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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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Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Sour notes at Miami University?

"Faculty Ensembles" still have a web page on the Miami University Music Department Web site. But word is, the university administration has now dissolved its Miami Wind Quintet, along with the distinguished Oxford String Quartet -- struggling along as a trio -- as the Enquirer announced last year. Further, pianist Ron J. Matson, who has been a fixture at Miami for 30 years, is nowhere to be found.

And here's another worrisome note: Echternach (Luxembourg) International Festival Orchestra Miami project-which was successful for 15 years and the ONLY United States University/European professional festival orchestra connection of its kind in the U.S. -- has been discontinued.

Exactly a year ago last January, I wrote that The Oxford Quartet was one of just two American quartets to celebrate its 60th birthday in 2006. The other was the Juilliard String Quartet. The region's only remaining all-faculty quartet is at Northern Kentucky University: The Azmari Quartet.

It's obviously part of cost-cutting measures. A group of distraught fans in Oxford, Cincinnati and as far away as Cologne, Germany, campaigned last year to "save the quartet." They said the school's prestige was at stake. But the dean of MU's School of Fine Arts, Jose Antonio Bowen, stood firm.

Bowen has moved on to a new post. But I can't help but think, especially as I sat at Henry Meyer's memorial last night, that an era has ended.

Where are the resident ensembles in local universities? Are they dinosaurs?

No. 104994

Henry Meyer had no family -- they were all killed in the Holocaust. Last night in Werner Recital Hall at CCM, his adopted family turned out for a memorial tribute, to honor the distinguished violinist, teacher and Holocaust survivor who died in December.

It was deeply moving to see the hall absolutely packed, with extra chairs set up for an audience of about 300. Pianist James Tocco spoke eloquently about Henry, making points that we all knew so well -- that he was uncompromising in his professional life (I think many of his former students there, including myself, felt his wrath at least once!), that he had a passion for everything he did and that he was a hero who overcame so much but never made an issue of it.

"His legacy is guaranteed by the legendary recordings he made with the LaSalle Quartet," Tocco said. The evening included an extraordinary LaSalle recording made in 1972 of the "Cavatina" from Beethoven's String Quartet in B-flat Major, Op. 130.

Tocco pointed out that he taught all over the world, often with his good friend, Isaac Stern in workshops from Carnegie Hall to Switzerland, Paris and Israel.

"His music making will continue to live on as long as serious music lovers draw a breath," Tocco said.

The beautiful concert included Schubert's soaring "Adagio (Notturno)" for violin, cello and piano with Tocco joined by violinist Yehonatan Berick (a former CCM student of Meyer's and now professor of violin at University of Michigan), and cellist Lee Fiser, former cellist in the LaSalle Quartet.

The Amernet String Quartet (Misha Vitenson, violin, Marcia Littley, Violin, Michael Klotz, viola, and Javier Arias, cello) flew up from Miami to perform Mozart's String Quartet in D Major, K. 575 and Brahms' glorious Piano Quintet in F Minor with Tocco. The quartet sounded better than ever, more refined and expressive than I recall, and it was wonderful to hear them again. I think the Brahms left us all breathless. It's good to be reminded that such magnificent music exists -- we hear it all too rarely.

Dean Douglas Lowry spoke, too, about Henry, recalling humorous episodes such as the time he and Henry had to bum lunch off of Helen Levine (Yes, Jimmy's mom) because the restaurant wouldn't take American Express and neither had enough cash. That led to many funny memories being discussed at intermission. Inelda Tajo said when she and Italo came to Cincinnati, the quartet was playing lots of "modern" music (the Second Viennese School). She used to wag her finger at Henry and say, "Viva Verdi!"

On the stage was a beautiful bouquet of spring flowers, a gift of the Bethesda Quartet that Henry coached at CCM. The Korean quartet consists of musicians in wheelchairs -- another testimony to the power of music and the human spirit to overcome adversity.

Henry would have loved every minute.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

"From the Top" selects area talent

"From the Top" producers have chosen all local talent – including the entire May Festival Youth Chorus – to showcase when the popular National Public Radio show comes to Music Hall at 7 p.m. Feb. 20.

The show is hosted by pianist Christopher O'Riley and features extraordinarily gifted young musicians. The Music Hall lineup includes:

The 60-member May Festival Youth Chorus, James Bagwell, director, singing "Follow Your Saint" and "Follow Thy Fair Sun" from Virgil Thomson's "Four Songs to Poems of Thomas Campion."

Violinist Sophie Pariot, 14, of Loveland performing Fritz Kreisler's violin showpiece "La Gitana," with O’Riley on piano.

Cellist Christoph Sassmannshaus, 17, of Clifton performing Ernest Bloch's "Prayer."

Pianist Kevin Bao, 10, of Mason performing Rachmaninoff's "Polichinelle."

The Fresh Winds Trio, featuring Thomas Kraynak, 18, on tenor sax; Morgan Ferris, 17, on alto sax; Tom Turner, 18, on baritone sax, all of West Chester, performing "The Lone Ar-ranger Goes Sax Mad!" arranged by Philip Buttall.

"From the Top" is one of the most popular weekly programs on public radio, heard over 250 stations nationwide. It airs locally on WGUC-FM (90.9) at 9 a.m. Saturdays. The Cincinnati taping is setscheduled to air April 21 on WGUC.

Tickets: $20.25; $14.25 children at Music Hall or Aronoff Center box office; 513-621-2787;

Monday, January 29, 2007

Musician contracts extended while board raises money

The Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra's musicians agreed to a contract extension, announced today, while the board of directors conducts fund raising behind the scenes.

And, in case you missed Saturday's story, consultants for the Music Hall project were in town last week to make initial presentations to the "Music Hall Working Group."

According to board chair Rick Reynolds, Josh Dachs presented five different concepts for how the group might tackle various problems.

"The goal is to get the five down to one-and-a-half and then attach a cost," Reynolds says.

He expects that to happen sometime in mid to late February.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Classical notes: Henry Meyer tribute

On Tuesday, pianist James Tocco and the Amernet String Quartet will perform a concert in memory of violinist Henry Meyer at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music. Meyer, a founding member of the famed LaSalle Quartet, longtime teacher and survivor of the Holocaust, died in December. He retired from CCM in 1993 after four decades on the faculty.

Tocco, CCM professor of piano and Eminent Scholar in Chamber Music, has designed a program of Schubert, Mozart, Beethoven, and Brahms – "music Henry would have loved," he says.

Schubert's "Notturno for violin, cello and piano" will include Tocco on piano, with guest violinist Yehonatan Berick and Lee Fiser, former cellist of the LaSalle Quartet. The program will include a musical tribute to Meyer and the LaSalle quartet with an audio recording of the ensemble playing one of their signature pieces, Beethoven's "Cavatina" of Op. 130.

Other works include Mozart's String Quartet No. 21 in D Major, K. 575 and Brahms' Piano Quintet in F Minor.

The Amernet Quartet, formerly in residence at CCM and Northern Kentucky University, is now ensemble-in-residence at Florida International University.

The concert, 8 p.m. in Werner Recital Hall, is free. 513-556-4183,

Conductor cancellation: Krzysztof Penderecki has cancelled his Feb. 24-25 appearances with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra because he is recovering from surgery, the orchestra announced this week. Stepping in for the conductor/composer to make his Cincinnati Symphony subscription concert debut will be Tito Munoz, 23, newly appointed assistant conductor.

Because Penderecki was to have conducted his own Symphony No. 2, the program has changed, too. Munoz will conduct Mozart's Overture to "Don Giovanni," Dukas' "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" and Stravinsky's "The Firebird" Suite.

Violinist Chee-Yun will perform the Bruch Violin Concerto No. 1 in G Minor, as previously announced.

Tickets: $17.50-$73; $10 students; other discounts. 513-381-3300,

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Evans Mirageas adds a post to his resume

Evans Mirageas, artistic director of Cincinnati Opera, has added another arts administrative post to his permanent job in the Queen City. He's the new director of artistic planning for the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. Mirageas, who called Monday from Lowe's in Atlanta, where he was buying a potted plant and coffee pot for his new office, says the new job is a result of his ongoing consulting work for the orchestra, and the parties agreed to make the relationship regular.

"It's a longtime desire to make life simpler," says Mirageas. "Plus, the plane trip from Cincinnati to Atlanta is short."

Mirageas will be working with music director Robert Spano and principal guest conductor Donald Runnicles in his new job.

The orchestra announced today that the new appointment was the result of an extensive, 8-month search. One of the interesting aspects of the Atlanta Symphony is that, like the Cincinnati Symphony, it has a rare recording contract with Telarc. The Atlanta Symphony has made more than 100 recordings earning 23 Grammy Awards.

Mirageas' new post will not conflict with his Cincinnati Opera duties.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Magic Flute encore

The Met's high-def satellite broadcasts in movie theaters of "The Magic Flute" live from New York were so popular, they're repeating it (a pre-recorded version) this Tuesday. But here's the rub: You have to drive to Columbus, Indy or Lexington to see it.

Theaters showing the pre-recorded Encore presentation of The Magic Flute, and miles from downtown Cincinnati:

REGAL HAMBURG PAVILION STADIUM 16 - 76 miles from 45202
1949 Starshoot Road, Lexington, KY 40509

1800 Georgesville Square Drive, Columbus, OH 43228

REGAL GALAXY STADIUM 14 - 98 miles from 45202
8105 E. 96Th Ave, Indianapolis, IN 46256

But here's the good news: the next operas in the series are only about an hour's drive. Theaters showing the LIVE presentations of the remaining operas in the series Eugene Onegin, Il Barbiere di Siviglia (The Barber of Seville) and Il Trittico):

2651 Fairfield Commons, Beavercreek, OH 45431

Read Sunday's Enquirer to find out why Cincinnati has been left out of the loop on these simulcasts.

For opera info, click here.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

What they could have done

I'm hearing from folks about the story in Sunday's Enquirer, about musicians who ended up in other occupations. (Be sure to read the individual profiles to the right of the Web page.) I'm sure that there are many such people out there, such as Bawe's CCM roommate, a trumpeter who is now a policeman. (Above: pianist Bawe Shinholster, maitre d' of Boca, and opera singer Berti Helmick, Esq.)

Here's an interesting "bio" from Jeff Spaulding, a former oboist who now works for P&G and "takes pictures of diapers." It makes me wonder, does our country value the arts enough? (I know the answer.) Why is it such a struggle for so many people?

By the way, Jeff wants to know if there are others out there who would like to play chamber music with him.

Read on, for Jeff's life story:

Started piano lessons, at Mom's insistence, at age 6. Started playing oboe in 7th grade when the band director switched me from the clarinet

1976 – high school graduation, Largo, Florida, played oboe in the school band and orchestra, and the Pinellas County Youth Symphony, runner-up in Florida Orchestra Young Artists Performance Competition in Tampa, etc.

Offered $2,500 per year scholarship from Stetson University to play oboe

1980 – graduated from Stetson with Bachelor's in Music Education., went directly to he State University of New York at StonyBrook

1982 – graduated from Stonybrook with a Master of Music degree in Oboe Performance, got married, and moved into New York city in August, played mostly low-paying oboe gigs in low-quality orchestras, spent hours per day on the subway, made almost no money, had un-rewarding day jobs to pay the rent

1984 – June, completely burned out on everything, got a divorce (no kids), quit the oboe for a while, got a job waiting on tables at "Poor Richard’s Pub and Restaurant" on 53rd street, right next to the Museum of Modern Art, worked 7 days a week to pay off lawyer and soon-to-be ex-wife. Began thinking that I would like to grow a beard and be a world traveler.

1984 – October, a Chinese woman came into the restaurant where I worked and I talked to her, she was looking for single Americans to teach English at her college in SiChuan province for 2 semesters. I signed up.

1985 – April 1, landed in BeiJing, the college "Southwest Petroleum Institute" got me from there to a remote city in SiChuan where I spent 2 semesters teaching English and learning enough Chinese to get around

1986 – February, moved to Xian where I took the Oboe Teacher job at the Xian Conservatory of Music and played in the school orchestra, at one point the conductor admonished the rest of the group because even though I spoke Chinese very badly I was still listening to him more than the others (typical conductor)

1986 – August, returned to the US and got an apartment in Sarasota, Florida and the 3rd oboe/English horn job in the Florida West Coast Symphony. Also got a couple of waiter jobs out on Saint Armand's Circle.

1986 – December, the epiphany, played a gig at Longboat Key Country Club with a violinist buddy (Bill). Santa Claus comes in on a motor boat and jumps ashore, carries his bag of toys up the beach to the pool area where the rich kids are waiting for him. Bill and I walk with Santa and play Jingle Bells as a duet. I improvise an accompaniment part while Bill plays the melody. As we walk up the beach in our tuxedos I see myself, 28 years old, master's degree, 5 years experience, making $75 playing Jingle Bells. I decide to make a change.

1987- January, go to the local college career placement office, get advice on what majors are getting decent jobs, decide to go into Electrical Engineering (my Dad was an EE and I played with wires, batteries, and circuits as a kid). That summer I audit the local junior college algebra/trig class, studying math 3 hours a day in my 2nd floor apartment that looks out on a bayou where snook and mullet swim by. I ACE the class, even though I'm just an auditor, and decide to enroll in the fall Chemistry One and Calculus One classes. I am accepted at University of South Florida, to which my junior college credits will transfer.

1988 – January, move to Tampa, share an apartment with another student, my rent is $170 per month. I get a job as a church organist at a Methodist church that pays $10,000 per year, more than I ever made as an oboist. It takes me 9 semesters (including summer semesters) to get my Bachelor's Degree in Electrical Engineering, I still spend 3 hours per day studying, mostly doing word problems. At least I'm used to spending lots of time alone in a small room, working on something (oboe, reeds, math, whatever…)

1990 – December, graduation, and I get a job with Procter & Gamble (P&G), working at the paper factory in Albany Georgia. The job pays more than I ever thought it was possible to make, but walking into the plant in the mornings, I wonder what the heck I've done. Huge plumes of steam rise out of numerous stacks on the roof. I make toilet paper for a living. During my 7 years in Albany I play 5 seasons with the local orchestra, mostly as 2nd English horn because I don't want the pressure of playing first. Play substitute organist gigs. Get a transfer to Cincinnati with P&G.

1998 – April, start my new job with P&G in Cincinnati.

Currently – Still in Cincinnati. Started a fun job with P&G about a year ago in Machine Vision, I now take pictures of diapers for a living and I'm working with some neat people in a good organization. I'm learning all kinds of things about computers, cameras, photography, Ethernet networking, digital signal processing, etc. I love learning this stuff.

OK, I've vented!

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Feed me

OK, I was chatting this week with Bawe Shinholster, the Maitre D of Boca, about putting a restaurant with a celebrity chef in Music Hall. (I'm just a little worried that 3CDC is already saying a restaurant might not be successful there, though.)

Here's what Bawe said: A wine bar. With tapas. Little sandwiches, olives and nibbles, and a nice glass of whatever, followed by great music.

Is that brilliant or what?

The next day, I met a friend for lunch at the Art Museum and had the best salad I've ever had in this city. The cafe was packed, including a large group of polite, nicely dressed high schoolers, clearly on a field trip, who were enjoying what looked like fabulous sandwiches. I understand that David Cook of Daveed's oversees the menu. The cafe is airy, pleasant and as nice as any I've visited in museums around the world.

If the Art Museum can do this, why not Music Hall?

Friday, January 05, 2007

The Symphony is in trouble -- again

So, it's deja-vu all over again for the symphony, which, according to the story in today's Enquirer, is projecting at least a $2 million deficit -- possibly more -- for this fiscal year which ends in August.

It seems like only yesterday when the Corbett Foundation bailed them out with a much-touted gift of $1 million, back when they were trying to dig out of $8.4 million in accummulated debt in the early '90s. Again, just two years ago, an anonymous donor wiped out $1.8 million of red ink.

Over its 112-year history, the orchestra -- the anchor of all the arts in Cincinnati -- has survived on the largesse of its loyal supporters, civic-minded music lovers who have believed in the importance of having a major institution in our fair city. But how much longer can and will those supporters step up?

A few years ago, I reported that the orchestra was digging deeper into its endowment for operations. To have its patrons and board members write big checks every few years is one solution, I suppose -- but how long can this be a sustainable business model??

Today's article doesn't even mention the planned multi-million dollar renovations of Music Hall. And as Marjorie Fox asks in a post below, will that assure that people will come to Music Hall for classical concerts?

There is no quick fix to this multi-faceted dilemma. Ideas?

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions

Think of it as the ultimate American Idol. This Saturday at CCM, 30 singers will be vying for a spot in the Metropolitan Opera National Council Regional Auditions, to be followed by winning a spot at the National level in New York at the Met -- the Mecca of American opera.

Richard Lauf, the Southern Ohio district director, thinks this year's district-level opera marathon may have a record number of contestants. The contenders, heavily represented by CCM, are from all over -- including that CCM opera arch-rival, Indiana University.

From "Porgi, amor" (Mozart's "Marriage of Figaro") to "O, du mein holder Abendstern" (Wagner's "Tannhauser"), you can expect at least six hours of nonstop opera arias.

The judges are sharpening their pencils as we speak: William Farlow, associate professor of music and opera director, University of Wisconsin; Andreas Melinat, artistic administrator of Lyric Opera of Chicago and Mark Oswald, a baritone of some renown and New York teacher. Donna Loewy is the official accompanist.

It's free and open to the public. It all begins at 10:30 a.m. in Robert J. Werner Recital Hall at CCM. The singing should end around 4:30 p.m., and then the judges' deliberations begin. Stay tuned!

Photo: Bronwen Forbay and Corey Crider in CCM's production of Don Giovanni, last year

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Puttin' on the Ritz draws record crowd

Music Hall was the place to be New Year's Eve '06. More than 3,000 revelers turned out Sunday night to see Erich Kunzel conduct the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra in a glitzy song-and-dance show, followed by (for those who paid) a gala donor dinner.

It was the biggest audience for a New Year's concert since the 1999 Millennium show, says the CSO's Carrie Krysanick. I was amazed at the box office line -- clear across the main lobby, with most concert-goers dressed to the nines. To be expected, lots of them were last-minute purchasers, which is a trend the symphony is seeing, as are many other arts groups, Carrie says.

The show traveled from Offenbach's can-can and Gershwin's "American in Paris" to the American songbook (Cole Porter, Harold Arlen and Jerome Kern). Where would Kunzel be without CCM? He invited a few singers/dancers from CCM and Wright State, the May Festival Youth Chorus and Winton Woods High School Varsity Ensemble, and Cincinnati Studio Tap Dancers.

Here's what I thought worked best:

"Singin' in the Rain," by CCM senior Billy Tighe. He copied Gene Kelly's choreography wonderfully, complete with top hat and umbrella.

"Over the Rainbow," sung by CCM grad Kristine Reese. She could take a few lessons from Judy Garland in terms of color and expression, but what a great song. And the choral back-up was top-notch.

"Puttin' on the Ritz" with the Cincinnati Studio Tap Dancers shimmying in red fringe, 20s-style, and Karen Callaway Williams electrifying with her tap dance moves.

I'm wondering, with "Happy Feet," whether there's going to be a tap dance revival?

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