Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra – SUMMERMUSIK at the School for the Creative and Performing Arts. Soloist: Chee Yun, violin. Guest Conductor: Christopher Zimmerman.

Elgar – Introduction and Allegro for String Orchestra and Quartet

Piazzolla – The Four Seasons of Buenos Aires 

Beethoven – Symphony no. 7

The second concert of the Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra’s 2016 SUMMERMUSIK played to a loyal following last night in the Corbett Theatre of the School for the Creative and Performing Arts, featuring an Elgar rarity, Tango King Astor Piazzolla’s Four Seasons of Buenos Aires and Beethoven’s Seventh. The CCO musicians were in rare form, led by visiting conductor Christopher Zimmerman, who drew a responsive final ovation at the end of the evening. The extraordinary violinist Chee Yun was the featured soloist in Astor Piazzolla’s Argentinian homage to his native Buenos Aires.

Introduction and Allegro for String Orchestra and Quartet is a mid-career effort by that most English of English composers, Edward Elgar. Unfettered by the academic restraint of Edwardian England and pitting the sound of the full orchestra to that of a string quartet in one continuous movement, the demands on the players are extensive. CC O regulars Amy Kiradjieff, Manami White, Heidi Yenney and Patrick Binford excelled as the string quartet.

Astor Piazzolla once said: “I was always asked about melody, never about rhythm. But when I had it dawn on me that melody has to have a rhythmic backbone, then I started to enjoy the swing that is part of the tango and then I really got into jazz…mixed with the classical…” The Argentine master of the Nuevo Tango who mixes, in his own words, the classical with the popular incorporates into The Four Seasons of Buenos Aires the impolite angularity, crisscrossing melodies and blunt rhythms of a kind of popular music that reflects the moves of a dance of cool seduction and dominance. His is resolutely urban, romantic at the core music that comes from the bowels of the River Plate docks, from the bordellos and dives of Buenos Aires, a city where spring is brief, summer long, autumn melancholy, and winter is grey.

Violinist Chee Yun made a stunning impression, playing Piazzolla’s music with just the perfect Latin feel and with dazzling technical prowess, supported by Maestro Zimmerman’s assertive conducting. The string section of the CCO did especially work here, with first cello Patrick Binford an eloquent partner of Ms. Yun’s.

By the time of the composition and first performance of Beethoven’s seventh symphony, the composer was recovering from one of his frequent bouts of ill health. Yet one would never know this from this music, so optimistically melodic and resolutely positive in its dance-like rhythms that Richard Wagner was moved to call it“…the apotheosis of the dance.” Orchestrated for the typical orchestra of Beethoven’s time: 8 woodwinds, 2-to-4 brass, timpani and strings, this, of all nine of Beethoven’s symphonies sounds perfect when played by an ensemble the size and quality of the CCO.

The composition’s opening was given a stately opening by the orchestra, quickly moving into a joyfully played vivace filled with passages meant for the woodwinds to shine. Following a tad sluggish Allegretto, the lively Scherzo was led and played with as much whimsy as this listener has heard, and the final Allegro con brio was injected with the sort of energy that dares an audience not to rise to their feet with the final notes – which is precisely what happened.


Christopher Zimmerman, a candidate for the position of Music Director of the CCO evidenced finesse and keen insights into the music in the program: a vibrant Beethoven, a fiery Piazzolla, and an elegant Introduction and Allegro. This is a gifted young maestro whose qualifications will make the selection work of the CSO’s management immensely difficult.

Rafael de Acha





Franz Joseph Haydn wrote enough symphonies –about 108 survive – to earn him the title of Father of the Symphony. Reputedly a favorite of Marie Antoinette, his Symphony No. 85 in Bb Major – French only by name and one of Haydn’s six Paris symphonies – is a lively, mature work never lacking in harmonic inventiveness and rhythmic bounce, offering the CCO superb string section plenty of opportunities to shine and lots of hard work which they made sound all too easy.

Ravel, a firm believer in perspiration vs. inspiration commented on his Piano Concerto in G Major that “writing music is seventy-five percent an intellectual activity…” The composer sets the first movement in motion with the crack of a whip, marking it allegramente to indicate to both soloist and conductor that things should be kept buoyant and fleet. The haunting second movement is a slow waltz in which Ravel’s inspiration matters more than his mental acuity. It allows the piano to hold center stage for a good three minutes before gradually letting the woodwinds enter, one at a time. It is as memorable as anything in Maurice Ravel’s entire oeuvre.

Korean-American pianist Joyce Yang, a past silver medalist of the Van Cliburn Piano Competition is a formidable technician capable of taking the concerto’s opening and closing movements at breakneck speed though not at the expense of clarity or accuracy. In the middle movement she played rapturously, with a singing tone just right for the momentarily languorous nature of the composition. In the mind-boggling third movement she played with Olympian power and brilliance. Deservedly Ms. Yang brought the audience to its feet.

All of the works in the program provided plenty of opportunities for the woodwinds to share the spotlight. Rebecca Tryon and Susan Magg, flutes, John Kurokawa and Miriam Culley, clarinets, Christopher Philpotts and Lorraine Dorsey, oboes, Hugh Michie and Amy Pollard, bassoons, and Elizabeth Porter and Josh Michal, French horns, all ten of them one third of the orchestra personnel did some truly magnificent playing.

In 1942 Aaron Copland assembled Music for Movies, a concert suite of works previously composed for several films. New England Countryside from The City is a serenely evocative scene for muted solo trumpet – here impeccably played by Ashley Hall -accompanied by woodwinds. Barley Wagons from Of Mice and Men is anchored in the open chords that abound in so much of the composer’s work. Sunday Traffic whimsically depicts the denizens of a large American city heading for an out-of-town weekend by any means of transportation available. Grovers Corner takes one to Thornton Wilder’s hilltop graveyard from the second act of Our Town. Threshing Machines, also from Of Mice and Men kicks things into high gear with an incessant ostinato in the lower strings pitted against short, energetic phrases from the brass and woodwinds, a big ending delivered with panache by the CCO musicians. Five young female dancers from the College Conservatory of Music moved with nobility to Copland’s music and Andre Merighian’s majestic choreography, an apt homage to Martha Graham’s early choreographic compositions.

Ravel’s Mother Goose Suite was born as a little collection of ditties inspired by children’s fairy tales. By the time Ravel had revised it, Ma mère l’Oye became a miniature suite for the sort of chamber orchestra in which each instrumentalist is a soloist in his or her own right: a work tailor-made for the CCO. The opening Prelude sets the scene for several tableaux: storybook visions by the 17th century French fabulist Charles Perrault that include Pavane for a Sleeping Beauty, Amusements for Beauty and the Beast, Little Thumb, Laideronnette, Empress of the Pagodas and The Garden of the Fairies. The work is harmonically luscious, rich in melody, imaginative in orchestration, and wondrously evocative of the enchantment and innocence of childhood.

Daniel Meyer conducted with elegance and precision. The young maestro pays unflagging attention to details that might escape the listener when these works are played by larger ensembles. Throughout the entire evening – from the classical sobriety of the Haydn to the Gallic élan of the Ravel to the all-American bravado of the Copland dance suite- Meyer elicited committed response from the players and earned generous applause from the capacity audience.  The CCO has conceived its 2016 season as a way of testing the Cincinnati musical waters with four different conductors in a search for a permanent music director. Based on this impressive opening concert, the management and board of the CCO will have the selection work cut out for them.

It was an altogether inspired, impassioned opening performance by the CCO, one that without words and only music said much about the estimable Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra’s indispensability during and beyond the music-less dog days of summer in the Queen City

Rafael de Acha



slider-bg-15My good friend, Nathaniel “Nat” Chaikin is a visionary missionary. Not content with his intense schedule as a free-lance musician and cello instructor and member of the Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra, Nat has set out on a mission to quietly bring classical music down to the vast public that does not like it or thinks it will not like it. He is doing this, step-by-step, unpaid gig after low paying gig, dressed in jeans and a tee-shirt, often taken for a busker except that  he does not set out a tin cup.

Nat plays in places as quiet as a library or as noisy as Cincinnati’s Union Terminal, often surrounded by passersby  and inattentive children whose parents make no effort to teach them that music should be listened to quietly. But he plays on, and, as he plays, people fall silent and listen. That is the sort of minor musical miracles he can create.

Nat will play anywhere where there are a few chairs and an electrical outlet for his boombox. Nat’s mission has a name: BACH AND BOOMBOX (

Give Nathaniel Chaikin a listen. He’s one of those unassuming people who create miracles. And we all know that classical music needs some these days.