“Heavy road, remote buildings…an approximate definition… I’m on the road…fog pressing upon me from every side…words, whispers, mutterings…a vacant structure…” Thus begins Turkish poet Murathan Mungan’s Bells in the Mist, the inspiration for Mahir Cetiz’s composition of the same title.

Written for small chamber ensembles and solo instruments, Cetir’s works are severe, sparse, rigorous compositions, perfect vehicles for Anairesis, a Metier CD of New Music (msv92107).

Featuring the excellent Anairesis Ensemble, led by British conductor Matthew Cory and generous in its employ of the lighter instruments of the percussion family, Mist Bells’ use of small cymbals, vibraphone, crotales, and tam tams, accompanying a woodwind ensemble in tandem with violin, cello and piano trio, creates a dream-like sonic landscape that envelops the listener much like the fog in Mungan’s poem..

Panayiotis DemopoulosTheme and Variations on a Villota by Filippo Azzaiolo, is a intriguing set of variations for woodwind ensemble that uses a 16th century song by a lesser-known Renaissance composer.

Demoulos’ Three Songs for bass voice and piano tap into texts by the late Brazilian poetess Cecilia Meireles, the British Ursula Vaughan Williams, and Aeschylus.

Of Seventh Doors, for cello and piano is a musical homage to Béla Bartók that responds to the Hungarian master’s opera Bluebeard’s Castle by assigning the roles of protagonist and antagonist to each of the two instruments in the composition.
Panayiotis Demopoulos, piano (ddv24166) features in yet another fine release by Divine Art, a very fine pianist, as evidenced by his playing of the Three Intermezzi, Op.117 by Brahms and Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition.

The artist excels in all three of these Romantic miniatures: delicate in the E flat Lullaby, elegant in the B flat minor, intense in the C sharp minor.

The seasonal connotations of the Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter of Panayiotis’ composition Four Farewells for Piano are not of the weather variety, but of a sentimental nature, dedicated to the composer’s two most important mentors and each written at different times of the year. They provide a bracing contrast to the Brahms and Mussorgsky compositions that occupy the remainder of this CD.

Well-written program notes accompany these two nicely packaged and carefully engineered CD’s.

Rafael de Acha            All About the Performing Arts                 January 16, 2018



An evening of music, interwoven with experiences of local Holocaust survivors, and with the stories of a number of violins that once were silenced by the Holocaust, will be the focus and subject of a concert featuring a group of some of Cincinnati’s finest musicians.

For the past two decades, Israeli violinmaker, Amnon Weinstein has labored to restore violins once played by Jewish musicians during the Holocaust. Nine of these historic instruments will travel to Cincinnati to be played in concert at Music Hall on January 23. This is made possible by the Holocaust & Humanity Center.

ON Tuesday, January 23rd, 7:30 PM AT Music Hall, the Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra conducted by Eckart Preu, and featuring as soloist Concertmaster Celeste Golden Boyer will play two movements from Gideon Klein’s 1944 Partita. There will be solo performances by Ilya Finkelshteyn, Michael Chertock, Giora Schmidt, Elena Kholodova, Gershon Gerchikov, Alexandra Kazovsky, Simon Barrad and Kseniia Polstiankina.

TICKETS AND INFORMATION: OR CALL (513) 621-2787 OR visit the Music Hall Box Office at 650 Walnut Street, Cincinnati, OH 45202
As a prelude to the Violins of Hope concert, The Cincinnati Museum Center will host an evening with James Grymes, author of the book, Violins of Hope, on Tuesday, January 10, 7:00 PM at the Public Library Downtown Branch.

Violins of Hope tells the remarkable stories of violins that were played by Jewish musicians during the Holocaust, and of the Israeli violinmaker dedicated to bringing these inspirational instruments back to life.

This event is free and open to the public, and will feature a book signing by the author after the event.
The Holocaust and Humanity Center will also hold a free concert for students and senior citizens on Tuesday, January 23, 10:00 AM.

For more information contact Trinity Johnson at 513-487-3055 or by email at



26170950_1407883352654779_1884893448592870327_oEven though Salon 21 has been around for more than a couple of years, this compact musical enterprise that can and will is just now starting to hit its stride after being singled out for kudos in Time Out as Best of Cincinnati.

Led by two young women, Jill Jantzen its Artistic Director, and Katie Personke, a member of its growing board and a miracle-working volunteer, the plucky project is, in the words of its leaders, “a concert series that breaks down barriers between performer and audience.”

And break barriers they do through no-nonsense, come as you are, up close, no longer than one hour but hang out a little longer and mingle, gatherings of lovers of music of all kinds.

The featured artists are fast-rising young local pros who play and sing everything from Jazz to Mozart on or to the accompaniment of acoustic Steinways and digital Yamahas.

The concerts happen anywhere except in formal concert halls. One day you might find them in the Weston Art Gallery at the Aronoff, and another at a Mercantile Library. Or in your living room, if you reach out to them and invite them in, as they invite you.

The audience is eclectic: young downtown urbanites, millenials, baby boomers, retirees, young professionals after work, music devotees, all sitting casually around the musicians, sipping a glass of wine and tuning in to music made vibrant and alive by the closeness to its source.

Salon 21’s fourth season continues with Explorations in Improvisation. The featured artist is Cincinnatian jazz pianist Ben Tweedt.

“I started on the piano from a very young age with classical training,” said Tweedt. “I always had an interest and aptitude for expanding on the things I played and transposing the pieces I worked on. The creative outlet I had been looking for turned out to be improvisation, particularly jazz. I try to allow my compositions and solos to be influenced by as many of the different kinds of music that I love as I can.”

On Thursday, January 25th, 2018 at 7 PM at the Weston Art Gallery, inside the Aronoff, Ben will reveal just how music was improvised before someone told someone there was only one way to play things. Take a listen to his take on a jazz classic and hear just what this young musician can do to demystify Misty, the 1954 Erroll Garner standard. Listen to Ben play Misty:

Come to Salon 21 on January 25th, 2018 at 7 pm and hear Ben in Explorations in Improvisation. The concert begins at 7 p.m. but come before, mingle, have a glass of wine and drop a $10 voluntary contribution into the hands of whoever is at the door to welcome you. You’ll want to come back for their next concert.

More information at or contact Katie Personke, Salon 21 Public Relations at Also visit them on Facebook. All About the Performing Arts January 8, 2018

Music for All Seasons at Peterloon on February 11 at 2 pm

Shareese ArnoldMusic for All Seasons at Peterloon on February 11 at 2 pm

First of all, Happy New Year to each and every one of you!

Our first Music for All Seasons at Peterloon concert of 2018 is fast approaching, and we want to make sure you won’t miss the music being sung and played by a superb group of artists in the welcoming and intimate environment of Cincinnati’s historic Peterloon Estate. All revenues from ticket sales are donated to the Scholarship Fund of the College-Conservatory of Music of the University of Cincinnati.

Many of you might remember Shareese Arnold, whose impressive soprano voice will perfectly suit the Six Romances, opus 38 of Sergei Rachmaninoff that she will sing in the first half of our February 11, 2 pm program. Shareese returns to share her talent with our Cincinnati audience after successful appearances with Cincinnati Song Initiative and the Wagner Society of Cincinnati, co-presenter of our concert, to sing the music of the 20th century Russian master and a group of arias by Richard Wagner: Senta’s dranatic Ballad from Der Fliegende Holländer (The Flying Dutchman), Elsa’s poignant Einsam in trüben Tagen from Lohengrin, and Elisabeth’s joyous greeting to music, Dich, teure Halle from Tannhäuser

Accompanying Shareese Arnold is pianist Christine Seal, a valuable artist who has appeared with us in the past. Christine will pace three large-scale piano works of Franz Liszt inspired by the music of Wagner: the Spinning Song from Der Fliegende Holländer (The Flying Dutchman), the Song to the Evening Star from Tannhäuser and the Entrance of the Gods to Valhalla from Das Rheingold.

Also in our program, and making her first appearance with us is the extraordinary cellist, Amy Gillingham, who will solo Fredric Chopin’s rarely heard Cello Sonata in G minor, Op. 65, one of the few works of the Polish Romantic composer written for an instrument other than the piano.

Kimberly Daniel de Acha joins our other artists to add her narrating skills to two melodramas, a type of musical composition for speaking voice and piano popular in the 19th century: Farewell to the World by Franz Schubert, and The Castle by the Sea, by Richard Strauss.

The estimable Polish-American visual artist Anna Van Matre will exhibit a group of her works in the rooms of the Peterloon mansion, a new feature that will accompany and enhance this and our upcoming concerts with the work of Ohio/Kentucky artists.

An informal get-together with the artists, over tea, coffee and pastries will follow the concert.

WHAT and WHERE: Music for All Seasons at Peterloon on February 11 at 2 pm at Peterloon Estate at 8605 Hopewell Road, in the Village of Indian Hill. RESERVATIONS: / TICKETS: $35; FLEXIBLE 4-TICKET PASSES: $120 INFORMATION:; ;



By giving his Sono Luminus CD the title of WINDOWS, pianist Bruce Levingston’s hints at a clue as to what he might have had in mind when he decided to include Schumann’s Kinderszenen in the same album with David Bruce’s The Shadow of a Blackbird and James Matheson’s Windows.

No three works could at first hearing be more dissimilar. And yet, as one revisits this felicitous tripartite pairing of pianistic works from three different music worlds one gradually comes to understand their many commonalities. All three are miniature depictions of scenes from the realms of memory and of the imagination, spiritual windows into states of the soul.

Bruce Levingston gives a sensitive, soulful, interpretation of Schumann’s Scenes from Childhood (Kinderszenen), always mindful of Schumann’s very specific tempo markings yet never afraid of underpinning his playing with his own musical points of view. Note, as one wonderful moment of many, how he makes the near stasis of The Poet Speaks (Der Dichter Spricht) a meaningful finale to this cycle of fifteen exquisite miniatures. Livingston then caps the Schumann section of the CD with an idiomatically flawless Arabesque.

All four of the compositions in this CD are essentially Romantic works, even though Bruce’s The Shadow of the Blackbird’s and Matheson’s Windows’ lack of tonal centers and complex harmonic structures are as far removed from Schumann’s 1818 naïve Romanticism as any composition could be. The programming of these three composers’ works in one CD is daring and utterly successful.

Windows uses plumbing bass figures pitted against delicate filigrees in the upper octaves of the piano in Jeremiah, sudden outbursts of tonal clusters in Isaiah and minimalism in Crucifixion and The Good Samaritan all to express a transfixed deep spirituality. In The Rose, Matheson achieves a higher level of intensity by again using ostinato figures in the lower register of the keyboard.

The composers’ styles are as remote from Schumann’s crystalline melodies and child-like wonderment at the simplicity of life as any music can be, yet there is kinship among these three compositions, giving the listener a program that coalesces and provides over an hour of pleasure, thanks to the devotedly committed playing of Bruce Levingston, an elegant musician whose playing is ever self-effacing and always at the service of the music.

This Sono Luminus elegantly packaged, well engineered and intelligently annotated release should be a welcome addition to the libraries of those who, like this writer, love great piano music in the hands of master players.

Rafael de Acha All About the Arts January 1, 2018



Mam-Luft&Co.Dance is on a steady climb, just having won a grant from The National Endowment for the Arts. Not your grandfather’s dance group, this Modern Dance ensemble always surprises with its athletic choreography and its inventiveness. See if you agree by taking in their upcoming premiere of a new work at the Aronoff that celebrates what to be an immigrant in today’s America is all about.
Tickets at

The Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra’s 123-year history is celebrated with music from some of its past seasons: Bach’s Sleepers Awake, Eugene Goosens’ Symphony No. 2, and Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 3. Sir Andrew Davis leads the orchestra, with Garrick Ohlsson as soloist.
Tickets are available at OR by phone at 513 381 3300.

UC’s College-Conservatory of Music presents a brace of sample performances by its “stars of tomorrow” in several of its performance spaces. Jazz, musical theatre, piano, opera, acting, dance, choral music and orchestral music are among the offerings. Your ticket will help the school continue to support the hopes and dreams of its students through student travel funds and scholarships. Call 513 556 6638.


MET Opera star Jamie Barton is in Cincinnati, thanks to Matinee Musicale, which is setting a new precedent, now in its 105th season by presenting one of its concerts in the evening in its new home at Memorial Hall. Ms. Barton will be singing a varied program with an emphasis on American Art Song. Tickets at (513) 977-8838

Rafael de Acha  for All About the Arts December 29, 2017




With the gradual demise of arts writing in newspapers websites and blogs are filling the void. I’ve been writing for http://www.seenandheard-international for the past three years. Every year they ask each one of us to provide a list of the highlights of the year just finishing.

Those art writers who submitted lists come from all over the world – Great Britain, New Zealand, Continental Europe…It’s with pride that I list these Cincinnati-Dayton events side by side with concerts and operas from all over the world, as my most memorable ones from a year during which I attended over 120 arts events.

Congratulations to all these fine artists that make us so proud to live and work here: Louis Langrée and the musicians of the CSO…Eckart Preu and the musicians of the CCO…the whole CCM family, including both students and faculty….Catalina Cuertvo…Gary Briggle…Kara Shay Thompson….Ran Dank…Stewart Goodyear…

BRAVI TUTTI!…/new-some-of-our-re…/


No doubt about it, for an urban area of its size, Southern Ohio has an extraordinary number of musical organizations that keep us all happily attending concerts and operas all year long. Here are my memorable musical events of the year 2017.

Cincinnati’s Music Hall reopened after an extensive renovation and much improved acoustics with a gala concert that featured the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, led by Louis Langrée, who, in a heartfelt curtain speech before Leonard Bernstein’s Overture to Candide echoed the words of that opera’s finale by expressing his and our hope ‘that this newly-built home will be a similar garden, where great music will thrive and flourish.’

Summermusik, now in its second-year summer line-up of evening concerts, chamber music afternoons and evening ‘Pub Crawls’ evidenced the talent and versatility of the musicians who make up the Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra and its dynamic new conductor, Eckart Preu. In one of the concerts Ran Dank gave a bravura performance of the Saint-Saëns Second Piano Concerto mining this leviathan’s every note for clarity rather than speed, and for quality rather than quantity of sound.

The CCM Philharmonia opened the 2017-2018 Concert Season at the University of Cincinnati’s College Conservatory of Music in the recently-renovated Patricia Corbett Theatre with a tour de force program that included Mozart’s Overture to The Magic Flute, Brahms’ Symphony No.3 in F, and Mendelssohn’s ‘Reformation’ Symphony. Many a professional orchestra would envy how this top-notch student ensemble sounds, under Mark Gibson magisterial leadership.

The story of the fatally flawed love between two giants of 20th-century art was brought to life in the Cincinnati Opera production of Frida, in which powerhouse soprano Catalina Cuervo, delivered a memorable career-defining performance.

Later on, in the Dayton Opera’s impeccably staged Gary Briggle production of Menotti’s The Consul, Kara Shay Thomson sang up a storm as the best Magda Sorel in this writer’s memory.

Stewart Goodyear played a recital as part of The Art of the Piano Festival that featured music by Bach, Gibbons, Beethoven, Ravel, and Liszt. Goodyear was awesome in technical dexterity, unfailingly musical and stylish, balancing the impulses of a warm heart with the counsel of a cool brain. The audience would not let him leave, not even after a marathon two-hour recital.



thSo, here we are with just 6 days left until Christmas, right in the middle of Hanukkah, and barely two weeks away from 2018! So, we have to stop all the decorating and gift wrapping and partying and take a moment to wish each and every one of our RafaelMusic Notes followers a blessed holiday season and a joyous, healthy and peaceful 2018 or, in other words, sana saiida… shnorhavor nor tari… urte berri on…sretna nova godina….chestita nova godina…bon any nou…malipayong bag-ong tuig….šťastný nový rok….godt nytår…gelukkig nieuwjaa… feliĉan novan jaron….head uut aastat manigong… bagong taon… onnellista uutta vuotta… gelukkig nieuwjaar….bonne année… feliz ano novo…prosit Neujahr…. kali chronia… hauoli makahiki hou…boldog új évet…. buon anno…felix sit annus novus…laimīgu Jauno gadu…. laimingų Naujųjų Metų…godt nyttår… szczęśliwego nowego Roku… feliz ano novo…la mulţi ani…С Новым Годом …Срећна Нова година…Ευτυχισμένο το νέο έτος…新年快乐….明けましておめでとうございます….새해 복 많이 받으세요……

Rafael de Acha     December 17, 2017


Sybarite-5-1-bw-hi-key-webcropSybarite5  just sent me OUTLIERS, a terrific album of contemporary music for string ensemble. After repeatedly listening here’s my rave:

Getting Home (I must be…) by Jessica Meyers begins with an ostinato figure in the lower strings, against which the upper strings introduce their own contrapuntal pattern. They combine, meld, struggle for dominance and, after a developmental section, the piece comes to an abrupt ending, as if home had finally been reached against all odds.

In Yann’s Flight by Shawn Conley, a nervous pattern insistently repeated by the viola is first countered by the string bass, and then the cello, which joins them with a melody redolent of the Argentine Pampas. A rhythmic zapateado pattern kicks in a couple of times, as if to counteract the melancholy tone of the piece that nevertheless manages to arrive at a serenely soulful ending.

Pop Rocks by Eric Byers is an intricate miniature, in which poly-rhythms playfully are set to bounce off of each other in a fascinating contrapuntal vignette.

Hitchiker’s Tales by Dan Visconti divides up into three vibrantly inventive sections: Black Bend, Dixie Twang and Pedal to the Metal, each filled with country, jazz, zydeko, bluegrass, rock and pop riffs that evoke dizzying road trips down the back roads of an America of the mind.

Revolve by Andy Akiho sets the ensemble to work double time as string players and percussionists in a whirlwind of rhythmic patterns, pizzicato, sul ponticello, downward slides, and double stops, in an intriguing miniature tour de force.

Muggadamah by Mohammed Fairouz reminds us that this composer’s talent yields music that can easily bridge the vastness that separates our musical culture from others. Its title evokes the Near East, but its sultry cadences are tonally centered, yet able to stray into moments of tonal ambiguity.

Allemande pour Tout le Monde by Kenji Bunch celebrates universal peace. with music at first solely rhythmic and then gradually melodic in a brief 21st century allemande that ends in an upbeat note of hopefulness.

Kompa for Toussaint honors the 18th century Haitian revolutionary leader, François-Dominique Toussaint Louverture. While the typical Haitian kompa is a lively afro-Caribbean dance, Daniel Bernard Roumain’s laud, at first upbeat soon turns into a heartfelt paean in honor of Haiti’s greatest national hero.

Eric Byers’ Sarabande is an homage to the 18th century dance form often used by Baroque composers to spin out long-lined melodies better suited to listening than to footwork. In this case, Byers creates an emotionally charged stasis for solo cello, gorgeously played by Laura Metcalf.

Blue Bourrée is a charming 21st century commentary on an 18th century dance in cut time by composer Michi Wiancko., as Gi-gue-ly by Ljova is an uniquely sui-generis take on the national dance of Ireland.

All in all, this remarkably original album by Sybarite5, available directly from provides a sampler of the varied music being written today for string ensemble. Sami Merdinian and Sarah Whitney, violins; Angela Pickett, viola; Laura Metcalf, cello; and Louis Levitt, bass  are the group’s members and  they are extraordinary as soloists and nothing but miraculous as an ensemble, playing their daunting repertory with  warm hearts and cool heads .

Impeccably produced and engineered by Paul Zinman, with Louis Levitt as Executive Producer, and with the support of New Music USA, the Alice M. Ditson Fund, Sybarite Chamber Players Ltd, Bright Shiny Things and many Kickstarter supporters, OUTLIERS is an indispensable addition to the library of any collector of contemporary music.

Rafael de Acha      December 18, 2017

Skylark Vocal Ensemble’s Winter’s Night


The Skylark Vocal Ensemble ( ) has added to its list of recordings, Winter’s Night, its inaugural album for the Christmas season. It is a gorgeously sung CD that contains a mix of Early and High Renaissance choral music side by side with 20th century sacred music by Hugo Distler, Herbert Howells, Pierre Villette, John Taverner, Reginald Jacques, Georges Dupuy de Meris, Peter Warlock and Elizabeth Poston.

The nearly fifty minutes of music of this perfectly engineered (by Andrew Carballeira) CD fly by, even after repeated hearings, and the well written notes by the group’s Artistic Director, Matthew Guard help guide the listener through the eighteen featured compositions.

The group is divided into four three-member sections. It is a small chamber ensemble but its sound is substantial at all dynamic levels, pure and unified, conservative in its use of the vibrato-less vocal production most often used and abused in the singing of Early Music, and yet its dozen voices are dead-on pitch, vibrant in timbre, and as proficient in the Latin of the Allegri, Nanino, Mouton and Plainchant samples, as they are in the German, French and English language selections.

The sopranos all do very fine ensemble and solo work, as evidenced by Sarah Moyer in two French-language hymns in praise of the Virgin Mother, and Jessica Petrus in the closing number by Elizabeth Poston. Mezzo-soprano delivers a lovely solo in Es ist ein Ros ensprungen.

An entire CD of this kind of music could grow tiresome in lesser hands, but track after track the hard-working artists of the Skylark Vocal Ensemble keep the listener immersed in their rich sound and musicality. both perfect for music ideally suited to a winter’s night.

Rafael de Acha