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.
Fill-ins delight Thursday CSO crowd
"Be prepared" is the motto of all assistant conductors of major orchestras. So when the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra had not one, but two conductors cancel for this weekend's concerts, the job fell to its 28-year-old assistant maestro, Eric Dudley.
Dudley stepped in to lead Thursday's performance on one day's notice and with just one rehearsal for a program that included Tchaikovsky's Symphony No.4. Compounding things, piano soloist Alexander Korsantia was also filling in on short notice for Boris Berezovsky, who canceled his entire U.S. tour for personal reasons.
It would be hard to find a more convincing replacement for Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No.2 in C Minor than Korsantia, a native of Tbilisi, Georgia. The prize-winning pianist is on the faculty of the New England Conservatory and has a busy solo career.
From his first notes of the Rachmaninoff, we knew we were in for a treat. Here was an artist of depth and musicianship, who projected a refined touch, clarity and beauty of line. His use of rubato (give and take in the tempo) was liberal, sometimes causing the pulse to sag.
But the softer, lyrical themes had an intimate quality that was quite beautiful. Korsantia's arsenal included a spectacular technique, and he attacked the treacherous opening of the finale as cleanly as I've ever heard. His final cadenza came off like a rocket, for an exciting finish.
Too bad the collaboration with the orchestra was somewhat at odds: Tempos didn't always mesh and the pianist was overpowered. But there were admirable contributions from the orchestra, including the famous horn solo in the first movement (Elizabeth Freimuth) and the slow movement’s expressive flute and clarinet solos (Randolph Bowman and Jonathan Gunn).
When scheduled conductor Stéphane Denève canceled due to because of the imminent birth of his first child, conductor Elvind Gullberg Jensen was announced. The program was not changed after Jensen became ill this week, leaving "Tjat" (Chatter) by Norwegian composer Knut Vaage as a kind of orphan on the program.
Dudley adopted it wonderfully, making for a fresh, invigorating and humorous opener.
In Tchaikovsky's Fourth, which concluded concluding the evening, Dudley projected confidence, musicality and displayed fine technical form – yet it was an unfinished performance. The Fourth is rich with great, soulful Russian melodies, a work that combines emotion and beauty with electrifying, brass-filled climaxes.
It was carefully led and carefully played. What I missed were the elements of dramatic sweep and spontaneity – perhaps an unfair assessment given the circumstances. Yet Dudley was absolutely convincing in the last two movements, which allowed the brilliance of the orchestra to shine. The musicians responded to his direction with excellent playing and allowed him to take a bow alone.
The concert repeats at 8 p.m. today and Saturday in Music Hall. Tickets: 513-381-3300, www.cincinnatisymphony.org
. What did you think? Rate and review this concert at cincinnati.com/entertainment.
Those of you who have heard me speak about my trip to China with the Pops know that being a journalist abroad is no picnic. Daniel Wakin reports on his blog
on how the press is treated in North Korea, revealing that he had to wear a blue armband with a big P in a circle, fill out many forms (and pay for the privilege at 30 Euros each) and have two "minders," aka Kim 1 and Kim 2, "escorting" him. It seems that the orchestra party was isolated on an island in the middle of a frozen river. They were treated to huge arrays of food, and one musician spotted waiters taking photos of the spread. Schedules kept changing, but they had to quickly adapt, or else. Oh, and the Press showed up for an official press conference that never materialized...
Here's a link to Anthony Tommasini's take
on the historic performance shown on PBS, streamed at 4 a.m. Tuesday. To see the video on PBS, click here
Artist changes in concerts this weekend:
The Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra has announced that both the scheduled conductor, Stéphane Denève, and the piano soloist, Boris Berezovsky, have canceled their appearances with the CSO this week for personal reasons. In addition, the announced replacement for maestro Denève, conductor Elvind Gullberg Jensen, canceled today due to illness.
So, assistant conductor Eric Dudley
will step in to lead the program which includes Tchaikovsky’s Symphony Nov. 4. Pianist Alexander Korsantia
, a native of Tbilisi, Georgia, will perform Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2 . The concert has one program change: It will open with Norwegian composer Knut Vaage's "Tjat" (Chatter). Denève, whose first child is due this week, will reschedule his appearance with the orchestra. For information, call 513-381-3300, or visit www.cincinnatisymphony.org.Musicians shunned?
While catching up with my New York Times, I noticed a story that ran last Friday
concerning New York Philharmonic principal oboist Liang Wang
and associate conductor Xian Zhang
(both pictured above), who had expected to be featured in concerts in mainland China. The schedule was changed, and the two only had one appearance in Hong Kong.
The New York Philharmonic is on a tour that includes an historic performance in North Korea.
The article speculates as to why the Chinese presenters might want to shun Chinese-born artists. Both artists have local connections. Wang was briefly oboist with the CSO before he moved on to the New York Philharmonic, and Zhang was on the faculty at CCM.Organist featured on the Grand E.M. Skinner Concert Pipe Organ Monday
: Mary Preston
, acclaimed organist of the Dallas Symphony, will perform with CSO violinist Paul Patterson
in the Rotunda of Cincinnati Museum Center at Union Terminal, 7:30 p.m. Monday. The duo will perform music by Walton, Vierne, Vitali, Rinck, Mendelssohn, Widor, Messiaen and Guilmant. The "Music in the Museum" series features internationally renowned organists performing on the 1929 E.M. Skinner Symphonic Concert Pipe Organ (pictured above with organist Tom Murray). Tickets: $18. 513-287-7001 or at www.cincymuseum.org
.Want to participate in next year's 20/20 Festival?
The dates have been set for Sept. 26 through Oct. 15, 2008, for the seventh annual festival. Arts groups, neighborhood cultural districts and individual artists are invited to participate by visiting www.cincinnatiarts.com
, or by contacting Kristin Suess at 513-621-4700 or email@example.com. 20/20 spotlights Cincinati's unique and vibrant arts offerings for 20 days and 20 nights.
By the way, joining ETA (for full-time students), START (for under-30s) or getting a Passport Card (for everyone else) is a great way to enjoy the arts at a discount. Log onto www.etastart.com
to get started.All that Jazz: Swan song for Acoustic Chamber Jazz Series:
Cincinnati pianist Kraig Greff
returns for the final performance of the jazz series, 3 p.m. Sunday at the First Unitarian Church, 536 Linton Street, Cincinnati (Avondale). It's Greff's first appearance here since he was a regular performer in the mid-80s. The concert also features his longtime colalborators, alto saxophonist Mike Campbell and vocalist Nancy Nolan.
Greff, who owns Tonal Vision Music in Baltimore, is aproducer, composer, arranger and performer. Campbell is a regular with the Blue Wisp Big Band, and Nolan is owner of Nolan Kerr Artists and founder of the Chamber Music Network, and a regular singer on Cincinnati's local jazz scene.
The series was founded in the early 90s by David Jackson and pianist/CCM prof Phil DeGreg, who is on sabbatical in Brazil working under a Fulbright grant.Catch Pat Kelly at the Blue Wisp twice this weekend:
Friday, Feb. 29, 8:30 p.m. -12:30 a.m. ($10.00 cover charge), it's The Pat Kelly Quartet, with Pat Kelly on piano, Steve Hoskins on saxophones, Mike Sharfe on bass and Anthony "T" Lee on drums, performing original tunes, standards and modern jazz compositions.
On Sunday, March 2, 7:30 p.m. -10:30 p.m. ($10.00 cover charge), it's Pat Kelly and The PsychoAcoustic Orchestra. Here's the lineup: Gary Winters, Jeff Folkens, Kim Pensyl - trumpets; Clarence Pawn, Paul Piller, Gary Langhorst - trombones; Rick VanMatre, Steve Hoskins, Garin Webb, Joe Gaudio - saxophones; Mike Sharfe - electric and acoustic bass; Marc Wolfley - drums; Pat Kelly - piano & keyboards. They do a diverse and eclectic repertoire of original arrangements, with great jazz improvisations.New conductor at the CSO:
The Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra announced that Ken Lam
will join the CSO conducting staff as an assistant conductor starting in August of 2008. The post was vacated by Tito Muñoz at the end of the 2006-2007 season. Lam's duties will include assisting the conductors of the CSO, Cincinnati Pops and May Festival, guest conductors as needed, as well as conducting the Cincinnati Symphony Youth Orchestra
Lam, 37, a native of Hong Kong, started with a very different career path. He graduated from Epson College in England and went on to get his masters in economics at the University of Cambridge. He worked for 10 years as a lawyer in London and Hong Kong, specializing in asset finance. Despite this successful legal career, he remained active in music and dreamed of being a full-time conductor.
In the fall of 2005, he enrolled in the Peabody Conservatory of Music at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, studying with Gustav Meier and Markand Thakar. He is currently a doctoral candidate and a graduate assistant at Peabody. Lam has been Artistic Director of the chamber choir Hong Kong Voices since 2001. He has also been Principal Conductor of the Hong Kong Chamber Orchestra.
His recent conducting highlights are interesting: Assistant/Cover Conductor for Lorin Maazel (Britten's The Rape of Lucretia) and Gunther Herbig (Baltimore Symphony Orchestra). He will conduct the National Symphony Orchestra at the Kennedy Center this June.
More responses to symphony executive story
Here are more thoughts from readers about the search for a new president of the CSO, and challenges the orchestra faces:
From Dr. Diane Babcock
: Enjoyed your article this weekend on the challenges facing the Symphony and agree with your suggestions. The decrease in musical education for young people in our school systems is dismaying. As a result, young people have no appreciation of classical music. Art has also been removed from the curriculum and the visits to the art museum are down as a result. Perhaps the museums and symphony could finance the costs of the class trips since the school budget cannot?
We attend the Pops and Opera, but not the regular Symphony. On thinking about it, the main reason is that we need visual stimulation as well as the music. The Pops has dancers, cirque du soleil performers, etc., which accompanies and enhances the musical experience. Opera has magnificant sets and costumes. Symphony only has the conductor and musicians to watch. The majority of humans are dominantly visual not auditory, I'm told. Perhaps this is the cause. The young people are used to lots of visual stimulae on TV, computers etc. Perhaps the Symphony could show a visual representation of the music as well and give the audiance something to look at.
We support the Pops and Opera and hope the symphony can survive this difficult time.
And this from Carl Schmidt
: This article is an even-handed description of CSO operation. Being a 25-plus year subscriber, I can say that there is no way I know of that this organization could treat me better. Having listened to this orchestra since age 13 and having listened to other orchestras in this country and around the world during my adulthood, I tell everyone that our present musical situation is the best I have experienced: it couldn't be better. A minor suggestion would be to have more frequent pre-concert performances in the lobby or balcony by young musicians, who usually bring along proud family members.
I would expect the new CEO to analyze data for the complete music spectrum in developing plans - CSO (regular and summer), Pops, CCM, opera - plus "outside job" openings for CSO musicians such as teaching. Many CSO musicians recognize that the total job package is primary to their career goals, so long as the CSO maintains its musical excellence.
Diverging: As Paavo noted, it would be good to have downtown "late-night"
eateries for after concerts. I know that this has been tried unsuccessfully several times (e.g. Grammers), but coordination of such efforts with publicity tied in to the CSO Program, Enquirer, and City, should be revisited frequently. It would even be a favor to concert-goes to give FREE program advertising space to after-hours eateries such as Myra's on Calhoun, where we usually go. TEMPORARY subsidies might even be offered for start-up of extended hours at established businesses (e.g.) Panera, Washington Platform.
As more young people move into the area, we just might outgrow the Old Cincinnati perspective that "It failed once, so let's not try it again."
Footnote: Carl says he sang at Music Hall with the Hughes Choir under Bob McSpadden during the "golden age" of Cincinnati high school choral music, in a concert conducted by the CSO's Thor Johnson. Carl's grandmother had a bakery in Over-the-Rhine, and his mother remembered sitting on the bar at Grammer's when she was a little girl.
Now that Grammer's is re-opening soon
- "I hope their hours accommodate the symphony crowd, and that this is reflected in a CSO program ad."
Earl Rivers reminisces
Earl Rivers has not yet tallied the number of premieres he's conducted in 20 years as music director of the Vocal Arts Ensemble. Besides awards, recordings and performances aired over more than 200 radio stations, the two ASCAP awards for "adventuresome programming of contemporary music" tell much of the story of Rivers' tenure.
Rivers will conduct his final concert with the Vocal Arts Ensemble
Saturday in Corbett Auditorium at CCM and Sunday at St. Margaret of York Church, Loveland. The program includes Gian Carlo Menotti's madrigal fable, "The Unicorn, the Gorgon and Manticore," staged with the CCM Dance Department and Chamber Players. Each program also features an outstanding area children's choir -- Cincinnati Children's Choir-Bel Canto Choir on Saturday and the York Youth Singers on Sunday.
Rivers will continue his posts at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, where, as director of choral studies, he oversees one of the top five graduate conducting programs in the U.S. He'll also remain as director of music at Hyde Park's Knox Presbyterian Church.
He'll step down after he prepares the Vocal Arts Ensemble for its final season concert on March 30 (to be conducted by Mischa Santora).Question:
What have been some highlights of the works you and the VAE have premiered?Answer:
Our most recent premiere of a commissioned work was by Aaron Jay Kernis, a Pulitzer Prize-winning composer, who wrote "Two Meditations" for the celebration of the restoration of the Plum Street (Isaac Wise Temple) Temple's historic 19th-century organ. The commission was funded by CCM's Tangeman Sacred Music Center. Aaron attended the premiere, and spoke eloquently about the opportunity to write a new work that for him memorialized his parents.Q:
What are some of your proudest moments as music director? A:
The lasting partnership with the Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra, the role modeling of choral artistry through collaborations with dozens of children and youth choirs, and the opportunity to open the Underground Railroad Freedom Center with a regional premiere that included a collaboration with Ensemble Theater and the choir of Central State University.Q:
Name one of your most memorable concerts.A:
(Composer) Libby Larsen made a particular impact on her last visit (she has been with us twice, for her "Seven Ghosts" and "Eleanor Roosevelt") when she spoke a length to the audience about researching Eleanor and what she learned about this person. Of all the VAE concerts I have conducted, the Eleanor Roosevelt program stands out, as the audience members didn't want to leave Memorial Hall after the concert. Most stayed to share their "Eleanor" stories.Q:
What has your Visiting Composer Series accomplished for the ensemble? A:
Having visiting composers attend rehearsals and performances has enabled the singers to dialogue with composers about what inspired them to write a work, what techniques they used for musical expression, and the points of emphasis they might like to hear in a performance. Likewise, the audiences have benefited by meeting composers who have been discovered to be "real" people who live very normal lives.Q:
Why is this region so receptive to choral music? A:
Three factors have contributed to the Greater Cincinnati public's appetite for choral music – CCM's strong presence as a nationally recognized choral program and choral training program that produces a number of choral concerts each academic year; the presence of the May Festival Chorus that has produced generations of choral/orchestral masterworks programs; and the presence of the VAE for almost 30 years (28 to be precise).Q:
This concert is a good example of your initiative to collaborate with other arts groups. How has VAE benefited from that? A:
Artists benefit from the company of other artists. VAE's collaborations with the Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra, children and youth choirs, Cincinnati Opera Education Ensemble, Starling Chamber Orchestra, and many others have enabled the singers to encounter repertoire that can only be produced through collaborations. Thus, the palate has been expanded.
The Menotti this weekend, (a work we have previously performed in concert version), is enhanced by the engagement of the CCM Dance Division as well as the CCM Chamber Players. In the rehearsals with the dancers, the singers have been offered a new perspective of the music and its meaning.Q:
You have championed many living American composers. How did you select the American composers for this program?
A: To complement the textures and feel of the Menotti, I sought out recent works that have a "madrigal" feel in their voicing, textures and texts. I narrowed the choices down to selections from the "Firesong Madrigals" of Morten Lauridsen, who won a National Medal of Arts presented by President George W. Bush in 2007, "Fuggi, Fuggi" by William Hawley, who was a VAE Visiting Composer in 1994-95 and was commissioned for "Four Reveries" for the VAE's 15th anniversary season; and "Leonardo Dreams of his Flying Machine" by Eric Whitacre, a composer who whose works and imaginative writing have taken the choral field by storm.Q:
What would you like the audience to know about Menotti's "The Unicorn, the Gorgon and the Manticore"?A:
It's a 40 minute work of 1956 and the style is a series of a cappella, madrigal-like settings, interlaced with instrumental interludes and movements with voices and instruments. Expressed through dance and music, (it's) a madrigal fable of an eccentric, castle-dwelling poet that tells the story of his life in the three stages of youth, middle, and old age, each symbolized by unusual pets – a unicorn, a gorgon and a manticore. Each appearance of the poet in the town with a new beast sets off a series of spellbinding events.
Donald Nally, CCM alum and currently Chorus Director of the Chicago Lyric Opera, nicely describes the work: "The whole piece describes Gian Carlo’s view of the ways of people, of society, and especially of the fickle nature of audiences toward artists, due to their general lack of understanding."Q:
What will you do with your newfound free time? A:
Become a better runner and improve my bridge game.Q:
Not many people know that you are an accomplished marathon runner. What are some major races you have participated in, and how have you placed? A:
I won (in my age class) the Louisville Derby Marathon in 2006, and qualified (under 4 hours for my age group) for the Boston Marathon, which I ran in April 2007. Boston had the worst weather in the over 100-year history of its marathon, and I hope to qualify again and run it on a beautiful day. Flying Pig is my next event.Q:
How do you feel as you lead your last concert as music director? A:
I am a very lucky guy to have worked for 20 years with the VAE singers, the supportive VAE board members, and many members of the community – individuals, foundations, and concert sponsors – who have supported the VAE's mission.
Photo of CCM Dancers by Wendy Maness
Substitute soloists at the Symphony
The Cincinnati Symphony has announced that both the conductor, Stephane Deneve, and the piano soloist, Boris Berezovsky, have had to cancel their appearances with the CSO this week for personal reasons. Berezovsky was forced to cancel all of his engagements on his entire United States tour, including one with the Indianapolis Symhony this month, too.
Maestro Deneve, well-regarded by local audiences, is rescheduling his appearance with the CSO becuase of the expected due date of his first child this week.
So if you have tickets to concerts this Thursday through Saturday in Music Hall, you'll see pianist Alexander Korsantia perform Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 2 and conductor Elvind Gullberg Jensen lead Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 4. It looks like there's one program change: the concert will open with Norwegian composer Knut Vaage's "Tjat" (Chatter).
Paavo Jarvi says he has worked with Korsantia, who won first prize and gold medal in the Artur Rubinstein Piano Master Competition. Korsantia, a native of Tbilisi, Georgia, has worked extensively with Valery Gergiev and has toured the U.S. in recital with Russian violinist Vadim Repin. He lives in Boston, where he is professor of piano on the faculty of the New England Conservatory.
For more info about the concert (and don't forget the free buffet with Thursday's concert) visit www.cincinnatisymphony.org
New York Philharmonic in N. Korea
If you haven't seen it, here's a link
to the New York Philharmonic's historic performance in Pyongyang, Korea on Tuesday (today).
The complete video and audio will be streamed online at nyphil.org
for 60 days, beginning March 4.
Photos: David Guttenfelder, AP. They show the NY Philharmonic conducted by Lorin Maazel, in the East Pyongyang Grand Theater, Pyongyang, North Korea. It kind of reminds me of Great Hall of the People in Beijing, and there don't seem to be too many women in the audience, at least in the front rows.
Feinstein's warm salute to Rosie
Rosemary Clooney gave Michael Feinstein the best advice he ever received – to smile when he sang "because everyone will hear it."
Feinstein learned his lesson well, for he never stopped smiling in his heartfelt tribute to the late Maysville-born star Sunday night with the Cincinnati Pops. Saying he would not be singing on Music Hall's stage were it not for meeting Clooney long ago in Hollywood, the Columbus native made his show personal with funny anecdotes, Hollywood name-dropping and a considerable dose of charm. It was easy to see why Clooney wanted to adopt him as her "sixth kid."
Feinstein's tribute, which formed the evening’s second half, included "Hey There," (a song Clooney recorded as a duet with herself), "Isn't it a Pity" (a Gershwin tune Feinstein and Clooney recorded together) and an orchestral medley of Clooney hits led by her longtime music director, John Oddo, in a Nelson Riddle-like orchestration.
But the evening’s showstopper came last with "White Christmas," in a sweetly nostalgic arrangement with Oddo at the piano. Feinstein's performance was genuine and beautifully felt.
There was no "Come On-a My House," the pop hit which Clooney merely endured, but which made her a star. But there was what she called her "Revenge Medley," which Feinstein says was a gift to him from the singer. The sharp-witted pastiche included "I Cried for You," "Who's Sorry Now?" and "Goody Goody." Feinstein began softly, accompanied by a six-piece band (including Oddo on piano, Douglas Lindsay on trumpet and Rick VanMatre on sax) and ramped it up to a swinging jazz set, as he belted it out.
Which brings up one annoying point all evening – the sound system was too harsh when the singer cranked it up a notch, for instance in "Alexander's Ragtime Band."
So Feinstein, who also rippled wonderfully at the piano, was most appealing when his sound was smooth and unforced. Cole Porter's "I Concentrate on You" was one of the evening's gems, sung as a swaying Jobim-influenced samba arranged by Oddo.
Between songs, the stories were fun, as Feinstein chatted about his and Clooney’s Hollywood milieu: Oscar Levant, Fred Astaire, George and Ira Gershwin and Harry Warren, the most famous songwriter you never heard of ("Lullaby of Broadway"). He pulled up a stool to croon the Gershwin classic "They Can't Take That Away From Me," as the Pops strings and trombones provided a mellow backdrop.
Feinstein's first half, with standards such as "Stormy Weather," seemed slow to pick up and a bit disconnected. One of the highlights was and warm and communicative "How Do You Keep the Music Playing" by Michel Legrand and Marilyn and Alan Bergman. (He's planning a salute to the Bergmans at his New York club, Feinstein's at the Regency.)
He changed the lyrics in "How About You?" to, "Nina Clooney's looks give me a thrill," as he scanned the crowd for Kentucky royalty. Sure enough, Rosemary's brother Nick and wife Nina took a bow, choosing to be at the tribute rather than at the Oscars, where son George was nominated for best actor.
What did you think? Rate and review this concert at cincinnati.com.entertainment. The Pops repeats at 3 p.m. Sunday. 513-381-3300, www.cincinnatipops.org
John Adams leads amazing journey at CSO
No other living composer has captured the heart, soul and pulse of our time as effectively as John Adams.
Adams – creator of operas such as "Nixon in China" and America's most frequently performed living American composer – led the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra in the CSO premieres of two of his own compositions Friday and Saturday in Music Hall. Each piece was an extraordinary journey that took the listener to a different place. "On the Transmigration of Souls," composed for the New York Philharmonic in 2002 for the first anniversary of the World Trade Center attacks, was deeply moving -- not at all morbid, but somehow transformative.
His "The Dharma at Big Sur," a soaring raga for electric violin and orchestra written for the opening of Disney Hall in Los Angeles in 2003, was an ecstatic, fantastic journey. On Saturday, the crowd's roar at its finish was a testimony to Adams' genius as much as to the "electric" performance by violinist Leila Josefowicz.
The composer, who is also an accomplished conductor, included Richard Strauss' "Tod und Verklarung" (Death and Transfiguration), as an eloquent addition to his program.
Adams' style has grown far beyond his early label of "Minimalist" music – with its mesmerizing repetition of rhythm and melodic fragments. Today, his music is mesmerizing because he has fused so many other influences into his mix – from traditional European styles to Asian, Indian and even jazz.
For his Pulitzer Prize-winning choral work, "On the Transmigration of Souls," Adams used as his texts fragmented phrases from missing persons posters at Ground Zero, as well as from the New York Times' "Portraits in Grief." The May Festival Chorus, prepared by Robert Porco, and Cincinnati Children's Choir, Robyn Lana, director, sang the deeply emotional words against the orchestra's shimmering canvas, colored with chimes and bells. The choruses enunciated clearly and with touching expression, and navigated the work's difficult rhythms impressively.
Against this, a recorded soundtrack intoned a litany of names of those who died, as well as ambient sounds, forming a counterpoint in surround-sound. Moments of serene beauty contrasted against shrieking climaxes in winds and brass, which emerged like immense cries.
The effect was both haunting and luminous, and no one breathed for its duration.
In the second half, Josefowicz took a bow and plugged in her violin, for Adams' "The Dharma at Big Sur." Adams took as his inspiration Jack Kerouac's description of the rugged California coastline, coupled with the beat poet's interest in Buddhism. For the soloist, he wrote a sweetly lyrical raga, stating that "the real meaning of the music in between the notes."
Josefowicz projected an arresting, vocal-like sound on her six-string electric violin. She combined the flair of a classical virtuoso with a freely rhapsodic style that made the music sound completely spontaneous, as she bent tones into blues notes, and soared into the stratosphere.
In two parts, the first, "A New Day," was radiant and meditative, with a color palette that included Asian-tinged bells, harps, samplers, gongs and chimes. The second was jazzy and dance-like. How wonderful it was to see the conductor and soloist "grooving" to this music. The orchestra responded with sonorous, polished playing and the final surge to the ecstatic climax was electrifying.
Adams opened with Strauss' "Death and Transfiguration," in another vivid evocation of emotion. This performance glowed, and offered an occasion for extraordinary solos in the orchestra, notably principal oboist Dwight Parry and concertmaster Timothy Lees.
What did you think? Rate and review this concert at cincinnati.com/entertainment. The CSO performs Rachmaninoff and Tchaikovsky Thursday through Saturday in Music Hall. Tickets: 513-381-3300, www.cincinnatisymphony.org
Chief Everything Officer
If the symphony takes a poll, what advice would you give them about the organization and qualities you'd like to see in a new CEO? Today's article in the Enquirer
clipped off what was perhaps the most important quote of all from industry pros --
"Orchestras need to matter to people in their community who may never come to a subscription concert," Henry Fogel told me.
By the way, watch the terrific video with the article of Paavo talking about rehearsing the orchestra. Glenn Hartong is videographer/producer. And, listen to a clip from the CSO's new Prokofiev CD.
See you next week
I'm out of the office for a few days so please talk amongst yourselves!
Celebratory concerts around town
Happy Year of the Rat! On Saturday, I headed over the NKU where the Greater Cincinnati Chinese Music Society presented a wonderful program that included Dance China NY, Percussion Group Cincinnati and an intriguing jazz-fusion trio of pipa, jazz guitar and bass.
Sylvia Lee hosted the show for a near-capacity crowd, noting that this was the 8th annual Chinese New Year concert, and 8 -- in Mandarin "ba" -- is good luck. That's why the Olympics will start on 8/8/2008 at 8:08:08 p.m.
Percussion Group Cincinnati opened with a bang, with Drum of Shi, a celebratory counterpoint of drumming with sticks and palms on three kinds of drums. These superstars of percussion -- Allen Otte, James Culley and Russell Burge -- never fail to amaze.
Then Dance China NY, whose artistic director is CCM's Qi Jiang, performed WuWu, a celebration for the 2008 Olympics choreographed by Jiang. This was Yin and Yang -- a masterful and astonishing blend of classic dance, with all its grace, combined with martial arts. The dancers showed spectacular form, control and characterization, as they journeyed through Jiang's inventive choreography with athleticism and power. (The Adagio was like a pas de deux in Tai Chi.) Later, they performed "Love in Spring," a charming traditional ballet of happy villagers.
The program included the world premiere performance of "Mountain Dream: Songs of Spring," by Chinese composer Pei Lu, who took his inspiration from his mountainous home province of Guangxi. It was a vocal concerto, with an interesting sound palette of cello, oboe, pipa and mallet instruments. A glimmering, atonal fusion of Eastern and Western avant-garde, the CCM performers performed it well, and the composer took a bow.
The evening closed with a wonderful Chinese-American jazz fusion set, performed by Blue Pipa Trio, featuring Min Xiao-Fen on pipa and also voice. Her "Fascinating New Year," inspired by Gershwin, was sort of Chinese scat.
On Tuesday, on one of the worst snow days this year, Elizabeth and Eugene Pridonoff celebrated their 25th anniversary as the Pridonoff Duo. For the event, the husband-wife team programmed some of their chestnuts of the two-piano repertory, as well as a spectacular new "Rite of Spring," in an original four-hand transcription by the composer with percussion orchestration by Allen Otte.
Hearing the Stravinsky score of 1913 in this stripped-down version was a revelation. It was at once earthy, spontaneous and even more primative-sounding than hearing the full orchestral version. Perhaps it was the immediacy of seeing the percussionists of Percussion Group Cincinnati interacting with the pianists. The Pridonoffs journeyed through the ballet suite with fervor and thoughtfulness, with sonorities ranging from brutal to intimate.
The other treat of the evening was Ravel's "Ma mere l'oye" (Mother Goose Suite) for two pianos. What a wonderful piece, of such haunting charm and nostalgia. They played it with delicate tone color and articulation. Again, the Percussion Group added delicate bells and brilliant tam-tams, and the result was simply radiant.
For 25 years, the Pridonoffs have complemented each other musically -- he the patrician, Rudolf Serkin-trained artist, and she passionate and extroverted. They opened with Anton Arensky's Suite No. 1, a bon bon with fullblown romantic tunes and lots of pianistic filigree. They did their signature Rachmaninoff -- this time "Three Songs," including the lovely "Vocalise." The suite was a gift to them from Vitya Vronsky, transcribed by her husband, Victor Babin (remember Vronsky and Babin?)
The first half ended with a whirldwind performance of "La Valse" by Ravel, another revelation, wonderful evoking the disintigration of old European culture in the aftermath of World War I.
It drove home to me how important the duo-piano ensemble is in the evolution of orchestral music. Many composers, such as Stravinsky and Ravel, first wrote their music for two pianos, and often gave premiere performances in private salons this way. It's not quite a lost art, but how many cities, today, even have a "resident" duo-piano team?
The appreciative audience of several hundred in Corbett Auditorium gave the performance an enthusiastic reception.
Music Hall ideas
I'm hearing lots of ideas for revamping Music Hall, some screwy and some with possibilities.
I've heard a plan to make stadium seating sloping down from the first balcony to the floor, where the orchestra's stage will be centered in the hall. (screwy)
And I've heard that folks are considering building a new, small concert hall in one of the wings of Music Hall. It will have to be the South wing, as the Opera inhabits the North. That makes me think of European halls with several auditoriums, and even Carnegie Hall. (A possibility)
But, and it's a big but -- before anything can be done, Music Hall needs repair work. First on the agenda will be fixing the infrastructure, which, depending on who you talk to, could cost up to $35 million. And WHO will pay that pricetag seems to be a point of contention. The City owns the hall and CAA manages it.
Of course, then you can almost count on cost overruns, as the Ascent in Covington
is now showing. Take a look at Andrew Taylor's discussion, "For another $30 million, you get cupholders."
Do you have an idea for Music Hall? (Message to Chris Monzel
: tearing it down is not and never was an option.)
Need a Valentine idea?
Take your kids in grades 7-12 on a backstage tour of Music Hall and get free concert tickets. The CSO hosts "Putting it Together," Saturday, February 16, 5 p.m. Please make reservations by Thursday, February 14
Learn how they put on a show with members of the CSO Artistic and Production team. A tour of Music Hall's backstage area is featured as you meet the people who book and work with artists and conductors, and organize the schedules to make the CSO and Pops work like clockwork.
You might see a few musicians warming up, and more. You'll also receive complimentary tickets to a CSO concert.CSO Backstage
workshops are designed to help students and their parents learn about career opportunities in classical music. The four-workshop series is designed for students grades 7-12 and their parents and is hosted by the CSO free of charge.
For more information or to register for the Backstage Workshop, call Anne Cushing-Reid at (513) 744-3208.
James Conlon's Recovered Voices
Cincinnati May Festival maestro James Conlon had a full-page spread
in the Sunday NY Times about his opera series in Los Angeles surveying music by composers who were affected by the Holocaust. It's an excellent article by David Mermelstein. Conlon conducts "Otello" Saturday and the two rarities on Sunday with LA Opera: Viktor Ullmann's "The Broken Jug" and Zemlinsky's "Der Zwerg" (The Dwarf).
Conlon has courageously championed this little-known music without flagging, and we here in Cincy have benefited from that effort. If you've heard Conlon's recording of the Zemlinsky with his former Cologne forces, you know that it is ravishing music.
Watch for a followup in this blog.
CCM singers win awards in Houston
Two singers at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music took the top prizes in Houston Grand Opera's annual Eleanor McCollum Competition for Young Singers, announced Friday night. Soprano Caitlin Lynch
took first place and the Audience Award, and soprano Joelle Harvey
took second place.
Judges included opera icon Frederica von Stade
, Houston Grand Opera general director and CEO Anthony Freud and the company’s music director Patrick Summers. Jake Hegg
ie (composer of “Dead Man Walking”) served as master of ceremonies.
50th Grammy Awards
You recall that Cincinnati didn't have the usual number of Grammy nominations
this year.Here's the complete list
Here are the "locals" who won in classical:
The chamber ensemble eighth blackbird
, whose members are graduates of the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, won its first Grammy Award Sunday night for "Chamber Music Performance" for the album "Strange Imaginary Animals." The album's producer, Judith Sherman, won "Producer of the Year, Classical."
The six-member instrumental group, which was also ensemble-in-residence at CCM, is now based in Chicago.
Also, Cincinnati native James Levine
won a Grammy nod as conductor (Boston Symphony Orchestra) on Lorraine Hunt Lieberson's album, "Lorraine Hunt Lieberson Sings Peter Lieberson: Neruda Songs," which won for Classical Vocal Performance.
In regional news, three classical Grammys went to the Nashville Symphony Orchestra's
"Tower: Made in America," conducted by Leonard Slatkin (Naxos). The album won best "Classical Album," "Orchestral Performance" and "Classical Contemporary Composition" for Joan Tower's piece, "Made in America."
In the rock, pop and Gospel categories, Cincinnati native Antonio "L.A." Reid
did very well, since he is chairman of Island Def Jam Music Group, which encompasses myriad labels and stars such as Kanye West, Mary J. Blige and Aretha Franklin.
By the way, did you know the Grammys really started four hours earlier, as they handed out 100 awards that didn't make TV. It was hosted by Patti Austin and Indian Hill gent Peter Frampton
, whose words -- "Where are those writers?" as he stumbled over the teleprompter, have been heard around the world.
Ivan Fischer sighting
So, I was reading classical music blogs, and stumbled upon this conversation
in the NY Times between Daniel Wakin and Ivan Fischer.
Fischer, music director of the Budapest Festival Orchestra, is also former principal guest conductor of the Cincinnati Symphony. He talks about keeping his orchestra players happy since 1983, and innovative things they do to keep the audience happy.
(Fischer's band is performing this weekend as part of Lincoln Center's Great Performers series.)
One of his ideas, drawing titles from a tuba bell to determine what the audience will hear, reminds me of something a reader, Cathie Brooks in Platteville, WI, sent me some time ago. She noted that the Madison Symphony had a new marketing strategy: let the audience vote for a symphony to be performed. They were given a choice (Beethoven Symphony No. 1, Schubert's Ninth, Brahms Symphony No. 1 or Corigliano's Symphony No. 1), they voted and the winning piece was performed.
What do you think of these ideas?
Finnish phenom at the symphony
The Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra was in good hands with a pair of twentysomething rising stars, Friday morning in Music Hall.
Finnish conductor Pietari Inkinen, 27, made an impressive American debut in the orchestra’s first-ever performance of Prokofiev’s Symphony No. 3. At the piano, 21-year-old Lukas Vondracek gave a brilliant reading of Grieg’s Concerto in A Minor.
Inkinen, who is already music director of the New Zealand Symphony, is a protégé of the famed master teacher of conductors, Jorma Panula, and is also a concert violinist. His boyish, rock-star looks reminded one of a young Keith Lockhart. A vigorous presence on the podium, he exuded confidence and was a persuasive leader in Prokofiev's Third.
Prokofiev's Symphony No. 3 of 1928 might have been named a suite from his failed opera, "The Fiery Angel." Highly theatrical, its dramatic moods and themes vividly evoke – and quote from – scenes from the opera.
The first movement, a profusion of agitated moments marked by brass-filled intensity and pounding timpani, was a stark contrast to the slow movement's serene mood, from a scene in a convent. The most original music came in his scherzo, with its glissandos in the strings making an eerie counterpoint.
This first-ever performance was effective, if the orchestra's ensemble wasn't as immaculate as usual. Inkinen is an expressive leader, although the softer end of the spectrum was largely left untouched. But if his aim was to electrify, especially in the powerful finale, he succeeded.
Vondracek's view of Grieg's Piano Concerto was also bracing, in his return visit to the orchestra. The Czech virtuoso possesses a spectacular technique, which he put to use brilliantly and with absolute clarity in his adrenalin-charged performance. He tackled the first movement's cadenza as if he was climbing Mount Everest.
Still, he missed some of the poetry, warmth and tone color of the gorgeous Norwegian melodies, so profuse in this concerto. The pianist's finest moment came in the adagio, where he projected a singing tone against Thomas Sherwood's beautifully shaped horn solo.
To conclude, Inkinen led a high-voltage reading of Ravel's "La Valse." It was fresh, driving and had a hard sheen, capturing the Viennese waltz as seen through the lens of post-World War I.
Before the program began, the orchestra performed J.S. Bach's "Air" from Suite No. 3 in memory of arts patron Patricia Corbett, who died Jan. 28.
What did you think? Review this concert at cincinnati.com/entertainment. The concert repeats at 8 p.m. Saturday in Music Hall. 513-381-3300, www.cincinnatisymphony.org.
Things to do
Lest you dare be a couch potato at this time of year -- with so many options -- here are a few suggestions.
Tonight and tomorrow night at the Blue Wisp, it's Phil DeGreg
and Brasilia, my favorite jazz show in this city. It's music by Brazilian composers like Antonio Carlos Jobim, Hermeto Pascoal, and Ivan Lins, and others. The music is lively and rhythmic, with styles like samba, baiao, choro, partito alto, and bossa nova. Brasilia features the remarkable Rusty Burge
on the vibraphone, Steve Whipple
on bass, Jake Reed
on drums, and Stan Ginn
on percussion. The music starts at 8:30 and there is a $10 cover charge. The Blue Wisp is at 318 E. 8th St, between Broadway and Sycamore. (513)241-9477.
You can hear some of the music at Phil's website
this weekend is pretty energized. See my review, above.
Saturday: Celebrate 2008 Chinese New Year (Year of the Rat) Concert, with Dance China NY, Qi Jiang,
artistic director; Percussion Group Cincinnati
; Blue Pipa Trio (pipa, bass and guitar); CCM Chamber Music Group. Presented by the Greater Cincinnati Chinese Music Society, 7:30 p.m., Greaves Concert Hall, Northern Kentucky University. Tickets: $20; $10 student; $50 patron. 513-761-6397 or 513-761-0245
Sunday: Catch the grand finale of Fine Arts Fund weekend
with a free performance of "Carnival of the Animals" by the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, 4 p.m. (Take your tots early to get face paint and costumes.) The piano soloists for "Carnival" are Michael Chertock and Sandra Rivers, in her CSO debut (in photo with CSO violinist Eric Bates).
Tuesday -- The Blue Wisp Jazz Club presents a rare Cincinnati appearance by the world renowned organist Joey DeFrancesco
and his trio in two shows - 7:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. Admission: $20 for one show; $30 for both, with a $5 drink minimum per show.
Only 25 reservations are left, per show. Call 513-241-WISP(9477) for reservations or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Blue Wisp website: www.thebluewisp.com
Also Tuesday -- The Pridonoff Duo
-- the acclaimed husband-and-wife piano team, celebrate 25 YEARS of harmony, 8 p.m. in Corbett Auditorium. Eugene and Elizabeth Pridonoff are joined by Percussion Group Cincinnati
for Sergei Rachmaninoff's "Three Songs," Alexander Arensky's Suite No. 1, Op. 15, Maurice Ravel's "La Valse," and with Percussion Group Cincinnati, Ravel's "Mother Goose" and Igor Stravinsky's "Rite of Spring."
Did you know that in 1982, they made their formal debut with the Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra under the direction of Paul Nadler? They were appointed Duo-in-Residence at CCM in 1986, shortly after they gave their debuts at New York's Alice Tully Hall and the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. They have since performed extensively throughout the United States, Europe, Mexico, China, Hong Kong, Japan, Taiwan and Korea.
Reineke named pops maestro in Modesto
Cincinnati conductor Steven Reineke has been named principal pops conductor of the Modesto Symphony Orchestra, the California orchestra will announce today.
Reineke will begin a three-year appointment in September as that orchestra's first-ever pops conductor. He'll conduct four outdoor conducts on the grounds of the E. & J. Gallo Winery and three indoor shows at Modesto's Gallo Center for the Arts.
The Gallo Company Headquarters is based in Modesto.
Reineke, a protégé of Erich Kunzel and a graduate of Miami University, is music associate and principal arranger and composer for the Cincinnati Pops. His 100-plus arrangements have helped create the signature sound of the Cincinnati Pops, and he's considered an emerging talent on the podium.
The orchestra has a six-concert classical season conducted by David Lockington and an annual budget of $1.5 million.
Some say Reineke is the heir apparent to Kunzel, if and when the Popsmeister ever retires. What do you think?
Shock and awe at CCM
I saw a preview performance of the new opera Miss Lonelyhearts at CCM last night. Here's the review
. What did you think?
A concert hall for Miami?
On and off over the years, I've written about grassroots campaigns to build a bona fide concert hall on the Miami University campus. It may have started with a review I wrote the first time I heard Itzhak Perlman play in Millett Hall, a basketball arena. Yes, something was missing... The school does have the smallish Hall Auditorium, but one would think, with such illustrious ensembles as the MU Men's Glee Club (now in its 100th season), it could build something that would accommodate its wonderful Performing Arts Series -- without making the audience climb bleachers.
So, today when I got a call from Harold Puff, 92-year-old professor emeritus (see Pat Corbett tribute comment, below), the topic came up.
Miami is in the midst of a $500 million campaign, "For Love and Honor,"
and they've already raised nearly $327 million, with two years to go.
Professor Puff, who sang with the Glee Club 1934-38, says, "We have the plans, and the property, but we couldn't get an angel to come in."
Any angels out there? Do you think Miami needs a concert hall?
Jerry Springer -- the Opera
Could this ever play Cincinnati? The reviews
are starting to come in, and they aren't too pretty. MusicalAmerica is reporting a flock of rosary-reciting protestors outside of Carnegie Hall for the New York premiere. The cast sits in the auditorium and yells "Jer-RY, Jer-Ry!" as a cast of sluts, pole dancer-wannabes, tap-dancing Ku Klux Klansmen and more, make their grand entrances.
A star in New York
Did you see the whole-page profile
of Xian Zhang in yesterday's New York Times? Vivien Schweitzer writes about Xian: "Ms. Zhang credits the confidence and skill noted by musicians and critics alike to her training at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music
, where she began studying in 1998 and soon became the college's youngest faculty member ever."
The article also mentions that she cut her teeth conducting CCM's orchestras. Let's hope we see her in our region conducting again soon, maybe the CSO?
Photo: New York Times
Corbett to be remembered in tribute, and more memories
Funeral services for arts patron Patricia A. Corbett were private, but a public celebration is being planned for this spring by several arts organizations she supported during a lifetime of philanthropy.
The date and other details of the concert honoring Mrs. Corbett will be announced.
Watch for an appreciation in this Sunday's Enquirer. I have many personal memories that didn't fit into the newspaper stories. The times I interviewed her at home, I was always impressed at the stacks of local and national newspapers that she read daily to stay informed. She kept in shape to run from dawn until dark. Once when I appeared, she had just gone for her daily swim in the indoor pool just off her bedroom.
She enjoyed showing me around her home, recalling times opera diva Roberta Peters had visited, or dancers from Cincinnati Ballet had danced on her patio -- a benefit party for WCET (Channel 48). Her spacious home, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright protégé John deKoven Hill, was featured in the 1960 issue of "House Beautiful."
NuTone filmed its early commercials in her kitchen, and she dressed the models in her own dresses. I learned today that because she was a wonderful singer in her youth, she made Christmas albums, which were sent to all the employees of NuTone. In the '60s and '70s, the Corbett home was the setting for lavish parties after the opera or to give a chamber music recital for an audience of 70.
She was always turned out in a cute pantsuit, and apparently got a special dispensation from Cincinnati Women's Club to wear pants through the front door! (Isn't that sooo Cincinnati?)
I don't think most people realize that giving away millions of dollars is hard work. Pat was always so well-versed about every detail of her philanthropy. Karen McKim became executive director of the foundation in 1988, shortly after J. Ralph passed away.
"Although I didn't realize at the time, Mrs.Corbett must've been almost 80 years old. Through the years she had obviously worked with architects and builders and acousticians, etc., and with professionals in the arts and academia, so that I don't think she needed to do research any longer. She just knew the territory very well. When she did meet with these professionals, she knew their lingo, and she knew what questions to ask, and she offered her own opinions freely."
So when Cincinnati Ballet
was planning their Central Parkway location, they approached the Corbett Foundation for help. Mrs. Corbett studied the plans for two stage-size practice rooms, costume shop, room for the dancers, administration -- and asked whether one of the large studios would have audience seating.
"No, it was something they had not thought about," McKim recalls. "She told them they would need it, and she gave them the reasons--they would need an informal on-site performance space such as that would provide. They went back to the drawing board... and that space turned out to be a real advantage, much-used by the ballet.
"What struck me was how Mrs. Corbett spontaneously zeroed in (when the architects hadn't thought of it?) I guess it just seemed practical to her, like the garage at CCM. While everyone was looking at the same things, she was looking beyond and thinking logistics and patron convenience. Cincinnati Ballet has come so far, with the gorgeous Mickey Kaplan theatre. But the original 'studio plus' came from Patricia Corbett." Click here
to see an archived interview with the Corbetts at CETconnect
Photos: Pat Corbett, after giving a $5 million grant to AAAE; Pat, a benefactor of Enjoy the Arts, with bluegrass diva Katie Laur and Cincinnati Mayor Roxanne Qualls to open Final Friday Gallery Walk in 1997; Pat shares a laugh with Nick Clooney after donating $1 million to renovate the Corbett Theatre at NKU; Three Ladies who have no time for lunch: Phyllis Weston, Norma Petersen and Patricia Corbett