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Cleveland Orchestra performing at Smith Center

There’s no place like home.

Unless, of course, it’s almost like home.

For the renowned Cleveland Orchestra, that means a concert hall designed by architect David M. Schwarz , who transformed Severance Hall, the orchestra’s base since 1931, during a 1999-2000 restoration and expansion.

It also means Reynolds Hall at the new Smith Center for the Performing Arts, Schwarz’s latest concert venue, where the Cleveland Orchestra will perform Saturday night.

Violinist Nikolaj Znaider will join the ensemble, under the direction of music director Franz Welser-Most , to perform Beethoven’s one-and-only violin concerto. Rounding out the program: three movements from Smetana’s "Ma Vlast" ("My Country"), composed in the 1870s, along with the overture, waltz and finale from Thomas Ades’ 1995 chamber opera "Powder Her Face."

"It’s arguably a greatest-hits program," says Gary Hanson , the orchestra’s executive director, and one designed to "showcase many of the qualities of the Cleveland Orchestra."

For example, the Smetana selection spotlights "gorgeous orchestral sound color" and "infectious rhythmic flexibility," which Hanson describes as "the two things the Cleveland Orchestra does better than any other orchestra in the world – with the possible exception of the Vienna Philharmonic."

The Ades pieces, meanwhile, "showcase the orchestra’s incredible facility with new music," Hanson adds. But while "it’s still brand-new music, it manages to be very accessible."

As for the Beethoven concerto, it’s "the blockbuster work on the program," he says, highlighted by "a great collaboration with Znaider," a Danish violinist whose performances (on Guarneri’s 1741 "del Gesu" violin, previously played by the legendary Fritz Kreisler ) have earned international acclaim.

Saturday’s concert marks only the second time the Cleveland Orchestra has performed in Las Vegas. (The first was a 1984 concert in Artemus Ham Hall at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.)

And the chance to play in Reynolds Hall played a major role in making Las Vegas the final stop on this week’s West Coast tour, according to Hanson.

"The Cleveland Orchestra has a very significant association with halls designed by David M. Schwarz," Hanson says in a telephone interview from the orchestra’s Ohio headquarters.

Several years ago, at an arts conference in Washington, D.C., Hanson and Smith Center President Myron Martin discussed the question of "when could the Cleveland Orchestra come and play in the new hall," Hanson recalls.

The timing worked out nicely when the San Francisco Symphony, celebrating its centennial season, invited the Cleveland Orchestra to play two concerts; those San Francisco concerts kicked off the troupe’s tour Sunday and Monday. (Stops in San Diego, Orange County and Palm Desert, Calif., round out the itinerary.)

"It was the combination of a brand-new concert hall, with the added sparkle" of Schwarz’s involvement, that made Las Vegas a can’t-miss tour stop, in Hanson’s view.

The orchestra’s musicians are "always intrigued and excited about playing in a new concert hall that promises to be of very high quality," he says.

And Reynolds Hall happens to be the work of "probably the best concert hall architect in America today," Hanson adds. "I think you’re very lucky."

In his view, Schwarz "is something of a genius" in bringing together "the needs of the performers and the needs of the audience in an aesthetic environment that works for both," Hanson explains.

"Playing in a high-quality environment absolutely enhances the level of performance," he says. "For us, it begins with the acoustics – and advances to encompass the relationship with the audience."

Or, more to the point, audiences.

That’s because tours "play a very significant role in sustaining" the international reputation of the Cleveland Orchestra, which will celebrate its centennial in 2018.

In addition to traditional multicity tours, the orchestra has an annual four-week residency in Miami, plus biennial residencies at New York’s Lincoln Center Festival, in Vienna and in Lucerne, Switzerland.

Those residencies "allow us to create really vital relationships with audiences in those cities," Hanson says.

Most of the orchestra’s single concerts have been part of longer stays, as when, during its recent Miami sojourn, the orchestra played in Nashville – at Schermerhorn Symphony Center, which features another Schwarz-designed concert hall.

And, for the Cleveland Orchestra, another home away from home.

Contact reporter Carol Cling at ccling@ reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0272.

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