Dealer (Cleveland) has published a review of Brett Mitchell's subscription weekend with The Cleveland Orchestra:

Don't look now, but the Cleveland Orchestra just played an all-American program, on a subscription week nowhere near Independence Day.

Actually, scratch that. Do look now, and listen closely. This is one weekend at Severance Hall you don't want to miss.

On his second-to-last scheduled subscription appearance before becoming music director of the Colorado Symphony, associate conductor Brett Mitchell demonstrates once more the strength of his commitment to American music with an impassioned and absorbing evening of works by Bernstein, Copland, and Augusta Read Thomas.

The brilliance of the performances notwithstanding, the program is refreshing for its variety and deviance from the mostly European norm. What's more, within that program lies something even rarer than the program itself: an American local premiere.

Anyone daunted by the prospect of an American trio surely felt at ease after the first offering, Bernstein's Symphonic Suite from "On the Waterfront."

Last heard here in 2006, the vibrant, lush film score made a happy reappearance Thursday in a reading defined by forceful lyricism and a string of nuanced solos. The contrast between action and romance could not have been greater as the strings fueled the former and artists playing horn, saxophone, flute, harp, and percussion made seductive work of the latter. There's a reason, it seems, that Mitchell emerged during his tenure as the orchestra's go-to guy for film music.

Just as easy on the ears was Copland's Symphony No. 3. Copland himself keeps things moving briskly with abundant, memorable melodies - notably the famous "Fanfare" - and a seemingly boundless sense of textural creativity. Still, it was Mitchell and the orchestra who carried it home with a sweeping and regal performance.

Here was quintessential Copland. Through Mitchell and the orchestra, the composer spoke his unique harmonic language and conjured everything from dramatic vistas to serene, intimate conversations. Where Copland demands muscle, the artists supplied it in spades, and to the work's many reflective passages, the players brought impeccable articulation and elegance.

Copland also turns playful in Symphony No. 3, and in those instances, too, the orchestra responded aptly, with bubbly animation and brash energy. But of course it was the finale, steeped in the stirring "Fanfare for the Common Man," that clinched the victory. The theme itself saw a majestic reading by the brass, while Mitchell saw to it that the music surrounding it developed organically and retained all its vitality.

To read the complete review, please click here.

Preview: "New music director Brett Mitchell fronts a jam-packed season"

Brett Mitchell begins his tenure as Music Director of the Colorado Symphony on July 1, 2017. (Photo by Peter Lockley)

Brett Mitchell begins his tenure as Music Director of the Colorado Symphony on July 1, 2017. (Photo by Peter Lockley)

The Denver Post has published a preview of the Colorado Symphony's 2017-18 concert schedule, which marks Brett Mitchell's first as Music Director:

First, the Colorado Symphony showed it’s ready to draw in younger audiences by bringing in a music director under 40; now, it’s taking on “La La Land” and a little “Purple Rain” as part of a stellar 2017-18 season.

New Colorado Symphony music director Brett Mitchell is heading up a dazzling lineup in the coming season, which will include appearances by world-class musicians Yo-Yo Ma and Renée Fleming.

“With Brett coming onboard, this is a huge year that deserves huge names,” Anthony Pierce, Colorado Symphony chief artistic officer, said in a press release. Mitchell officially takes the reins on July 1.

The orchestra will perform with soprano Fleming on Sept. 9, and with cellist Ma on Dec. 10.

“Of course, we’re thrilled to welcome such special guests as Yo-Yo Ma, and Renée Fleming,” said Mitchell. “But I’m every bit as excited to showcase my incredible colleagues who make up the Colorado Symphony as we share the stage together all season long.”

The Classics Opening Weekend is Sept. 15-17, with Beethoven’s “Symphony No. 5” and works by composers Kevin Puts and symphonic-electronics artist Mason Bates.

To read the complete preview, please click here.

Preview: "Colorado Symphony reveals 2017-18 season schedule"

The Colorado Symphony performs at Boettcher Concert Hall in Denver. (Photo by Paul Brokering)

The Colorado Symphony performs at Boettcher Concert Hall in Denver. (Photo by Paul Brokering)

Colorado Public Radio has published a preview of Brett Mitchell's inaugural season as Music Director of the Colorado Symphony:

Some big names--including soprano Renée Fleming and cellist Yo-Yo Ma--are set to perform at Boettcher Concert Hall. And conductor Brett Mitchell will assume full-time duties as the orchestra’s new music director.

A few highlights:

  • Sept. 9: Soprano Renée Fleming performs with the symphony. The symphony is billing it as a celebration of Mitchell’s official start as music director.
  • Sept. 15-17: The season’s official opening weekend features a program with Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 and music by two living composers: Kevin Puts’ “Millennium Canons” and Mason Bates’ “The B-Sides: Five Pieces for Orchestra.”
  • Dec. 10: Cellist Yo-Yo Ma performs with the orchestra.
  • May 25-27: The season closes with a celebration of the centennial of Leonard Bernstein’s birth, as Mitchell conducts the “Candide” Overture and “Serenade (After Plato’s ‘Symposium’).” The program also includes Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 1, “Titan.”

View the full season brochure.

Hear David Rutherford’s in-depth interview with Mitchell.

To read the complete preview, please click here.

Preview: "The Cleveland Orchestra Goes All-American This Week at Severance Hall"

Brett Mitchell will lead The Cleveland Orchestra in a subscription program of three American works this weekend at Severance Hall. (Photo by Roger Mastroianni)

Brett Mitchell will lead The Cleveland Orchestra in a subscription program of three American works this weekend at Severance Hall. (Photo by Roger Mastroianni)

Cool Cleveland has published a preview of Brett Mitchell's upcoming subscription program with The Cleveland Orchestra:

The Cleveland Orchestra’s “All American” program at Severance Hall features music by two of this country’s most beloved composers: Aaron Copland and Leonard Bernstein. Bernstein’s Symphonic Suite from his original film score for the 1954 film On the Waterfront is representative of how he juggled his classical background and popular music forms throughout his career. And in his Symphony No. 3, written between 1944 and 1946, Copland injects American themes including his own Fanfare for the Common Man, composed in 1942.

The concerts will also feature contemporary composer Augusta Read Thomas’ 2008 Juggler in Paradise: Violin Concerto No. 3, with Cleveland Orchestra concertmaster William Preucil as the soloist. The orchestra’s associate conductor Brett Mitchell will be on the podium. Friday evening’s Fridays @ 7 concert will feature only the Thomas and Copland pieces.

To read the complete preview, please click here.

Preview: "Five Classical Music Events to Hit This Week"

Brett Mitchell will lead The Cleveland Orchestra in three subscription performances featuring music of Leonard Bernstein, Augusta Read Thomas, and Aaron Copland. (Photo by Roger Mastroianni)

Brett Mitchell will lead The Cleveland Orchestra in three subscription performances featuring music of Leonard Bernstein, Augusta Read Thomas, and Aaron Copland. (Photo by Roger Mastroianni)

Brett Mitchell's upcoming subscription weekend with The Cleveland Orchestra has been featured in Cleveland Scene's "Five Classical Music Events to Hit This Week":

Music by American composers Leonard Bernstein, Augusta Read Thomas, and Aaron Copland will be featured on this week’s Cleveland Orchestra concerts at Severance Hall. Concertmaster William Preucil will take the solo role in Thomas’s Violin Concerto No. 3 (”Juggler in Paradise”), and associate conductor Brett Mitchell will lead the Orchestra in Bernstein’s Symphonic Suite from “On the Waterfront” (adapted from the Marlon Brando film), and Copland’s Symphony No. 3 (where the brass suddenly break out in an episode that later became the Fanfare for the Common Man). Performances run from March 2-4 (Thursday at 7:30 pm, Friday at 7:00 pm, Saturday at 8:00 pm). The Friday performance is part of the Orchestra’s Fridays@7 series (no Bernstein, but food, drink, and entertainment before and after).

To read the complete preview, please click here.

Preview: Colorado Symphony announces summer lineup

Brett Mitchell will conduct the Colorado Symphony in a sneak preview of the 2017-18 concert season—his first as its Music Director—on Saturday, July 22. (Photo by Brandon Marshall)

Brett Mitchell will conduct the Colorado Symphony in a sneak preview of the 2017-18 concert season—his first as its Music Director—on Saturday, July 22. (Photo by Brandon Marshall)

Westword (Denver) has published an article about the Colorado Symphony's 2017 summer lineup, including "a sampling of the upcoming season of works on July 22, conducted by Colorado Symphony Music Director Designate Brett Mitchell." To read this article, please click here.

Feature: "Brett Mitchell set to leave Cleveland Orchestra for Denver"

Brett Mitchell is the subject of a feature on WCPN's The Sound of Applause. (Photo by Peter Lockley)

Brett Mitchell is the subject of a feature on WCPN's The Sound of Applause. (Photo by Peter Lockley)

NPR's Cleveland affiliate, 90.3 WCPN, has published a feature about Brett Mitchell as he prepares to conclude his tenure as Associate Conductor of The Cleveland Orchestra and begin as Music Director of the Colorado Symphony:

Brett Mitchell has spent four seasons with the Cleveland Orchestra, initially as assistant and then associate conductor. He also is music director of the Cleveland Orchestra Youth Orchestra (COYO).  The Seattle native has led dozens of orchestra performances in Severance Hall, Blossom Music Center, on tour, concerts in the community, film music programs and the popular holiday concert series.  But arguably his most important role during this time has been as mentor to student musicians.

"Ninety-five percent of cities in this country would kill to have a professional orchestra that plays as well as COYO.  They blow me away every single weekend.  It's very inspiring to me as now somebody who can be a mentor to them," Mitchell said.

COYO manager Lauren Generette says Mitchell is an inspiration to the young musicians.

"They often jot down quotes during rehearsal of things they want to remember.  He does make it fun and memorable for them at the same time I think," Generette said.

Joan Katz Napoli is the director of education and community programs for the Cleveland Orchestra.  She says: "He has quite the unique ability to communicate with audiences of all kinds and making them feel a part of the concert experience.  He really conveys his passion for the music and at the same time he sprinkles his remarks with a terrific sense of humor."

In 2014 Mitchell was scheduled to lead a weekend COYO concert when he got a call from the orchestra alerting him that he had to step in for music director Franz Welser-Most to lead a complicated piece, Benjamin Britten's "Spring Symphony."

"[It's] an enormous work for chorus and children's chorus and orchestra and three vocal soloists," Mitchell said. "There's, I'm not kidding, a cow horn that's called for in the piece.  Thank goodness I studied it as hard as I did because there was no opportunity to rehearse.  It was a period of 72 hours that I will not forget in my career."

Challenges like these have led Mitchell to cherish his time leading the Cleveland Orchestra as associate conductor.

"The way I'm able to listen now, the finesse with which I'm able to hear things that I simply would not have heard had I not been around this orchestra the last four years.  It impacts my work not only with the Cleveland Orchestra but with COYO and every orchestra I guest conduct.  It has unquestionably made me a better musician," Mitchell said.

So when Colorado Symphony CEO Jerome H. Kern was looking for a conductor to become music director of that orchestra in Denver, Cleveland Orchestra musician Michael Sachs pointed him to Mitchell.

"Our principal trumpet called Cleveland's principal trumpet and said, 'we're looking at this other person.'  The fella said, 'you don't want that other person, you want Brett Mitchell.'  It was love at first sight.  The musicians loved him, the audience loved him," Kern said.

Mitchell met the Colorado Symphony's criteria, and then some.

"The way we measure performance of guest conductors who come through is on a scale of one through 10.  Brett scored in excess of nine.  In the history of our doing this we have never had anyone score that high," Kern said.

As Mitchell prepares for his final slate of concerts in Northeast Ohio before joining the Colorado Symphony in the fall, COYO violist Sam Rosenthal expresses a sentiment that both orchestra musicians and audiences here in Cleveland share.

"It's been great to work with him and we're all really going to miss him," Rosenthal said.

Mitchell steps into the role as number one with the Colorado Symphony September 9, when he begins his new job as music director in Denver.

This weekend he leads the Cleveland Orchestra in a series of concerts of Leonard Bernstein and Aaron Copland compositions at Severance Hall.  Brett Mitchell's final concert as the Cleveland Orchestra's associate conductor takes place over Labor Day weekend when he leads the orchestra in John Williams' score from the film "E.T."

To read and listen to the complete feature, please click here.