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So…what happens if you are an underage Opera hopeful and it is summer and there’s nothing happening on this side of the ocean and school is out for the summer and your voice teacher or your conducting coach is out of town? Or……….what if you are just an Opera fan and you need an additional shot of Mozart or Donizetti or Offenbach or Milhaud? For free!

Then CCM Opera Bootcamp is just what you need. For further information on enrollment stay tuned for further announcements ON THIS BLOG.

An intense and dynamic program led by Mark Gibson and Amy Johnson designed to develop career skills for conductors, singers and aspiring opera coaches. During the three-week program, students will mount a fully staged production of Don Pasquale, with Metropolitan Opera veteran and faculty mentor Vernon Hartman in the title role, as well as fully-staged with orchestra double bill of Milhaud’s Le pauvre matelot and Offenbach’s L’lle de Tulipatan, plus one program of fully-staged with orchestra scenes & arias, all with orchestra, all in original languages. All in three weeks!
Performance Schedule:
7:00 p.m. Thursday, July 26
MOZART SCENES AND ARIAS at the Cohen Family Studio Theater. Free and open to the public
7:00 p.m. Saturday, July 28
Darius Milhaud’s Le pauvre Matelot and Jacques Offenbach’s L’Ile de Tulipatan at the Cohen Family Studio Theater. Free and open to the public.
4 p.m. Sunday, July 29
Gaettano Donizetti’s DON PASQUALE in Corbett Auditorium. Free and open to the public



The Maiden from Guatemala


A family member sent me this little poem by our Cuban national poet and patriot José Martí. I had not heard or read these words in more than fifty years, but still they did not fail to move me and bring back many memories of Cuban poet and patriot José Martí and one of his most famous poems: The Maiden from Guatemala

This is a sort of homage and elegy to young María García Granados, daughter of Guatemalan president Miguel García Granados who fell in love with Martí while he was a professor at the school that she attended. The schoolgirl’s crush was unrequited, however, and Martí went away to México, to be with Carmen Zayas Bazán, a woman closer to him in age, whom he later married.

On May 10, 1878 Martí returned to Guatemala to attend the funeral of his friend’s daughter, who had died mysteriously. Her well known and unrequited love for Martí branded her as “the one who died of grief, brokenhearted.”

Following her death, Martí returned to Cuba where he later respectfully penned this poem, which I now offer in my own English translation.

Upon a wing I will let
A story of one who departed
Be told. One of a maiden I met.
She died of grief, brokenhearted

There were lilies in her casket,
There was jasmine still in bloom
Close by in a small basket,
On that dreaded day of gloom.

She gave him a gift to carry,
A sachet, when he departed.
He was going off to marry.
She died of grief, brokenhearted.

Marching in the procession,
Bringing flowers, with respect
Clergy and ambassadors followed
Solemn and circumspect.

She went to a promontory
To meet the dear one departed
He was married. He was sorry.
She died of grief, brokenhearted.

A brightly shining bronze flame
Lit her face, the day he left her.
He swore on his mother’s name
That he would never bereft her.

In a river, late one night
She was found floating, disheartened
Some said: “a chill…or a fright…”
She died of grief, brokenhearted.

Inside of the icy place
He kissed her delicate fingers,
The bier sat upon a dais,
He kissed both her silken slippers

Evening shadows descended
As one more time he departed
He’d left her weeping, abandoned.
She died of grief, brokenhearted.







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When June 1 comes around the thermometer normally lets us know that it’s summer, and with its onset the end of the fall-to-spring music season and the start of musical offerings in the hot days ahead. Both nasty daytime heat and hopefully cooler evenings can be expected in Cincinnati this year along with some great music-making. Here’s a quick look back and an ever quicker look ahead.


Cincinnati’s 140-year old Music Hall re-opened in October after an extensive renovation that spruced up the grand old venue, providing better acoustics than ever before.  Maestro Louis Langrée led a memorable concert that closed with Bernstein’s Candide Overture, with the maestro reminiscing about the show’s “Make Our Garden Grow” anthem and its implications about the future or music in Cincinnati.

Later on the refurbished Memorial Hall hosted Metropolitan Opera star Jamie Barton, who gave Matinee Musicale Cincinnati’s 105th Season (www.matineemusicalecincinnati.org) a sell-out concert in January, reminding us of what a gem this group is and what musical treasures it provides.

Sam Martin’s Cincinnati Song Initiative (www.cincinnatisonginitiative.org) then in its third season gave proof that the all-about-song group is here to stay.

Multi-tasker par excellence Ixi Chen had her concert:nova achieve its eleventh season (www.concertnova.com) as it brought us all a half-dozen cutting edge concerts, now augmented by an additional late-night series, both of which broke barriers and erased preconceptions about what concert music should be.

Jill Jantzen‘s Salon 21 (www.salon21.org) hit the ground running as Cincinnati’s newest kid on the musical block with its petite salon concerts of mostly piano music mixing classics and a hip 21st century attitude in rep.

The Dayton Opera put on the best-ever in my memory The Consul, a Gian Carlo Menotti opera tailor-made for our tempestuous times, with Karah Shay Thompson, Cindy Sadler, Tyler Alessi and Ken Shaw flawlessly cast in key roles, under the superlative direction of Gary Briggle and Patrick Reynolds perfectly pacing the Dayton Philharmonic in the pit.

And then my all-time favorite Broadway songstress, Audra McDonald flew in for a smashing concert backed up by the Cincinnati Pops.



At home but not alone I enjoyed listening and reviewing and in several instances being stunned by several great releases, two out of dozens linger in my memory. First,  the protean Rumanian pianist Matei Varga‘s CD, EARLY DEPARTED on the SONO LUMINUS label, featuring music by two of his Rumanian fellow countrymen: pianist-composers, Tudor Dumitrescu and Dinu Lipatti, augmented by Leoš Janáček‘s In the Mists.

We said goodbye to the great Russian baritone Dimitri Hvorostovsky listening to him still in top form in the title role of Rigoletto, in a Delos release, his last recording ever.


It used to be the Cincinnati Zoo Opera. It’s now out of the zoo and finally back in Music Hall, with a line-up that includes Verdi’s La Traviata, Wagner’s The Flying Dutchman, Monteverdi’s The Coronation of Poppea and a couple of contemporary operas: Another Brick on the Wall and As One. (www.CincinnatiOpera.org).

And finally the indispensable Summermusik, a nickname for the wonderfully hyperactive Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra (www.ccocincinnati.org) that this summer will again surprise and stimulate us with its assortment of pub crawls, Sunday afternoon mini-concerts and several main events, led by the energetic maestro Eckart Preu.

Music is an ephemeral art. No sooner the last note is sounded, the composition is gone. So we hold on to all thee musical memories just waiting for the next one to come and help keep us alive.

Rafael de Acha

Celebrating Five Years


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We celebrate our just concluded fifth season and look back with pride at the names of the more than thirty artists who shared their talent with a capacity audience of over four hundred at four of our concerts:
Shareese Arnold, Aubrey Berg, Melisa Bonetti, Kayleigh Decker, Emily Fink, Amy Gillingham, Luke Flood, Aaron Jacobs, Sam Krausz, Christina Lalog-Seal, Chloe LeGrand , Jesse Leong, James Meade, Allan Palacios Chan, Kim Pensyl, Alan Rafferty, Kenneth Shaw, Rick VanMatre, Eben Wagenstroom, Daniel Weeks, Christopher Wilke, Gabe Wrobel and The Young Artists Cello Ensemble
These artists – vocalists, violinists, cellists, actors, pianists – performed traditional vocal and instrumental American music, show music, opera highlights, show tunes and spoken texts and poetry, by

Leonard Bernstein, Georges Bizet, Ignacio Cervantes, Ruperto Chapí, Enrique Granados, Franz Liszt, Pablo Luna, Astor Piazzolla, Henry Purcell, Sergei Rachmaninoff, Camille Saint-Saëns, Manuel Saumell, Alessandro Scarlatti, Franz Schubert, Richard Strauss, Francisco Tárrega, Joaquín Turina, Heitor Villa-Lobos, and Richard Wagner.

Guitarist James Meade played for us Spanish guitar music in a couple of our concerts: https://youtu.be/5RPzrOEOecg
Mezzo-soprano Melisa Bonetti sang arias from Spanish zarzuelas, Bizet’s Carmen and Camille Saint-Saëns Samson and Dalila in our April concert: https://youtu.be/vc3m-rfg_y8
South African Pianist Eben Wagenstroom returned to play in two of our concerts: https://youtu.be/aJjJDc_UDmg
Soprano Shareese Arnold sang Wagner arias, Rachmaninoff songs and Spirituals in two of our concerts: https://youtu.be/oH7juk-7eFw

In December, our Silent Auction, raised thousands of dollars, as patrons bid on gifts, goods and services by
Anna VanMatre, Artist …Cincinnati Art Museum …Cincinnati Ballet…Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra…Cincinnati Nature Center…Cincinnati Opera…Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park…Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra…concert:nova…Ensemble Theatre…James Meade, Classical Guitarist…Jim Slouffman, Artist…Johannes Bjorner, Artist…Karen Tully, Contributor…Kathy Doane, Contributor…Kim Pensyl, Jazz Musician…Linda Ellis, Jewelry Designer…National Exemplar Restaurant…Rick Van Matre, Jazz Musician…Taft Museum…Tri Health Pavilion Spa…Trio Bistro… UC – College-Conservatory of Music…Nancy Stetler, Designer…Virginia Cox, Photographer

The total income of over $10,000 generated by the auction and ticket sales during this past year, went for scholarships at CCM, the College-Conservatory of Music of the University of Cincinnati.

We thank the management and board of the Peterloon Foundation, our wonderful webmaster and graphic designer Kate Hursh, and all of you, artists, audience members, donors and friends for your hard work, your generosity and your support!

Rafael and Kimberly de Acha


Dinu Lipatti, born 1917 might have possibly been the best known Rumanian pianist of his or any other generation had his career not been cut short by his untimely death at the age of 33 as a result of complications from Hodgkin Disease. Radu Lupu, born in 1945 might possibly be the most famous Rumanian pianist of his or any other generation. Tudor Dumitrescu, a pianist who lived from 1957 until his tragic death in an earthquake in his native Bucarest in 1977 was at the time of his passing another Rumanian national musical icon-to-be.


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Now the time is long overdue to make room for another master born to play in the grand manner. His name is Matei Varga and make no mistake, this artist is not yet another dazzling firebrand eagerly ready for his next interview and photo-op combo, but a deeply serious musician well in the midst of a major career.

Perhaps better known in Europe than here Varga’s playing is solid, elegant, of substance, containing gravitas, profound musicality, and rigorous musicianship. Varga’s hour-long CD, Early Departures (Sono Luminus DSL92223) is about to be released on June 29th and available for purchase as either a CD or as a digital download from http://www.sonoluminus.com

This treasure of an album is framed as a sober though not somber homage to three music giants of the 20th century linked together here by virtue of their premature encounters with death. And why J.S. Bach along with them? The brief Adagio from the Concerto in D Minor after Benedetto Marcello provides four and a half meditative minutes of reflection and repose after the four movement suite In the Mists by Leoš Janáček, the neighboring Bohemia’s national composer, who wrote it shortly after the death of his daughter

Tudor Dumitrescu, both concert pianist and composer, wrote 7 Preludes as a very personal, very introspective, heartfelt composition in which intimations of the tragedy that would befall him are palpably evident. In Varga’ splendid notes accompanying the CD, this is mentioned along with touching details about the pianist’s subsequent visits to Dimitrescu’s mother in their Bucarest apartment after her son’s death.

Dinu Lipatti is represented here by three brief pièces d’occasion most probably part of the late pianist arsenal of encores to be used at the end of his legendary recitals, one of which I still remember having attended as a six year old child in my native Havana. Listening to this music challenged one’s objectivity as it brought back a flood of happy memories.

Again, SONO LUMINUS proves to be a pioneer in the recording industry deserving of our thanks, and those thanks are also due and extended to Matei Varga for his musical explorations and his artistry.

Rafael de Acha



It’s damn near impossible to hang a label on George Antheil’s music. Or, for that matter, it’s equally difficult to hang a label on the man himself. He kept changing his artistic and personal identity as often as he (hopefully) changed his underwear.

Do I like his music? More about that later. But Antheil himself did not care for much of it, initially raising Cain to get his work performed at any cost anywhere, then dismissing most of what he had written in the first half of his checkered career as unworthy.

When they first heard Antheil’s music, many critics called it naïve, coarse, boring… But Satie, Milhaud, Copland liked, even celebrated it. Leopold Stokowski and Antal Dorati programmed it. Yet I admit to be baffled by much of Antheil’s musical output, even when all of what is included in this CD is so beautifully played by the Duo Odeon in a neatly produced and packaged debut album.

I find what I just learned today about George Antheil, the man, utterly fascinating. Antheil’s life story reads like a tell-all page turner. But then there is the musician. As a young man he learned music and piano largely all on his own. He was notorious for turning all 88 keys of the average piano that fell under his control into instruments of perniciously percussive attack on the ears of his family, neighbors and, eventually, his audiences. He lusted to have opportunities to cause riots as large as the one that had greeted the premiere of Stravinsky’s Le Sacre du Printemps, and if nothing much happened he’d pout.

In 1923 he and his future wife moved to Paris and immediately fell in with the who’s who of the European Avant-garde, first in France, then in Berlin, then in the late thirties and one step ahead of the Nazis back to NYC, then on to California where Hollywood beckoned.

De Mille and other celluloid kings liked what he wrote, so he got hired to write incidental music for two dozen films. But he was dissatisfied with the low standards of Hollywood music-making so he took his checks and high-tailed it back home to NYC. Again, was life is colorful, varied, with a man ever eager to get all he could out of life. Antheil was the proud possessor of a powerfully-creative mind unfortunately paired up to a fatal flaw Olympian ego that more than once tripped him up

I gave the CD two careful listens. I find much too much of Antheil’s music blunt, derivatively sounding like warmed up Milhaud or Honegger, minus the French flair for wit and melody. There is an attractive muscularity and lots of testosterone-driven rhythms in Antheil’s Alpha Male music, but neither sweeping lyricism, nor much cantilena of the kind one can find by spades in the works of so many of his European contemporaries. All that I  said with one major exception: the salon-flavored waltzes from Specter of the Rose, film music at its best.

For the earnest collector of modern music, this SONO LUMINUS DSL 92222 release is a must have. For the musically curious I recommend acquiring both it and a copy of Antheil’s 1945 auto-biography, The Bad Boy of Music.

And to SONO LUMINUS and the Duo Odeon, a salute for their serious explorations of forgotten corners of the repertory.

Rafael de Acha



What does it take to turn a regional American symphony orchestra into a world-class one? To venture an answer would be a fool’s errand, so suffice for us to direct your attention to the live recording of Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition here coupled to a handful of selections from Prokofiev’s 1945 Cinderella, and let you be the judge.

In this CD we hear the FWSO forces led by Peruvian-American conductor Miguel Harth-Bedoya in a live recording of a 2018 performance given in front of a capacity audience in Ft. Worth’s Bass Hall. The sound we hear in this recording, helmed by producer/engineer Brad Michel is crystal clear in the upper range, rock solid in the lower register, excellently balanced throughout.

Maestro Bedoya has been at the helm of the 106 year-old FWSO for nearly two decades, and he has lovingly guided his musicians to play flawlessly as one when needed, yet allowing each enjoyment of his or her solo turns when they come, as witness Kyle Sherman’s clarion trumpet opening riff at the top of the first Promenade in the Mussorgsky.


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The FWSO strings deliver a perfect sweet-sour Slavic sound when called upon, the woodwinds whimsically excel at the filigree work in Tuilleries, and later in Ballet of the Chicks, and the brass section produces again and again an unabashedly bright sound just right for this music. All along Bedoya refuses to shy away from the rough and ready Mussorgsky trademarks, eliciting a gutsy, quintessentially Russian sound from his players.

Bedoya and his musicians turn on a dime as they go from Mussorgsky’s 1874 composition to Prokofiev’s 1945 ballet, the latter here given in 35 minutes that clearly and chronologically tell all the loose ends of the tale about the house maid who donned glass slippers and became a princess.

Prokofiev’s neoclassical sound is spiced with mid-20th century harmonies that color his music as more pan-European than post-WWII Soviet. All well and good, since the sweetness of the Perrault fairy tale is best kept from becoming saccharine by the composer’s disciplined aesthetic and further enhanced by the kind of limpid, on your toes sound the Fort Worth forces bathe this music in.

The results are splendidly satisfying and, for this listener, this FWSO release is a keeper.

Rafael de Acha

Bold Bartók


The first movement of Béla Bartók’s Violin Concerto No. 2 is marked Allegro non troppo. All well and good, but the sudden changes of speed call for a different tempo marking, or none. This is the bold writing of a mature, 48 year old master at the top of his game requiring an equally mature interpreter, in this instance the impressive Christian Tetzlaff, with Finish maestro Hannu Lintu pacing the Finnish Radio Orchestra in a fiery, flashy, fully-developed reading.

The concerto No. 2 is moody, filled with bold flashes of color and blunt changes of tempo and dynamics. Hungarian to the core, often flirting with Serialism, as evidenced by a quip made by the composer to violinist Yehudi Menuhin when he said that he wanted to show Schoenberg, the deadly serious father of 12-tone music that he (Bartók) “…could use all 12 tones and still remain tonal.”

And tonal the work is but infused with the capriciously varied sound of the verbunkos style characteristic of the big city playing of the roving Romani bands in Bartok’s time. Add to that mix Bartók’s pan-European writing inspired by the folk music of Hungary and Romania and one gets a rich musical experience that never fails to surprise with its unpredictable twists and turns.

The CD’s other treasure is the Violin Concerto No. 1, a youthful yet not immature composition dedicated to and inspired by Hungarian violinist Stefi Geyer. Not a valentine, the concerto is rather a soulful, soul-searching musical confessional to a woman and musician with whom the composer was infatuated but one who never fully reciprocated that love.

From a deeply romantic first movement redolent of Richard Strauss and Zoltán Kodály, both of whom Bartók deeply admired, the composition moves to a tour de force of virtuoso writing in the second movement that expresses both the volatility of the relationship between Bartók and Geyer and the violinist’s protean prowess.

The two-movement concerto ends with a sense of resignation expressed in the music and in the words of Hungarian poet appended to it by the composer: “No to stars are as far apart as two human souls.”

Rafael de Acha

Bartok Violin Concertos Nos 1 and 2 Christian Tetzlaff, violin; Hannu Lintu conducting the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra ONDINE Recording live in Helsinki’s Music Centre in October, 2017. Producers: Reijo Kiilunen and Laura Hinkinheimo. Notes by David Cooper.


Sarah Kim and Alan Rafferty founded Cincinnati Young Artists in 2009. Initially they hoped to offer chamber music and cello workshops for local students.


In nine years the former fledgling organization has grown into a nationally recognized program that attracts music students from all over the country to work with CYA’s esteemed faculty that includes Tim and Catharine Lees, Kurt Sassmannshaus, Giora Schmidt, Won-Bin Yim, Sibbi Bernhardsson, Janet Sung, Rictor Noren, John T. Posadas, Debbie Price, Joyce Chan Grabell and Marion Peraza de Webb.

This year 100 students converge on CCM from June 4-9 for CYA’s Chamber Music Festival to be followed by their 9th annual Cello Workshop also at CCM.

The Chamber Music Festival Schedule highlights include the debut of violinist Giora Schmidt with CYA, joined by Artistic Director Alan Rafferty and pianist Sandra Rivers in a performance of Brahms epic Piano Trio No. 1 in B Major on June 5, 7 pm in Werner Recital Hall at CCM

On Friday June 8th, at 7 pm in Werner Recital Hall the CYA faculty will take you on an Iceland to Italy musical journey culminating in a performance of Tchaikovsky’s Souvenir de Florence.

The festival concludes with Emerging Artist performances in Werner Recital Hall or in Patricia Corbett Theater also at CCM on June 7 at 6 pm, June 8 at 7 pm, and June 9 at 10 am and 1 pm.

Tickets and information at http://www.CincinnatiYoungArtists.org




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A PREVIEW of MUSIC FOR ALL SEASONS opening concert: OCTOBER 14, 2018, 2 PM
Music from America, France and Spain
With Yaoyue Huang, James Meade, Joseph Rebman, Scott Sherman, Miriam Smith, Hayden Smith and Kimberly Daniel

The Music:

Maurice Ravel – Ma mère l’Oye (Mother Goose Suite)
Yaoyue Huang, piano Scott Sherman, piano Kimberly Daniel de Acha, Narrator
Joaquín Rodrigo – Fantasy for a Gentleman
James Meade, Guitar Scott Sherman, Piano
Marcel Grandjany – Fantasy on a theme of Haydn, Op. 31
Gabriel Fauré – Impromptu for Harp in D flat major
Joseph Rebman, Harp
Gabriel Fauré – Elegie…Papillon
Camille Saint-Saëns – The Swan…Allegro Appassionato
Miriam Smith, cello and Yaoyue Huang, piano
Erik Satie Selected Piano Pieces
Erik Satie Sports and Pastimes
Kimberly Daniel de Acha, Narrator Scott Sherman, Piano


Selections from Leonard Bernstein’s On the Town, Wonderful Town and Trouble in Tahiti
Hayden Smith, baritone


Tickets and reservations: MusicSeasons@zoomtown.com

Information: http://www.MusicSeasonsCincinnati.com