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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, September 28, 2007

Support the Arts: More things to do this weekend

There is no excuse for being a couch potato this weekend! Here's a partial list:

The Kentucky Symphony Orchestra will have 200 people onstage for Mahler's Symphony No. 2, "Resurrection," at 8 p.m. today and Saturday in Greaves Concert Hall at NKU. James Cassidy leads soloists Danielle Walker and Brandy Lynn Hawkins, the Cincinnati Choral Society, Clermont Festival Chorale and the KSO Choral. Tickets: $23-$28, $18 seniors; $10 students. Call 859-431-6216 or click here.

The superb guitarist William Kanengiser performs at 2:30 p.m. Sunday in Gallagher Student Center Theatre at Xavier University. Bill, you might remember, is a member of the Los Angeles Guitar Quartet -- and he's married to a Cincinnati girl. He's playing music by Fernando Sor, Mozart and some interesting newer numbers such as "The Magic Serenade" by Bryon Johanson. Tickets: $12; $9 seniors. Call 513-745-3161.

And don't forget about The Cincinnati Symphony's journey to Middle Earth, 8 p.m. today and Saturday in Music Hall.

The Pops welcomes talented trumpeter Chris Botti at 7 p.m. Sunday in Music Hall.

Or, how about the Grammy-winning Chanticleer, 3 p.m. Sunday at Saint Peter in Chains Cathedral? The superb, 12-voice group presents "My Spirit Sang All Day," with music from Byrd and Palestrina to Poulenc, Barber and Mahler. As always, there will be spirituals, folk songs and perhaps some gospel and jazz. Tickets: $35 in advance; $38 at the door. $15 students. 513-421-2222,

Don't forget about Cincinnati's under-appreciated jazz scene. The Blue Wisp has a really big event at 9 p.m., tonight only: The Jovino Santos-Neto International Trio, featuring one of the world's finest Brazilian pianists, plus world-class sidemen Jamey Haddad and Roberto Ochipinti. Read about them at The show goes to 1 a.m., $12 cover. On Saturday, it's Brent Gallaher with Erwin Stuckey, Jim Anderson and Art Gore, 9 p.m. to 1 a.m., $10.

And at 3 p.m. Sunday, let's all traipse out to the Fairfield Community Arts Center for Louisville jazz saxophonist Ron Jones in concert with his band, the Ron Jones Quartet. It's jazz and blues classics by Irving Berlin, Duke Ellington and more. Tickets: $12. Call 513867-5348 or visit

Here's where you'll find me after the Reds game Saturday night: Downtown HopAround. The kickoff event is on Fountain Square, 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., with Grand Marshals Mayor Mark Mallory, former Bengal Ickey Woods and funk-music legend Bootsy Collins – and music from The Addisons.

There's free trolley transportation to HopAround sites and the MidPoint Music Festival, 8 p.m. to 1 a.m. You'll find dinner and drink discounts at participating clubs and restaurants. I'm heading for the Cincinnatian, where the Billie Walker Trio holds court all evening, from 6 p.m., but there's great local talent playing all over the city. Click here for more info.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

New Beginnings at NKU

Lots going on at Northern these days:

Nothern Kentucky University has a new chair of the music department and new initiatives in the works. On July 1, Kurt Sander, who holds a graduate degree from CCM, replaced Vance Wolverton as music department chair.

Wolverton is now heading a revamped music education department.

"We're shifting priorities to music eduation, and it made sense that (Wolverton) would head up that area," says Sander.

NKU's growing music programs include the only string quartet-in-residence remaining in the region, the Azmari Quartet. A top priority will be to develop string programs in Northern Kentucky schools, says Sander.

"There are no functional orchestra programs in schools in Kentucky. I just think that the time is right, and that it will help the economics of the region," he says.

Incidentally, the Azmari -- Corbett String Quartet in Residence -- has welcomed a new second violinist and a new violist this year. Julie Fischer, violinist, is a three-time winner of the Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition. Hugo Bollschweiler is a Swiss native. Their first concert is Oct. 16 (More about them later!)

The school is also striking up an arts partnership with countries in Easter Europe.
NKU is planning a two-day Bulgarian-American music festival in March. According to Richard Floecker, one of the organizers, they'll be bringing in two brilliant Bulgarian musicians: Dr. Angela Tosheva and composer Michail Goleminov, who own the Orange Factory, a music/multimedia company in Sofia. Concerts will also feature music by Kurt Sander and Lawrence Bitensky.

This Sunday, pianist Sergei Polusimiak opens a new concert series called "New Beginnings." The program, 7 p.m. in Greaves Concert Hall, includes guest artists Timothy Lees, concertmaster of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, and clarinetist Alexander Bedenko, pictured, a native of Kharkiv, Ukraine.

Bedenko is a graduate of the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, where he studied with the famed teacher of clarinet virtuosos, Donald Montanaro. He recently made an album with clarinetist (and, don't forget, Woodward High grad) Richard Stoltzman.

The music includes "Three Songs Without Words" by Paul Ben-Haim and Brahms' Violin Sonata No. 1. Tickets: $10; $7 students. 859-572-7622.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Musician pops the question and gets mugged

Does anyone know who this Cincinnati musician is in this AP story out of New York today? Enquiring minds want to know...

Update: Here's his MySpace page:

Friday, September 21, 2007

John Leman, in memoriam

Dr. John Leman, professor emeritus of Choral Conducting at the University of Cincinnati, College-Conservatory of Music and former Director of Choruses for the Cincinnati May Festival, lost his courageous battle and died this morning. Please look in the Enquirer for an obituary and tribute to this extraordinary Cincinnati musician in coming days.

Here's the link to the printed obituary.

(I'm trying to restore the longer version that ran online only. Stay tuned.)

A memorial service is planned for 2:30 p.m. Oct. 20 in Corbett Auditorium.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

The Lord of the Rings phenomenon

Here's who's coming to the "Lord of the Rings Symphony" (so far), a special concert at the CSO next weekend:

People from Portugal and Wales, as well as from 15 states other than Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana -- California, Arkansas, Florida, Maryland, Texas, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, Tennessee, Wisconsin and South Dakota.

The musical panorama -- a two-hour symphony distilled from 12 hours of Howard Shore's award-winning film score from Lord of the Rings Trilogy -- is apparently a huge hit in Norway. (Hmm, they've got trolls and elves...) Last summer, the Oslo Philharmonic played for a crowd of 70,000 in Oslo, and a Bergen concert drew 30,000.

So, even if you haven't noticed the CSO's media blitz -- Q102 radio ads, free bookmarks at Borders, Barnes & Noble, Joseph-Beth, the universities in town, and all 41 branches of the Public Library, ads on Fountain Square's LED board, in movie theaters (Esquire and Mariemont) and through MySpace and Facebook -- someone in Wales has.

For info, click here.

Settlement is sweet music

Take a look at some news out of Columbus that just came over the wire, that will help out the Cincinnati Symphony, Dayton Philharmonic and other Ohio orchestra music education programs. Cincy is one of seven orchestras to get a $26,000 windfall.

Photo: CSO trumpeter Doug Lindsay demonstrating at a Lollipop concert.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Miami University Men's Glee Club at 100

The Men's Glee Club rehearses Tuesday in Laws Hall on the MU campus for its opening concert, Sunday in Millett Hall with the U.S. Army Chorus. Watch for a Sunday story highlighting some of the Glee Club's activities over the past 100 years, and click here for more info about the Glee Club and Sunday's concert. (It's free)

Director Ethan Sperry leads the Men's Glee Club on Tuesday, with accompanist Andrew Crist of Zanesville at the piano, as they work on "In Taberna" from "Carmina Burana." One of the "insider" things I learned: they snap fingers to applaud. Pretty funny when 100 guys are doing it. Note faculty member Jack Keegan, 55, in one of these photos, a member of 30 years.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Symphony opening weekend

Here's a link to the review that ran in some editions in Saturday's Enquirer. What did you think?

Did you know: You can now go to our entertainment site at and write your own review, or flag ours and "rate" it. Somebody last week wrote that the Cincinnati Pops was "da bomb" ...

Friday, September 14, 2007

Musical chairs

Confused about what's happened to your favorite symphony musicians, and who's sitting is which chair these days?

Here's news to alert Cincinnati Symphony fans about some key changes in the player lineup.

Jonathan Gunn has been named associate principal clarinet/E-flat clarinet. Gunn has been playing as acting associate principal since Aug. 2004. Previously, he was principal clarinet with the Fort Wayne Symphony, and also held posts with the Colorado and Wheeling symphonies, and the Palm Beach Opera Orchestra. He earned his music degrees from Rice University and Duquesne University.

Victor de Almeida has been named principal viola, effective this month. He succeeds longtime principal violist Marna Street, who will remain in the viola section. De Almeida comes to the CSO from the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, where he was associate principal viola in 2005. Before that, he was principal viola of the Annapolis Symphony, and a regular sub with the Baltimore Symphony. He earned his degrees from the Peabody Institute of Music and was also an Aspen Music Festival Fellow.

Other new posts that have been announced: Jasmine Choi is the new associate principal flute, and Dwight Parry is sitting in the principal oboe chair.

Other moves: Donald Gibson, first violinist, has moved to the second violin section "by mutual agreement."

And new this fall, Alan Rafferty is performing a one-year appointment on cello.

In this weekend's concerts, Jeremy Moeller is filling in on second trombone and Bruce Hennis, formerly with the Houston Symphony and a horn teacher at Ohio State, is performing French horn.

Cincinnati Symphony marches in...

to help the Lakota school band programs. What did you think of that story? Do you think the CSO should step up its regional presence?

In recent decades, the orchestra has cut back its regional concerts, which included "Area Artist" concerts throughout Ohio, as well as the closer-in Pops in Parks concerts with Erich Kunzel. But Wednesday at Music Hall, Paavo Järvi told me he would like to launch regional touring again. He says the idea for the orchestra to play in West Chester came from staff members.

"I have occasionally asked why we are not doing more things in Kentucky, for example, or even things an hour away, or one-and-a half hours away. Because it could increase our visibility, but also it would be good to do. I know the orchestra used to do those things," he said.

"We need to identify in my view, a kind of regional tour route. I would prefer to go to places that have good venues. Recently there have been a surge of good venues being built here, which could host a guest artist series. To us, it's a question of funding. Because I think we are interesting and willing to go out to more remote areas, but it's a question of having the proper funding for it.

"We are complaining often about not having more contact with students in schools. Music departments are ceasing to exist in most schools, so we need to show that we’re actually doing something about it," he said.

By the way, the CSO season opening concert is tonight in Music Hall. Click here for a preview with Awadagin Pratt. And check the symphony's Web site, with the link to your right of this page.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Margaret Garner opens in New York

Margaret Garner, the opera by Toni Morrison and Richard Danielpour that was commissioned by Cincinnati Opera, Michigan Opera Theater and Opera Company of Philadelphia, opened Tuesday at New York City Opera in a new production. The libretto is based on the true Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky story that inspired "Beloved."

Tracie Luck is starring as Margaret Garner, the fugitive slave who sacrificed her own child (children in the opera) rather than see them returned to slavery. Tracie, you may recall, performed locally in preview performances around the city, and was the understudy for the role, which was created by Denyce Graves.

Here's what the Martin Steinberg in the AP has to say:

"At Lincoln Center's State Theater on Tuesday night, Garner was portrayed by mezzo-soprano Tracie Luck, who was the backup for Denyce Graves in the earlier performances. Luck, making her City Opera debut, rose to the occasion with a heartfelt depiction. She was joyous at the moment of decision to escape her lecherous master, Edward, and she maintained her dignity through the worst of Margaret's travails."

The wire review mentions other standouts: "powerhouse baritone Gregg Baker as Robert; soprano Lisa Daltirus, portraying Robert's wise mother, Cilla; and baritone Timothy Mix as Edward."

You will recall Gregg Baker from his many Cincinnati performances, including a spectacular performance as Robert Garner; Lisa Daltirus made her debut here this summer as Aida.

All were making their City Opera debuts in the production directed by Tazewell Thompson directed and conductor George Manahan led the orchestra.
Donald Eastman was scenic designer.

The review calls the piece a "new masterpiece" that drew a standing ovation.

The opera, which debuted in Cincinnati in the 2005 season, has played to sold-out houses in 17 premiere performances.

The opera continues at the New York State Theater through Sept. 29. Watch a trailer or buy tickets by clicking here.

Other news: Nobel Prize-winning author Toni Morrison discusses her first opera libretto in the September issue of Gramophone magazine, N. American edition.

Photo journal: Click here to see photos at

Photos: Tracie Luck performing in Cincinnati Opera community performances; singing with Eric Green in a workshop at Michigan Opera Theater.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Bengals season opener

Not that I don't trust a bunch of football players with priceless Strads in their hands -- but enquiring minds wanted to know whose instruments they were playing and whether they had to get permission from the musicians union...

It turns out, they used CSO staff instruments, since most staffers own a couple of instruments: CSO manager Janell Weinstock's violin, Heather Stengle's clarinet, Walt Zeschin's tuba. Others who brought instruments included CSO violinist Scott Mozlin, Naimah Bilal, Mary Judge, Rebecca Beavers and Anne Cushing-Reid.

The CSO owns a double bass and percussion instruments. Funny, I didn't notice anyone playing the harp...

Oh, and that was Steven Reineke in the jersey, teaching Marvin how to conduct.

This was for the Bengals special preview section yesterday written by Mark Curnutte, with photos by Jeff Swinger. To see the Bengals players try to make beautiful music together, click here.

Pavarotti's Pasta con pesto

By popular demand, here's the superstar tenor's recipe, as told to me by phone in 1994:

"If you have a blender, you put in good Italian olive oil, normal, not virgin.

"Add garlic; lots of basil; a little crushed, dry red pepper; some pignoli (pine nuts) and walnuts in the same proportion."

The amounts, says Pavarotti, are determined by how much you are making.

"Then you put in grated Parmesan cheese, and then blend a minute in the blender."

Salt to taste, he adds, and be sure the consistency is liquid. If is is too thick, add a little more oil or water, and blend again.

"You boil and drain the pasta, and then you put this mixture on the top, and you mix it very well. That is all."

Here are some suggested amounts from Marcella Hazan's "The Classic Italian Cookbook" (Knopf; 1990)

If you begin with 1/2 cup olive oil, use 2 cups fresh basil leaves (try to buy Italian basil); 2 cloves garlic; 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese; 2 tablespoons pine nuts and 2 tablespoons walnuts, 1 teaspoon salt.

Friday, September 07, 2007

The music world mourns

Watch for a special feature about Pavarotti on 60 Minutes this Sunday, when the show celebrates the life and art of the great tenor with a classic Mike Wallace profile and updated material from 2002.

And click this link to read some thoughts from Cincinnati Opera's Evans Mirageas.

Photos: people waiting in line at Modena's Duomo to pay homage to the late Italian tenor, Andrew Medichini, AP
A huge black flag drapes across the world famous Vienna State Opera House in Austria, Bela Szandelszky, AP
A 1984 performance courtesy of the Lyric Opera of Chicago, where Pavarotti sang for more than a dozen years.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Remembering Luciano

The music world was saddened today by the news that The King of High C's Luciano Pavarotti has died. In Cincinnati, memories are pouring in from those who knew -- or at least crossed paths with -- the man who many consider the greatest tenor of modern times.

From London, where he is on tour with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Cincinnati native and Metropolitan Opera maestro James Levine recalled some 139 performances at the Met since 1973. He e-mailed this remark:

"Few singers in the history of the Metropolitan Opera have had the popularity with the general public and the enormous impact that Luciano Pavarotti had during his 36-year career with the company. Luciano's voice was so extraordinarily beautiful and his delivery so natural and direct that his singing spoke right to the hearts of listeners whether they knew anything about opera or not. I will never forget the sheer magic of that voice, but I will also remember the warm, generous, and exuberant spirit of the man. He is, rightfully, a legend already -- an artist whose recordings will be a reference for singers and opera lovers for a long time to come."

In Cincinnati, Inelda Tajo, widow of the great Metropolitan Opera basso Italo Tajo, recalled that her husband performed Toscas and Bohemes with Pavarotti that were too numerous to count. Their first collaboration, she believes, was a "La Boheme" in Yugoslavia in the late '50s, when Pavarotti was singing his first Rodolfo and Tajo was Colline.

"They sang in Chicago, San Franciso and the Met. I remember one 'Boheme' was in San Francisco with Mirella Freni in 1987," she says. "It was a joy for Italo to work with him, because he was so full of enthusiasm. He was like a giant. We were together for Luciano's birthday (one year) in New York in October. He said, 'Italo, the year you made your debut, 1935, I was born. So we have something in common.'"

When Pavarotti performed in Riverfront Coliseum in 1994, it was shortly after Italo Tajo's death. Mrs. Tajo went backstage to greet him, and after intermission, the tenor dedicated the aria, "Donna non vidi mai" from Puccini's "Manon Lescaut," to the late basso.

"To tell you how sweet that man was, and how thoughtful -- I was beside myself," she says.

Cincinnati Opera artistic director Evans Mirageas, who first met Pavarotti in the 70s and went on to produce numerous opera recordings with the tenor for Decca, notes, "From the very first moment I was introduced to him, whenever you were in his presence, you were in the presence of an enormous personality."

Mirageas' favorite memory of Pavarotti is from the summer of 1997. He and Pavarotti were in Milan, making a recording with Cecilia Bartoli of Rossini's comedy "Turco in Italia" with an allstar cast. Decca also wanted to put out yet another "greatest hits" of Pavarotti. But they hit upon the idea of adding some music he'd never recorded before. Mirageas asked him to record a duet with Bartoli.

"But typical of him, he was always bargaining. He said, 'I won't record just one duet, I want to record two duets,'" Mirageas recalled. So, besides a duet from "The Elixir of Love," Pavarotti asked to pay homage to the beginning of his career with the "Cherry Duet" from "L'amico Fritz" by Mascagni, a charming comedy he had recorded at the beginning of his career, with Mirella Freni.

"He agreed to the Donizetti if we'd do the the Mascagni. So, in the middle of the mayhem of recording an entire opera, we spent a magical afternoon recording 'L’amico Fritz' and 'L’elisir.' It's a wonderful memory. But what I remember most is Luciano's total generosity about working with a younger colleague, his instant enthusiasm for the thing he loved better than anything in his life -- which was singing. For four hours we recorded the duets, and he was already in his sixties, but the voice sounded like sunshine," Mirageas says.

(Photo of Bartoli, Pavarotti and Mirageas, Viviane Purdom/Decca Records)

For Gus Miller, the proprietor of Batsakes Hat Shop downtown, the memory is just as personal. Pavarotti would buy hats from Miller, now 74, and the two struck up a friendship that lasted until the great tenor became ill.

What kind of hat did he favor?

"He wore a dress fedora, but he liked the colorful caps. The more color, he loved it," says Miller. "Anything real fancy, he loves it. Hopefully he's in a better place, but I guarantee he'll be more popular now than ever before."

For me, I reviewed Pavarotti's performance at Riverfront Coliseum in 1994, and again in Columbus in 1999, when he played the Value City Arena that drew 17,500 well-heeled fans. I interviewed him by phone the first time in 1994, and the tenor was a bit testy then -- he'd just lost 90 pounds, and all he wanted to do was talk about food! He told me how his most embarrassing moment was losing his pants at a supermarket because he'd lost so much weight. Finally, when he refused to talk opera and the conversation kept turning to food, I asked him for a recipe. "OK, Pasta con pesto," he said. "It's very simple."

That's how, slowly, dramatically and with a great deal of smacking of his lips, I came to get Luciano Pavarotti's recipe for Pasta con pesto.

In memoriam

Tenor Luciano Pavarotti is dead at the age of 71 of pancreatic cancer.

Watch for a personal tribute and other memories later today. In the meantime, add your own here.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Art in the city: ideas for Cincy?

I'm just back from the Pacific Northwest, where cities have revitalized themselves with lots of impressive ideas. Former seedy neighborhoods, such as old warehouse districts, are now very upscale places to be and be seen in Vancouver and Portland. I especially liked Yaletown in Vancouver, with some of the hippest restaurants, boutiques and upscale markets in the city, overflowing out onto old loading docks.

Portland has an effective light rail system that cruises silently around the city and to the airport.

In Portland, I visited Art in the Pearl, a neat Labor Day festival with local artists, food booths (here it included grilled salmon)and a World Music Stage -- I heard blues and Celtic music -- in Portland's "Pearl District." OK, I love Oktoberfest. But I thought, what a great thing it would be to have an ARTS FESTIVAL on Fountain Square (currently showing somebody's soccer game over Warner Cable on the giant screen, but I digress)...

And in Seattle, I walked around the new Benaroya Hall, which has life-sized posters outside the hall for each of the Seattle Symphony's upcoming concerts (including a giant "Awadagin Pratt plays Mozart" for one in October). They were also touting a gala opening night concert with Yo-Yo Ma (sold out).

Granted, every city can't have a glamorous new concert hall smack in city center. But it said a lot about the orchestra's PRESENCE in the city to have the hall covering a whole city block, with classical music piped out to the sidewalk and giant posters all around. You couldn't ignore it.

Some idle thoughts, considering how the symphony here struggles for an audience:

1. Why not plaster the region with posters, billboards and/or bus shelters touting EACH concert?

2. Install ticket kiosks in every mall in the region, from Union Center Blvd. to Florence Mall.

3. Have a gala season opening concert with a mega-star.

4. Have a ticket kiosk in every college and university in the region, and make sure students -- and faculty members -- know about special deals.

Photo: Benaroya Hall in Seattle: Lara Swimmer

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