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.
Bruckner a pleasant surprise
OK, so I'm not the biggest Bruckner fan! Here's Friday night's symphony review in case you missed it:
The saying goes that Bruckner wrote the same symphony nine times, as conductor Paavo Järvi noted in his introduction to Bruckner's Symphony No. 6 Friday night. That myth, and a canceled soloist, may have kept the crowds away from the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra concert in Music Hall.
It's too bad, because, despite the odds, it turned out to be an exceptional evening. The brilliant American cellist Alisa Weilerstein stepped in for Truls Mork to play the Schumann Cello Concerto on a few days notice, and Järvi and the musicians made a case for Bruckner's Sixth that would rival even the most majestic recording.
At just 24, Weilerstein has already been tapped as one of America's most promising young stars. The Cleveland Institute of Music graduate is one of the most individual voices you'll ever hear on the cello, and she tackled Schumann's Concerto in A Minor with a mixture of assured virtuosity and a large dose of emotion.
Although beauty of sound is not the first thing one notices about her playing, Weilerstein is an expressive player who makes her cello speak in a soulful, almost vocal manner. Her performance was an emotional journey that seemed to echo the composer’s tormented psyche, with a throbbing vibrato and freely rhapsodic phrases.
It was an arresting interpretation. The orchestra’s collaboration, though understated at first, richly underscored her playing.
Bruckner's Symphony No. 6 in A Major is one of the least played of his symphonies, but it may, in fact, be the most attractive. High drama (in brass and timpani) and rhythmic complexity are its hallmarks. Yet its appeal is a lyricism and intimacy one usually doesn’t associate with the Austrian composer.
Järvi found this balance of light and dark, and the orchestra rose to the occasion with truly stunning playing. The opening "Maestoso" had powerful brass climaxes of great, organ-like sonorities, balanced by moments of beauty that at times echoed Mahler in character.
The heart of this work is the slow movement. Järvi gave it a deeply felt reading, with beautifully shaped phrases and luminous strings, enhanced by contributions from acting principal oboist Shea Scruggs.
The somewhat quirky scherzo, with its mixture of brass fanfares, timpani rolls, horn calls and ringing cut-offs, somehow all made sense. Järvi brought the work to summation in a finale that was driving yet spacious, and the grandiose brass sound was something to behold.
The conductor opened the program with a work by his countryman, Estonian composer Eduard Tubin, and spoke in pre-recorded "First Notes" about the composer who was a family friend. His Symphony No. 11, left unfinished at his death in 1982, was a fascinating work that echoed many influences, from Carl Nielsen to the Russians and even, perhaps, Holst's "The Planets." It featured bold assertions in brass and timpani, angular themes and surprisingly lush strings.
The program repeats at 8 p.m. today. Tickets: 513-381-3300, or click here
Soloist cancels this weekend
You read it first here:
Norwegian cellist Truls Mork has cancelled his performances with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra
this weekend due to an illness in his family, the orchestra announced Tuesday. Cellist Alisa Weilerstein, 24, will take his place in the Schumann Cello Concerto. Weilerstein made her Cincinnati Symphony debut in 2004.
Also on the program, Paavo Järvi conducts Tubin’s Symphony No. 11 and Bruckner’s Symphony No. 6. Concerts are 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday in Music Hall. Tickets: $18.50-$77; $95 box;$10 students. 513-381-3300.
CSO gets Orchestra Website honor
In a followup from the "Best Orchestra Website" awards given out a few days ago, Drew McManus of "Adaptistration" has broken down his annual review into special recognition awards.
The Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra was noted in Category 3, "Orchestra information," for their media pages -- "a very comprehensive database of just about anything a member of the press could require."
(So I guess that means I'm not allowed to ever complain again ...)
Tuesdays with -- music
Did you ever wish you could clone yourself? Here are three options to do Tuesday night!
The Azmari Quartet at NKU opens their season with a concert of Bach, beethoven and Shostakovich at 8 p.m. in Greaves Concert Hall. The ensemble, which consists of Chirstina Merblum, violin, MinTze Wu, violin, Meghan Casper, viola and Rebecca Merblum, cello, will perform Beethoven's Quartet Op. 18 No. 3, and Bach's The Art of Fugue. NKU's artist-in-residence Sergei Polusmiak will join for Shostakovich's Piano Quintet in G Minor. It's free.
Over at St. Peter in Chains Cathedral, the "Great Music in a Great Space" series opens at 8 p.m. with Gloriae Dei Cantores, a distinguished choir from Cape Cod. The choir, led by Elizabeth C. Patterson, is known for its seamless performances of Gregorian Chant, and everything beyond. It has toured six times with the Boston Pops and opened the 900th anniversary celebration of St. Mark's Basilica in Venice. Tickets: $28 at the door; $10 students.
And despite the death of Marjean Wisby, above, the Blue Wisp is still alive. There's a tribute and fund raiser for the "patron saint of jazz," Marjean, 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. at the Blue Wisp, 318 E. 8th Street, with music by the Blue Wisp Big Band, Steve Schmidt, Phil DeGreg, and other esteemed local jazz musicians. The suggested donation of $20 includes a tenderloin buffet dinner. Reservations: 513-241-9477.
Video screens in Music Hall
This week is your last chance to check out the video screen experiment at the Cincinnati Symphony in Music Hall. There were surveys in last week's programs (although I didn't see those the first week...) Clearly, a lot of this is "preaching to the choir," but folks around me seemed to like the idea.
Here's what I thought about week 2: The commentary was too short. I think the first week there was just enough said to give us a personal view of why Paavo is programming these things. This week, it was, "this is a great symphony." OK, to me that says nothing. I wanted more. Even two sentences would have done it.
Also, I think the screen size should be bumped up a few notches. I could see people squinting up there in the gallery. I thought the sound quality was fine. I still think, as I said below
, that Paavo should be filmed in a more inviting environment.
I got one phone call from a Northern Kentucky fan who HATED the screens. He felt if you want to know something about the program, you go to the pre-concert lecture, and that the music should start at 8 p.m.
I see his points -- but this is the way they've done things for 110 years. I applaud them for trying something new. And it's not lecturing. I found the overall effect sort of like the "amuse bouche," that whets your appetite for whatever the chef is cooking up.
Restaurant reviewer Polly Campbell liked them, and she thinks the screens might be nice in the lobby, running continuously. Hmm. Not a bad idea... but there's a lot of noise out there.
What do you think? Let me know! email@example.com, or post a note below.
CSO bassoonist shines in Mozart
In case you had trouble finding the symphony review today, here it is:
Bassoon's front and center
BY JANELLE GELFAND | ENQUIRER STAFF WRITER
The bassoon is one of the most colorful instruments of the orchestra, perhaps most known for its comical touches. On Friday morning, listeners heard how a bassoon can shine as a serious solo instrument, when principal bassoonist William Winstead performed Mozart's Bassoon Concerto in B-Flat Major with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra.
Winstead's playing was a revelation of effortless technique and smiling phrases that sang. Aside from the fun of seeing a symphony musician out front, the program led by Paavo Järvi was something of a sleeper. It included "Three Dances for Orchestra," a little-known work by Frenchman Maurice Duruflé, and Cesar Franck's glorious Symphony in D Minor.
A native of western Kentucky, Winstead has been principal bassoonist since 1987 and is also on the faculty of the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music.
Mozart wrote his B-Flat Major Bassoon Concerto, K. 191, at age 18 – but there is nothing juvenile about its challenges. Winstead, sporting a brilliant red and gold vest, navigated its treacherous leaps, runs and flourishes with a sure hand and a smooth, sonorous timbre.
His seamless line was an asset in the slow movement, which brought out the beauty of Mozart's soaring melodies. The finale was fleet, and the bassoonist transformed his sound for its dark, minor-moded section. The cadenzas, of Winstead's own invention, were well-developed feats of virtuosity.
Winstead's colleagues in the orchestra were sensitive partners in this engaging performance.
Järvi opened with Duruflé's "Three Dances," an undiscovered gem of 1932 in the tradition of Debussy, Fauré and Ravel. The orchestra played with wonderful transparency in the opening "Divertissement," which was awash with color. The slow "Danse lente" was gentle and touching, with sweeping climaxes in the brass, and the final "Tambourin" included a saxophone solo (James Bunte).
Järvi's view of Franck’s romantic Symphony in D Minor, which concluded the morning, was one of the most vigorous you’ll ever hear, and painted in bold swaths of color. After the broad introduction (that recalls Liszt's "Les Preludes"), the conductor burst upon the Allegro with surprising power. There was an aura of mystery about the chromatic motive that pervades this work, which contrasted against affirmative statements in the brass and deeply felt lyrical passages.
The orchestra turned in a polished performance, particularly the strings, whose ensemble has never sounded so lush. Principal English horn Chris Philpotts shone in the Allegretto, which also offered a chance to hear the orchestra’s new principal horn, Elizabeth Freimuth.
The concert repeats at 8 p.m. today in Music Hall. Tickets: 513-381-3300.
Can't get to Rome?
You can still hear the official organist of St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, 3 p.m. Sunday at Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption, Covington.James E. Goettsche
, a native of Omaha, Neb. (pictured in the Sistine Chapel) will perform a mostly-French program, including three works by J.S. Bach, "Litanies" by Jehan Alain; Cesar Franck's "Cantabile" and "Piece heroique," and "Carillon de Westminster" by the great organist Louis Vierne.
The Basilica's exceptional acoustics should be an inspiring environment to hear the Papal Organist play the 4,000-pipe Grand Organ, located in the South Transept. 859-431-2060; cathedralconcertseries.org.
Here's another key concert: Fabio Bidini
takes a bow at the Xavier University Classical Piano Series, 2:30 p.m. Sunday in Gallagher Student Center Theatre.
Bidini is a major recording artist who regularly performs with the world's great orchestras. He is bringing two of Beethoven's best-loved Piano Sonatas, the "Waldstein" and the "Appassionata," along with a Bach-Busoni "Chaconne" and Chopin's "Polonaise-Fantasy." Tickets: $17 and $19; $3 students; senior discount. 513-745-3161.
CSO in top 5 Orchestra Web sites
Fifth best Web site: The Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra’s Web site (www.cincinnatisymphony.org
) ranks fifth out of 80 professional symphony orchestra Web sites nationwide.
That's according to a new study performed last month by Drew McManus, a Chicago-based orchestra industry analyst and cultural commentator. McManus gave the Cincinnati Symphony a B-minus.
He says that "a pretty face" – aesthetic qualities such as colors, photos and fancy graphics – were not as important as functionality for the general public. That means how easy it is to find the site, get basic concert information and purchase tickets.
The No. 1 ranked Web site belongs to the Nashville Symphony, followed by the orchestras of Chicago, Seattle and San Francisco.
To view the chart and criteria, go to www.adaptistration.com
, a featured web log about orchestra management on the ASCAP award-winning www.artsjournal.com
A little red streetcar
Well, maybe not red. But I remember years ago, arts patron Pat Corbett saying, why can't we get a little red streetcar to go between all the arts venues?
Now there is a real movement afoot to do that, with a light rail streetcar that would, perhaps, a three-mile loop around the city. The cost? Probably $100 million, say the promoters. But that investment, they say, will generate $2.8 BILLION in new development.Their Web site
is a bit bare, but there are some details there, if you care to take a look!
Let me know what you think! It all ties into the stories, below.
Discovering Our Arts Identity
As promised, here are some of the many responses to the articles that ran in Sunday's Enquirer. If you missed the stories:Discovering our Arts IdentityDenver gets it rightDowntown has soul; lacks heart Enquirer round-table
Here's one from Mike Hasselbeck
"I just read your article about our downtown and I couldn't agree with
you more. I'm a 25 year old college grad from the Columbus College of
Art & Design up in Columbus. It's been 6 months since moving above
Tina's down on 4th and Central and I'm not sure how I feel about the
experience. First off, other than Tina's and handful of other bars,
there's nothing to do. The streets are dead after 6. There's no grocery
store, not even a little corner shop where I can pick up a 6 pack or
something to snack on. I have no guaranteed place to park my car which
wouldn't be an issue if we had better public transportation. Granted, I
knew that part going into this. I spend more time in other
neighborhoods like Oakley, Hyde Park and parts of the west side than I
do in my own neighborhood. Which is supposed to be the center city.
Cincinnati is no doubt a beautiful city. I've brought friends from
college that are from other parts of Ohio down here and they're
impressed like I was when I decided to move home. I'm a young
professional looking for somewhere to spend my money a few days during
the week and on the weekends in my neighborhood. I'd rather stay
downtown but it's more of a hassle than it is convenient. Mt Lookout is
starting to look good."
"Yes!" says Lauren Young
"A huge note of thanks for your reporting on Cincinnati and its wonderful (and sorely under played) arts community. We are fairly new to the city (just over a year) and after living in Boston, I must say I am SO impressed with all that is offered here. Yes, the galleries and open studios must get more support (and PR), but the quality of work is very high. The history of the arts in this city is so impressive, as is the philanthropic generosity.
"I would like to see city hall make its goal to have Cincinnati be the arts capitol of this area of the midwest -- Indy has the amateur sports capitol all wrapped up, and Chicago will always be, well, Chicago. So let's all shake off the dust of insecurity and make Cincinnati the world class city that it is/can be.
"Thanks for the focus. Let's hope the "Enquirer" will also follow up with a "call to action" for all citizens to support downtown and the arts."
I love this one from Carol Schweitzer
of California, KY:
"Janelle, you have hit the nail square on the head. I am a northern Kentucky native who grew up crossing the river for everything that was fun and exciting. Slowly, over the years I have watched so many old landmarks being torn down to make way for somebody's idea of progress. In the process, I (and I'm sure I speak for many) lost all reason and desire to travel downtown. They have homogenized the shopping with the suburbs so well that why should anyone fight traffic and parking when they can easily find a nearby mall with all the same stores.
"I feel like I cut my teeth shopping at the large department stores like Shillito's, Pogue's, Mabley's, and McAlpin's. Date nights were always to the special movie theaters like the Albee, the Keith, the Palace and the Capitol. Until the Aronoff was built, there was not a decent theatre stage since the Shubert was razed. Everyone I talk to says the same thing, "they tore down all the good things."
"I have traveled to many big cities and have concluded that Cincinnati's city fathers have not been men of vision in the last several decades. I love the arts and continue to support them, but little else can induce me to risk the traffic, crime and parking problems associated with downtown."
Here's another good one from Robert Baylor
of Wilmington, Ohio:
"Cincinnati lacks a single, integrating strategy that would make all of these
independent initiatives part of a successful plan. For example, the museums
at Union Terminal are a great idea executed in a vacuum. The areas
immediate adjacent to Union Terminal are some of the most decrepit in the
city. Why aren’t planners looking at removing some of these old, abandoned
industrial buildings and creating something new and exciting? Perhaps
create a community of small galleries and artisan shops, the same could be
attempted in and around Music Hall.
"Cincinnati has flirted with downtown living before with One Lytle Place and
other downtown apartments attempting to revitalize urban living in the late
'70s and early '80s. They failed for the same reason these new efforts will
fail, there is no overarching strategy to place the necessary infrastructure
to support urban living in downtown Cincinnati. There are no large or small
grocery stores to support these urban dwellers. No quick and efficient
public transit system exists (think more along the lines of the Washington
DC metro lines which are quick, efficient and safe). Our own Metro buses
are dirty and inefficient.
"What is desperately needed is one overarching strategy against which all
other initiatives can be coordinated against. If the initiative is in
concert with the strategy, the initiative should be supported. If it
doesn't meet the strategic goals, then it needs to be reshaped into one that
Here's some Cincy history from Jim Sicking
of the Cincinnati Transit Historical Association:
"In your Sunday Article about Downtown Denver you mentioned that there was a grass roots group trying to get a project started once again on a light rail streetcar for downtown. As a member and an archivist for the Cincinnati Transit Historical Association. I would be interested in contacting these people, because we have the archival information and drawings of the Cincinnati Street Railway Co going back to the early 20th Century. (Later it was called Cincinnati Transit and the predecessor to Metro). In the past some of our members were involved in promoting a similar concept without any luck. I don't know if any of the "grass roots" group you referred to contains some of the same people or if they are aware of previous efforts. I'm sure our archives would be of help since much of the old track still buried under the asphalt of Cincinnati streets and our drawings have some of the detail."
Here's one from educator Alan Coleman
"Cincinnati will never find its arts identity if it continues to ignore many prospective 'customers.' Far too many of our public school children have little or no contact with the arts. Creativity in the arts starts at an early age. Our schools have made a concerted effort to insure that this generation of students is artistically illiterate, by denying hands on experiences in the arts except for a select few. Today's student knows Music Hall only as a venue for rap concerts or high school graduation. This city has a rich heritage in the arts, but unless a sincere effort is made to educate students in the arts, we will continue to see a demise of our local culture."
Alan also mentions that the Western Hills High marching band is making a comeback, thanks to the Western Hills Foundation. But: The kids have no instruments!!
"The hunt is on for musical instruments for these students to play. When the band was dissolved, the instruments found homes in other schools. They will have to beg or borrow just to have instruments. The director of the band however is optimistic that he can have them playing a holiday concert later this year. The choir continues to struggle, too."
Help anyone??Bruce Olson
, who is planning a sculptor exhibit at the foot of the Purple People bridge in Newport, says: "Bravo! Thank you for pointing out, to those who might care to read it, that Cincinnati is losing ground to other cities large and small that are paying greater attention to the marketability of the arts. The problem is not just "DISCOVERING OUR ARTS IDENTITY" but "CREATYING AN ARTS IDENTITY". The fact that we have a good opera, ballet and symphony as well as a siginificant number of reputable museums is nice for people who happen to be visiting or live here. But Cincinnati lacks enticement. The Tall Stacks event draws many people from way beyond our regional borders. That's what we need. We need more events that are designed to draw people to our communities from outside our three state region."Glenn A. Ray,
Ed.D., of College Hill sent this letter:
"Janelle Gelfand's excellent article, "Discovering Our Arts Identity" (September 17, 2006) rightly promotes the arts as the prominent image for the City. Her quote from Jack Rouse, that "It's staggering that a city this size has institutions of this quality," aptly describes the world class arts venues we have in our community. However, an additional perspective should be considered in our efforts to "discover our arts identity."
"Where are those world class arts venues that speak to me and my culture, as an African-American? Why are there no viable African-American arts organizations that provide a variety of arts opportunitites with the same degree of consistency, quality and excellence that exists among those organizations that focus on European art and culture? During the five year period 2000-2005, the City of Cincinnati and Fine Arts Fund distributed over $50 million to artists and arts organizations. Not quite 3 percent of that amount (a little over $1 million) was distributed to African-American artists and arts organizations. We simply must do better than this and we can!"
This from Gene Sobczak
, executive VP of the Colorado Symphony: "Thank you for your thoughtful and informative article on Denver. Our recent 'reinvention' through arts and culture, however, is not defined solely by the new architecture that informs our city streets and skyline. The work being created and exhibited in buildings old and new is routinely recognized for its artistic excellence and should underscore every story on Denver’s 'culture boom.' The Colorado Symphony Orchestra, for example, has received the ASCAP Award for Most Adventurous Programming in eight of the last nine years. Additionally, the CSO has grown ticket revenue in the last three years by 47 percent – a record-setting margin for mid- and large-sized symphony orchestras in America. We accomplished as much by remaining fiercely committed to our product – and our obligation to selling it."
Saving a city
I'm going to post some of the many e-mails I've been getting about Sunday's articles in Forum
The articles dealt with finding a vision and a identity for our core city through arts, culture and entertainment.
It got me thinking about LA, where I was on vacation last weekend, and how that city is trying to revive its downtown with a massive development project, including a small arts district (pictured) that includes two performance halls, a theater and MOCA -- the Museum of Contemporary Art. Don't get me wrong -- I think it will all be spectacular when it's done. But at the moment, people still drive downtown, park to see a show, and leave -- just like Cincinnati. The town was virtually, except for a marathon, abandoned over the weekend.
The Grand Ave. project, a mixed-use project of condos, a hotel, and presumably other things too, at $1.8 billion and rising, is anchored by Walt Disney Concert Hall. It's all designed by architect-of-the-moment, Frank Gehry.
Last Sunday, because Walt Disney Hall was right next door to the opera house, I took a tour of the gorgeous new home of the LA Philharmonic,
led by Esa-Pekka Salonen (FOP -- friend of Paavo). Anyone may call and reserve a tour for $15.
(Our tour guide named Joanne said her daughter, an architect, had worked on Paul Brown Stadium. Small world!)
Now that Music Hall is likely to get some updating, it was interesting to see what you get if you have $274 million and change.
The new hall replaced the 1964-era Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, were the LA Phil played for 40 years. It all started with a $50 million gift from Walt Disney's widow, Lillian, in 1987. (Sadly, she didn't live to see it completed.)
One enters past the sweeping sheets of stainless steel exterior (a Gehry trademark) into a lobby with a high atrium, surrounded by fluid shapes, curved walls, lots of glass, travertine stone floors and warm douglas fir wood. On the main floor, there's a beautiful gift shop and a coffee shop that is open daily to the public. One is surrounded by "Gehry trees" -- interior posts that look like trees that help support the building.
The building has incredible nooks and crannies through several levels, yet there is a great feeling of spaciousness throughout. In one nook there was a gallery with a changing exhibit. In another, a jazz concert was going on, and it resounded through the entire building.
The auditorium is a wonderful theater-in-the-round, where audience members can sit BEHIND the orchestra, if they want to see the conductor's face. With 2,265 seats, it is reportedly a fine acoustical environment (unfortunately, the orchestra was on vacation, so I didn't get to hear it). The designers tried to emulate the Philharmonie in Berlin, with the same kind of "vineyard" seating. The LA Phil chose its acoustician after performing in Suntory Hall in Tokyo, designed by Nagata Acoustics.
The organ builder (Manuel Rosales
) collaborated with Gehry in the design for the organ pipes (6,134 pipes, fabricated in Germany). The wooden pipes are functional, and Gehry found his inspiration for them in a box of French fries!
We walked around the outside, where on the roof, there is a built-in system to clean the stainless steel. The back has a little patio with a children's amphitheater.
You can look out over one of the rooftops to see the new Grand Ave. project that is about to break ground. For more info, visit the links in this blog.
The Society for the Preservation of Music Hall
Recent pics of Music Hall: Opening night at Tosca this summer(Phil Groshong, photographer) and Erich Kunzel opens the Pops season last week. (Note his injured left hand! That's why new assistant conductor Tito Munoz is turning his pages...)
The annual meeting of the SPMH took place last night in Music Hall's Corbett Tower, to discuss many things, including points made by historian Bob Howes about the planned renovations.
But first, the CSO's Paavo Jarvi and Cincy Opera's Evans Mirageas addressed the good-sized crowd.
Paavo: "Every time I approach this hall, whether driving to work or stepping onstage, I feel a tremendous sense of history. We read in the news every day about the creation of new venues, all over the U.S. and Europe. My thoughts are, you cannnot build an old hall. ... We have sometimes been less than thoughtful about history. Our downtown is an example of how we're not taking care of our treasures.
"But our hall is magnificent. But then comes the question: How do we take care of it and what of our role and responsibility? Cleveland and Chicago (concert halls) are examples of what can happen when an old hall is preserved with a future in mind. You feel the fantastic history and realize the historic integrity that is completely intact. At the same time, modern needs are addressed.
"One of the great hopes of mine is to do something here similar, to create a modern environment where everyone feels at home. I'd like it to be the living room of Cincinnati -- a comfortable place to a modern concert goer.
"It's important to see the other tenants, the opera and the May Festival comfortable, as well.
"This hall makes me feel very small, because I know that real giants have walked on that stage, such as Stravinsky, Rachmaninoff. It takes work and continuous dedication to be worthy of the people we are following."
He thanked SPMH members for their dedication to preserving Music Hall (c. 1878), saying that these efforts are united.
Patricia Beggs introduced Evans with this remark: "Our goal is to make Music Hall provide the best possible experience for our patrons, and not affect the architectural or historical amenities."
Evans: "Maybe it's because I'm Greek, but I like statues," he said, referring to statues in Music Hall, such as Reuben Springer, wondering if Mr. Springer (who led the charge to build Music Hall) would rise up some night like the "Commendatore" (Don Giovanni)...
"This is one of the great architectural treasures of the United States and one of the greatest performing spaces of the world. But it is a treasure that must keep in step with the times. Beethoven, Brahms and Verdi may be dead, but their spirits are living. The CSO's Brahms concert this weekend proved that music written around the time Music Hall was built still has the power to move us to a standing ovation."
He said as he travels the world as an impresario for Cincinnati Opera, he tells singers and conductors, "If you come to Music Hall for the first time, you'll never want to leave."
During the business meeting, Prez Norma Petersen said that the recent Music Hall documentary had won a regional Emmy for WCET-TV and producter Joanne Grueter.
And here's what your donations purchased this year for Music Hall:
New radios for the private police around Music Hall (their old radios didn't connect to the Police Dept.)
New chairs for the Critics Club
For the first time, the group has an office at Music Hall, with a new computer and even furniture.
And coming up: A private donor is making possible the restoration and installation of the Mighty Wurlitzer Organ (formerly at the old Albee Theater) in the west end of the Ballroom.
And did you know you can schedule your own tour of Music Hall for a small fee?
The evening included beautiful singing by CCM opera grad student Bronwen Forbay (a native of S. Africa). She sang Violetta's great Act I aria, "Ah, fors' e lui," with the wonderful Sempre libera -- ever free -- as the cabaletta. She also sang "And this is my beloved." Carol Walker was the able accompanist.
The inimitable Jim Tarbell arrived late (having gone to a Linton Music Series event), announced that the 801 Plum Concerts will return to City Hall (yay!) and then took out his harmonica (insert eye-rolling here).
To contribute to SPMH or schedule a tour, call 513-744-3293, or visit their Web site.
The fall season is upon us, and events and concerts are packing the calendar! Here are a few to consider:
This Saturday, classical/pop pianist Emile Pandolfi
is the headliner in a concert at Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy in Sycamore Township to benefit the Cincinnati Chapter of The Ara Parseghian Medical Research Foundation. Pandolfi, whose CDs have sold more than two million copies, is known for his blockbuster arrangements of Broadway musicals, and apparently, he's quite a comedian, too. The 7:30 p.m. concert is $65 and $40, including a reception to meet the artist afterward. Tickets: 513-494-1099.
The foundation aims to find a cure for the fatal childhood disorder, Niemann Pick C. For more information, visit www.swingforacure.com
Gospel pioneer P. Ann Everson-Price
will be honored with a tribute for 20 years in Gospel music broadcasting, in "The Diva of the Air Waves," a three-day celebration Friday through Sunday in three different venues. The Withrow High School grad got her start on WCIN-AM radio, and is the first African-American female gospel announcer to hold salaried posts at several local stations.
The festival will include local and national gospel artists, including WDBZ's Lincoln Ware, Dr. James McCray (B.O.G. Records) and many more. On Friday, a gospel music showcase begins at 7 p.m. at the House of Joy, 5918 Hamilton Ave, College Hill.
Saturday at 4 p.m., WAKW-FM radio will brodcast live from the Twin Tower Senior Living Community Gulden Room, 5343 Hamilton Ave., for a "Glad Hatter's Tea" followed by a fashion show of "Hats on Parade" and performances by the Northern Kentucky Brotherhood Singers. (Tickets: $45)
Sunday there's a concert featuring the Cincinnati Super Choir, the Gospel Music Workshop of America Mass Choir, and starring Luther Barnes
, a Stellar Award-winning recording artist, 4 p.m., Landmark Baptist Temple, Evendale. All events, except the tea, are free. 513-681-5590.
New players in the orchestra
If you saw a few new faces Friday night at the symphony, you weren't seeing things. The Cincinnati Symphony has hired some new players in high places.
The CSO's new principal timpanist is 25-year-old Patrick Schleker. He succeeds the great Eugene Espino, who passed away about a year ago.
And Elizabeth Freimuth is the new principal horn.
Watch for profiles of these new players in the Enquirer.
Plasma screens at Music Hall
So, what did YOU think of the new plasma screens on either side of Music Hall's stage at the symphony
In case you missed it, the CSO is experimenting with "CSO First Notes,"
pre-taped video of Paavo giving his personal thoughts about the music before he comes out to conduct. The screens, at 64 inches, are large but not humongous, and they fit unobtrusively against the proscenium.
I thought the sound was excellent, and the video, shot in a rather stark studio with Paavo sitting informally, was fine. (Perhaps they should do the next one in his study, in Music Hall's auditorium or sitting on Music Hall's steps -- something that might be a more inviting backdrop.)
The content was great. I loved getting the personal insight into things like, how PJ feels about conducting Brahms' Symphony No. 1. "It's maybe the 20th time I've conducted it, but a masterpiece like this is never ready."
Marty Lewis of Columbia Tusculum, liked it, too.
"It gave a nice personal touch and he managed to distill it for all three pieces very well," she said.
If you missed Saturday's review, click here
The screens, that are rented for now, will be up for three weeks. Let me know what you think: firstname.lastname@example.org or post a comment here.
Is Don Carlo coming to Cincinnati Opera?
Given that both Cincinnati Opera's general director/CEO Patty Beggs and artistic director Evans Mirageas were in the audience last weekend at LA Opera to see Verdi's epic opera Don Carlo, conducted by Cincinnati's James Conlon, one might wonder whether we might find it on an upcoming Cincinnati Opera season.
Sunday's production directed by Ian Judge in Dorothy Chandler Pavilion had a dream cast that included the fantastic Italian tenor Salvatore Licitra (Don Carlo), Lado Ataneli (Rodrigo), Dolora Zajick (the world's reigning Princess Eboli), Ferruccio Furlanetto (King Philip II), Annalisa Raspagliosi (Elisabeth de Valois) and Eric Halfvarson (The Grand Inquisitor). It was absolutely a knock-out. (The 1884 four-act version was sung in Italian.)
Verdi wrote this opera for Paris, so the opera is rich with spectacle, huge choruses and lavish scenes, yet it is also surprisingly intimate at times. The production would work in Music Hall, but I did not love the scenic design by John Gunter -- basically lots of interchangeable red and black arches painted with bloody, Goya-like images.
Set against the backdrop of the Spanish Inquisition, the tale (based on Schiller) mixes love and politics, and pits father against son, as Don Carlo becomes a champion of Flanders, a Protestant country. As Verdi expert Mary Jane Phillips writes in the notes, Philip was known as "the Catholic king, obsessed with driving heresy from his lands."
Or, as Evans Mirageas remarked at intermission, "What a wonderful day for an auto-da-fe."
Conlon was absolutely in synch with his singers, and the orchestra captured all the power, intensity and drama of this fascinating opera.
The highlight of Act I, of course, is Eboli's Veil Song. I would have liked more sensuousness in that moment, but Zajick brought rich characterization to her role of Eboli. And what a tenor! Licitra's singing was ardent, expressive and Italianate, reminiscent of a young Pavarotti. His friendship duet with Rodrigo was a showstopper. Ataneli, who has sung in Cincinnati, was truly impressive as Don Carlo's friend and the King's confident.
As the king, Furlanetto captured all the angst of his position as king and father; his scene with the Grand Inquisitor was a portrait of pain and grief. If Raspagliosi's role of Elisabeth was not as complete a portrait, her light soprano voice made a refreshing change from the intensity and power of the others.
Will it come to Cincinnati? We can only wish for a cast as great as this.
Renee Fleming as Violetta
Photo credit: Los Angeles Opera and Robert Millard
Production conducted by Cincinnati May Festival's James Conlon
Conlon in Lala land
Cultural weekend II: So, after the Pops concert Friday night, I got up early Sat. morning to catch the non-stop to LA, to see the May Festival's James Conlon make his company debut as music director of the LA Opera.
Conlon was conducting back-to-back, star-studded Verdi operas: La Traviata Saturday night and Don Carlo on Sunday. It turned out, a contingent from Cincinnati Opera was also going – opera board members, CEO Patty Beggs and artistic director Evans Mirageas -- who arrived Sunday because he was busy with a Pasadena Pops gig on Sat.
We got a good rate at the Omni hotel, which was down the street from the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, home of LA Opera, whose general director is celebrity tenor Placido Domingo. And right next door is Disney Hall, the new, $274 million home of the LA Philharmonic led by Esa-Pekka Salonen. More about that later.
We had time to visit one neighborhood before the opera started, and drove our rental car through Westside streets to the Farmer’s Market to get lunch at one of the many international booths there. Besides the colorful scene at the market – people of all ages eating at diner-like counters, and farmers selling their gorgeous veggies – you can stroll over to the new Grove shopping mall, which is sort of like San Jose’s Santana Row, and has a trolley running down the center. (Message to Cincinnati: Check this out if and when you finally develop the Banks.)
We barely made it to the 6 p.m. curtain, because of the throngs entering Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, all at once. For opening night, I have to admit I expected more of a "Red Carpet" crowd. According to the program, Michael Eisner was host at a table for the after-party, but the only star I saw was the actress who plays Raymond’s mother from "Everybody Loves Raymond." The sold-out crowd, which paid $35 to $500 per ticket, mixed elegant gowns with lots of cleavage (a large party was being set up outside the hall) and bluejeans.
It seems that Domingo might be aspiring to make LA Opera a kind of Metropolitan Opera West, given the big names in the two opening weekend productions. The company is in its 21st season, and just received a $6 million gift from the Broad Foundation to sponsor LA Opera's first ever Ring Cycle, a heady aspiration indeed.
And it was especially appropriate that here, where you can see the "Hollywood" sign in the distance, the leads singing La Traviata looked a lot like movie stars.
Renee Fleming was singing the tragic heroine Violetta, with Mexican heartthrob tenor Rolando Villazon as Alfredo and the wonderful Italian baritone Renato Bruson as Germont. Besides all of the gala festivities Saturday night, the company was filming this production to be released on DVD by Decca.
It was directed by Marta Domingo, spouse of Placido. But the evening was all about La Renee (who reportedly gets $75,000 to $100,000 per performance these days).
But first, Conlon, whom I was really here to hear. The overture was tender, beautifully phrased and detailed, and the orchestra sound was quite good and immediate in the immense hall. LA Opera's pit orchestra doesn't compare to the Cincinnati Symphony, though, and although the expressive quality was excellent both evenings, there were some ragged edges, particularly in the thin-sounding strings.
However, Conlon is the consummate musician, who supported the singers perfectly (the balance was good both evenings between stage and pit, I thought, and I sat in two different places) and whose tempos were well chosen. Only a few times were there shaky collaborations, mostly with the chorus, which also is not the caliber of Cincinnati's.
Conlon was given warm ovations from the Angelinos, who are getting to know him for the first time (there was quite of bit of press about Conlon before the opening). And here's something I really liked: at the end, for the final curtain, the entire orchestra had scrambled onstage with their instruments when the curtain opened, and stood to take bows. That was great!
Fleming turned in the most complete, exquisite performance of Violetta I have ever heard. Her sound was like strings of pearls, and her performance seemed deeply personal. Where she projected vulnerability in her opening scene, her "Sempre Libera" was a forceful show of defiance.
Villazon, on the other hand, seemed stiff in the first act, both in acting and voice, going sharp in the Brindisi. Even though there was quite a bit of very passionate kissing, his communication with Fleming was often mechanical, and left one unmoved. However, by Act II, he was like a different singer, singing with ardent, Italianate color.
I’m guessing it had to do with the stodgy staging. Indeed, if the director’s intension was to center the production on the diva to the exclusion of the ensemble, she succeeded.
I’m afraid I disliked the 1999 production, too, with scenic design that ranged from dated and overdone, to garish. Violetta's deathbed looked like a sacrificial altar.
Afterward, the Cincinnati group crammed backstage to greet Conlon, but he was tied up re-filming something for the DVD, and never appeared.
To be continued: A tour of Disney Hall and a mini-review of Don Carlo, with photos. Preview: two thumbs up.
Paavo's insights into the 112th season of the CSO
Checking in with Paavo Jarvi, about to open the Cincinnati Symphony season, he had a nice, relaxing summer:
"I was in Estonia; I just came from Switzerland, where we did a concert for Verbier.
Before that, we were in Berlin recording Beethoven with Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie. (The first release is already out in Japan.) Before that, I was in St. Petersburg, at the White Nights Festival, with Valery Gergiev. We had a very good time; we did Shostakovich 10 and Schumann 1.
I did Shostakovich 7 in Estonia and I also did master classes there.
Before St. Petersburg, oh yeah, was Mahler 3 with the London Symphony Orchestra. And before that was Mahler 2 with Orchestre National de Paris, in Paris. Oh, by the way, before that I was in Japan. I did all the Beethoven symphonies in three days.
So it’s been a real vacation, as you can see!"
Here's a little Q&A about the season's programs:
Janelle: It’s an eclectic season: What are you trying to accomplish overall?
PJ: Eclectic is exactly the right word. For me to focus only on narrow repertoire would be, in a way, shortchanging the audience here in Cincinnati. But it’s not just about the audience, it’s also the way I function. I like to have a broad spectrum, and it’s good for the agility of the orchestra. It makes their life more interesting, for audiences, musicians and myself.
Janelle: There seems to be some lesser-known repertoire here. Let's pick a few concerts and tell us how you put them together. How about, Bernstein’s Slava! Overture (Nov. 3-4).
PJ: It’s a fun piece. When you have Shostakovich 7 and the Prokofiev violin concerto, you start thinking what else can you put in this program? Shostakovich 7 is big enough to do on its own.
I wanted to create a connection. Shostakovich and Prokofiev were these two great Russians living in the Soviet time. And one person who is most known as being a champion and friend of these people is Rostropovich. And he’s someone who was so close to them – both have written cello concerti for him. When he turned 50 or 60, Bernstein wrote a kind of overture for Mstislav – friends call him Slava. I thought it was a nice way of tying in a tribute to Rostropovich for championing these two composers.
It’s tongue in cheek – a political overture, sort of like N. Korea can make a political overture to S. Korea. It was written in Soviet time, so it’s a Bernstein-esque kind of word game. It’s a Candide type of little overture. I’ve never recorded it but I’d love it.
Janelle: OK, how about Messiaen's "L'Ascension: four meditations symphoniques" (Nov. 10-11)?
PJ: It’s originally an organ piece, and I thought it was a sensational, unbelievably spiritual and touching piece. I perform it a lot, and when I was looking for something to couple with Mahler 9 – that’s another piece that doesn’t need a coupling. And yet I wanted to create a connection to audiences here.
Messiaen's "L’Ascension" is about the Ascension. It’s a religious piece by a supremely religious person. It’s a way to see an end.
Mahler 9 is about the end, as well. So the whole program has a Christian and Jewish way of seeing the end. And it's a soul-searching, typically Jewish way of looking at what it all means. Then Messiaen who sees the end of life on earth in a very Christian way. I thought it would add an intellectual angle to it, to those who realize it. To those who don’t get this kind of connection, it still works musically very well.
Janelle: Many of us know Scriabin's piano music, but have never heard Scriabin's Symphony No. 2.
PJ: That’s my favorite symphony. Everybody loves the 3rd and 4th, but I love the second symphony, because it’s truly a Russian symphony. He’s already starting to go alittle bit mystical and French, but it’s still basically Russian.
There is a kind of Germanic Russian music, that is following a strict symphonic master plan, like Tchaikovsky. There’s a certain classical clarity about them. Then there’s a real, Borodin, Glinka, and Mussorgsky (style). Scriabin is a descendent of this group, where there’s more emphasis on color and flavor.
So there’s something beautiful and Russian about it. I fell in love with the symphony when I was a small boy in Estonia and my father was conducting it, and I thought it was so beautiful. I’ve done it many times, but it is not well known.
Janelle: Here's another one: The Durufle Three Dances.
PJ: That is almost never finding its way to concert podium because it’s primarily known as organ music. There are a lot of French composers we don’t hear because we’re so stuck on Debussy and Ravel. We can’t go past those. But if you look, there’s Vincent D'Indy, Chausson, Dukas, Roussel, Cesar Franck, (Belgian) and the whole Les Six. There’s a connection between two organists, Franck and Durufle. He was a student of Dukas, so there's lush orchestra writing.
Janelle: Have you heard the new piece you're commissioning by Charles Coleman?
PJ: It’s still being conceived. I want it to be a piece that is not a formal opening piece, but a piece with some personality. Very often, they can be fun and quick and memorable only for two seconds. I encouraged him to write something that is not necessarily an occasional piece.
It's about 15-20 minutes long. It’s a substantial piece: I’m hoping for a really good piece, but with new music, it’s like with all children. They need to be born, and you can only tell then what happens.
Watch for a story with PJ in next Wednesday's Enquirer!