Reason Saves Cleveland

Don't Mess With The Cleveland Symphony, Which is Not Only World-Class But Beautiful & Great Smelling Too!


An ousted critic who charged that he was removed from his beat because of critical coverage has lost a lawsuit against his newspaper and the Cleveland Orchestra.

A jury ruled Friday in favor of the defense on all three counts in the lawsuit filed by 56-year-old Donald Rosenberg. The orchestra reviewer was removed from his beat at the Plain Dealer in 2008.

The jury ruled in favor of The Musical Arts Association, which runs the orchestra, on charges of defamation and interference with employment and in favor of the newspaper on an age discrimination charge.

More here and here. FWIW, it doesn't sound like the reporter's case had much merit, though there's no question that the Mistake on the Lake is very tetchy about the unparalleled spectacularness of its scrappy band of orchestra players.

I'm also gonna go out on a limb here and say this sort of battle is not going to help Cleveland move into the 20th century, much less the 21st. Indeed, Cleveland's whole problem may be that people there won't STFU about orchestras that are incapable of supporting themselves. From Reason's account of How to Save Cleveland:

You want a quick indicator of urban decline in any city you visit? Ask a local what's great about the place. If the top three answers include "a world-class symphony orchestra," you're smack dab in the middle of a current or future ghost town.

This orchestra axiom is something I divined while working on Reason Saves Cleveland With Drew Carey, an hour-long documentary you can see at Time and again, I'd ask Clevelanders—a proud breed beaten down by decades of lake-effect snow, economic degradation, population decline, and gridiron disasters worthy of T.S. Eliot's The Wasteland ("I had not thought death had undone so many")—to tell me what was still top-notch about their hometown. It didn't matter if I was talking to a CEO or a homeless man, a bar owner or a barfly. The inevitable reply: "We've got a world-class symphony orchestra," typically embellished with some transparently phony claim about how it compares to those in other cities ("It's in the top 15 or 20 in the world!"), as if orchestras are regularly ranked like NCAA basketball teams.

Such are the thin straws at which residents in drowning cities grasp.

More here.

Watch Reason Saves Cleveland With Drew Carey, our pathbreaking documentary series.

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  1. Not that the Cleveland Orchestra is not deserving of its status as a world-class band, but I wonder how many of its champions have ever bothered to attend a performance, or would know the difference between Brahms and Bartok.

    1. Speaking as a classical-music lover from another metro which invests a lot of pride in its over-subsidized orchestra (Minneapolis), I can assure you that the Cleveland Orchestra is extremely deserving of its reputation, as their vast catalog of amazing recordings can testify.

      They are in a virtuous spiral where the world's best conductors and musicians want to go there, because they know they'll get to perform with one of the world's best orchestras, so even as the city crumbles, the orchestra remains a magnet for top talent.

      Whether it's wise for such a cash-strapped city to maintain its patronage of such an elite organization is another question entirely. But at least they are getting a lot of bang for their buck, as far as spending on the arts goes.

      1. You know what would be really funny? If the Cleveland Orchestra packed up in the middle of the night and moved to Baltimore.

        1. LOL! FTW!

        2. Those wounds never heal because of assholes like you. You know what'll never heal if I find you? Your asshole.

          1. If the Cleveland Indians left town and nobody was there, would it still make a sound?

            1. The Indians still exists? Huh.

              1. I think so. Their name still shows up in the standings. At the bottom, of course.

        3. Or Miami, LOL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  2. Pathbreaking? Not groundbreaking, or trailblazing?

  3. I thought Cleveland rocked?

    1. I work in Cleveland. Cleveland does not, in fact, rock.

      1. I can't believe any opening tune to a sitcom any more.

        1. Except the Gilligan's Island theme song. It was all true.

            1. They're still there, you know, but it's hell. The only thing the Professor can pick up on his magic radio are Clear Channel stations playing classic rock. Mrs. Howell committed suicide after hearing one-too-many spins of Free Bird, and Mary Ann has resorted to cannibalism.

        2. Esp. a cover done by a band called "The Presidents of the United States of America"....cause our Bushbamacain Prezzes just cannot be trusted...

  4. I'll tell you what makes a city great. Don't waste your energy trying to figure it out yourself.

  5. Donald is taking his talents to South Beach.

  6. You want a quick indicator of urban decline in any city you visit? Ask a local what's great about the place. If the top three answers include "a world-class symphony orchestra," you're smack dab in the middle of a current or future ghost town.

    Bach from the Dead is The Ghost Town Orchestra's greatest work.

    1. Ever hear any PDQ Bach from Peter Schickele? THAT is some funny shit...

    2. At first I was going to object to that quote, because along with Cleveland, the "Big Five" Orchestras in America with top-notch reputations are in NYC, Philly, Chicago and Boston.

      But the difference is, if you ask somebody on the streets of any of those other four cities what is so great about them, you'll almost never get "our orchestra" as an answer.

      A Clevelander gives that answer because it's one of the few things left they can brag about.

      Although I can't think of any other town where this "indicator of urban decline" can be found. Other shit-holes across America don't have an orchestra with Cleveland's reputation.

  7. The critic sounds like a punk-ass bitch, so fuck him and his weak claim.

    The Cleveland Symphony, however, sounds like.....economic Viagra! Renaissance is just around the corner!

    No, wait, that's Detroit - "Renaissance Zones", "Renaissance Club", "Renaissance High School" - and their world-class symphony!

    Prosperity is just a prelude and fugue away, brothers and sisters...

    1. Detroit . . . and their world-class symphony!

      Don't be dissin' Motown records!

  8. BCS rankings for symphonies might be a good idea. People might feel differently about being dunned for an Ohio-class symphony.

    1. Everyone knows the south has the best symphonies. Any given day, one symphony can beat another. The LA symphony is out there on the west coast where all the other symphonies suck. They have no competition.

      1. Bah! Symphonies in the South are flashy, but they don't play defense worth a damn.

    2. No f-ing way. The last thing this country needs right now is another BCS system. Just have a straight up playoff system. Choose the top 16 symphonies and have them go head to head (in September so you could bill it as September Snootiness?).

      Think of the money that would trade hands in office pools as people go for the longshot cinderella band (Des Moines) against the perennial powerhouse Cleveland.

      It would also be better if instead of tax money, the players were compensated by well heeled boosters with under the table payoffs. Scandals would erupt as people found out that the Boston Philharmonic illegally recruited a young violin prodigy.

      I can't wait until we can have more sports-like asshattery in other areas of society.

  9. if orchestras are regularly ranked like NCAA basketball teams.

    Maybe not quite as regularly, but ranking of orchestras is certainly not unknown.

    1. I thought the whole point of this post was the critic who got fired because he ranked on the orchestra?

  10. I'm getting dragged to the Cleveland symphony on Wednesday. The music is great, but the whole ritual of dressing up and pretending to be a robber baron or a respectable citizen, or something, is not cool. Hopefully I can at least avoid shaving and wearing a tie.

    1. But isn't it worth it to get a chance to wear your tophat and monocle?

      1. I leap at any chance to use my sword cane.

    2. You dont have to dress up to come to the Orchetra. No need for top hat or tails. No tuxedo or suit required. It would be nice if you dressed "corporate casual." But some folks come in jeans.

    3. I'm getting dragged to the Cleveland symphony

      By a woman or a gay man? Anyway, it should be worth the effort, unless they're doing Respighi's "Pines of Rome." Take a cyanide capsule along, just in case.

  11. Cleveland's orchestra is the only suitable punctuation for the long, rambling Joycean sentence that is the 20th century.

  12. I like the theory, especially since Leonard Slatkin conducted in St. Louis and that city is a POS with a fantastic public funded orchestra. Perhaps the worse a city is the better the orchestra. Here in Denver we have the midget Kahane (he actually just retired and now we have some young guy I think...not sure since I havent been this season) who tries to make interpretive pieces and before we has Marin Alsop (jeebus, if you want Brahms go see her conduct...i swear that is the only composer she knows). At least you can always judge how well an orchestra is doing by how many shows on Bethoven and Mozart they do...that always brings out the rubes (NTTAWWT). Even though I thoughly enjoy our orchestra it is a public funded loser that can only fill seats when either Van Clyburn or Yo Yo Ma are playing. (I will pay $150 to see Van Clyburn at any time...I love that guy. Plus FIVE encores!!! nuttin like gettin ur money's worth.

    I said Cannon in D, not jam on brie!

  13. You hold on dearly to what little you have.

    1. We've been saving jars of our own urine since 1978.

      You did not hear that from me.

  14. I actually prefer arts organizations over other large institutions of civic pride* simply because if you can raise the money (private money, only, please!), you have what you want. You don't have to build a stadium and then beg a sports league to give you franchise. You don't have to spend a fortune on a convention center and hope the conventions come. You don't have to build a big development project and then hope the businesses move in and stay. The people of the city don't have to rely on external forces for their object of pride. If North Platte, Nebraska wants a fantastic symphony, they can have one, if they can raise the dough.

    *as the original article points out, it's silly to put so much sense of collective self-worth into this kind of stuff anyway

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