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Classical Music
Janelle Gelfand on the classical music scene

Janelle's pen has taken her to Japan, China, Carnegie Hall, Europe (twice), East and West Coasts, and Florida. In fact, Janelle was the first Enquirer reporter to report from Europe via e-mail -- in 1995.

Janelle began writing for the Cincinnati Enquirer as a stringer in 1991 while writing a Ph.D. dissertation in musicology at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music. She joined the Enquirer staff in 1993.

Born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, where she graduated from Stanford University, Janelle has lived in Cincinnati for more than 30 years. In her free time, this pianist plays chamber music with her circle of musical friends in Cincinnati.

She covers the Cincinnati Symphony, May Festival and Cincinnati Opera, the Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra, chamber music ensembles, and as many recitals and events at CCM and NKU as possible.

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Friday, March 24, 2006

Top ten orchestras

You'd never guess how busy the classical music beat is here in Cincy. I've been working on a special assignment for Sunday and covering news like the Azmari Quartet getting invited back to their jobs at Northern Kentucky University...

So, last night I spoke to a great group of Kiwanis in Greenhills/Forest Park, and the question came up: Where does the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra fall among the top 25 big-budget professional orchestras in our country? In the Big Five? Heavenly Seven? Top Ten?

That's a tough call, because the landscape seems to be changing all the time. Cleveland, for instance, was considered No. 1 for a time during the tenure of Dohnanyi, but now there's a new maestro, Franz-Welser Most, on the podium. Chicago is searching for someone to replace Barenboim... New York recently hired Lorin Maazel. And out West (my home turf), the San Francisco Symphony and LA Philharmonic are flourishing under, respectively Michael Tilson Thomas and Esa-Pekka Salonen. Plus, LA now has Disney Hall -- which is creating tons of buzz.

Let's see, we've got New York, Philly, Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, the Met Orchestra under James Levine, LA and SF. I'd put Cincinnati next in that group. After that, we have Pittsburgh, Baltimore (that just hired Marin Alsop for 2007), St. Louis (what's happening there??), Minnesota, Atlanta (doing great things with Robert Spano, et al), Detroit (seeking a music director) -- who have I left out?

So, where does our orchestra fall? I'd say lately, under Paavo Jarvi, definitely within the Top 10 -- and that is because the artistic quality (playing, programming and sheer excitement level) of concerts is something the likes of which this city hasn't seen since the Schippers era. In fact, it may be better now than any time in our orchestra's 111-year-old history.


at 3/24/2006 01:29:00 PM Anonymous Mardie said...

Thanks for the more complete answer to this question from last evening. I think there is more excitement now at Music Hall than when I started going more than 30 years ago. As a music teacher I took the fourth & fifth grade classes there for the school concerts and everything seemed rather stodgy. Maybe it was the choice of music, or the non-exciting conductors, or even the rather bland expressions of the musicians. Or maybe I just felt too responsible for the children to notice excitement! Anyway it is a good feeling to know that the CSO is in the top ten.

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