Before the music ends



Cincinnati has grown into one of the most important centers of music-making in our country, due in no small degree to the quality and quantity of its musical offerings.

Yet, when we arrived here at the end of 2009, we sensed a vacuum in some areas of the repertory. Where was the ensemble that could move comfortably from the music of the Baroque to the great works of Mozart and Haydn and on to the early Romantic masterpieces of Beethoven, Schubert and Mendelssohn?

Friends lamented in those days the temporary disappearance of the Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra, an ensemble that had been an important presence in Cincinnati during the previous two decades. Conductors had come and gone, leading it for a while and then moving on to other jobs. There was no musical director to imprint a vision and to shape the sound. Management was fatigued and burned out.

The CCO was a musical sleeping beauty waiting to be awakened and brought back to life.

A new board created a new structure, brought in new and young and savvy management. A search for a conductor was begun. Several candidates were given a concert of their own during the 2016 season. One stood out and, hands down, was the audience and musicians’ favorite: Eckart Preu, a youthful German-born conductor, now living in America.

Preu helms three ensembles: the Spokane Symphony, the Long Beach Symphony and our CCO. Urbane, multi lingual, and solidly familiar with the core symphonic repertory, he is also a champion of modern and contemporary music. In his first full season he has brought out the music of Valentin Silvestrov, Philip Glass, Hans-Peter Preu, David Bowie and Peter Maxwell Davies in Cincinnati premieres.

It has been clear to the CCO’s audience that this was the real deal: a master conductor turning a newly-assembled group of three dozen musicians into a first-class orchestral ensemble. Right from the start of the first concert, the opening bars of the Mendelssohn Scottish Symphony evidenced a new sound coming from the CCO. There was clarity, cohesiveness, razor-sharp articulation.

But beyond technical prowess there was also impassioned music-making, something that is developed in the intellectual and emotional give and take of making music with like-minded artists.

Cincinnati is enchanted with its new orchestra and its young maestro that shows an affinity for good music of all ages. We now have to support it.

The CCO’s 2017 season will have ended with a note of rejoicing this coming Saturday, August 26. Some of that will surely come from Beethoven’s happiest of compositions, his Symphony No. 8 in F Major. Much of it will come from the energetic commitment of three dozen players and a conductor that in the course of one season have earned by virtue of their talent and hard work an indispensable position in the fabric of music in Cincinnati.

I post this a full week ahead of the final concert of Summermusik 2017 in the hope that the event will see a full theatre with a bottom on every seat!

The Queen City has added a new musical diadem to its crown. It’s up to us now to see the Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra live and thrive.

Rafael de Acha     All About the Arts

Music for All Seasons

th2 Now in its fourth year, Music for All Seasons presents four concerts every year. Concerts are given on Sundays at 2 p.m. in Peterloon Estate, at 8605 Hopewell Road in the village of Indian Hill.

th1 Peterloon’s expansive living room provides a perfect intimate venue for the concerts of Music for All Seasons. Originally sited on 1,200 wooded acres in Indian Hill, the house was built in 1928 to rival the grandest houses of America and Europe.

South of the Border                   October 8th 2017 at 2 pm


unspecified-72 The Cello Ensemble from the Studio of Allan Rafferty  is made up of winners of the Junior Division Gold Medal of the Fischoff Chamber Music Competition and other national music competitions, and also soloists with the Cincinnati Symphony and other orchestras. Besides his position at CCM, Alan is a member of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. He and his wife, cellist Sarah Kim, are founders and directors of the nationally recognized Cincinnati Young Artists ( In 2016, they were named the 2016 Ohio String Teachers Association Studio Teachers of the Year.

eb6ced_7a7a51cb37c749379cb26ed43fb7cadb Kayleigh Decker, Mezzo Soprano continues her work on an Artist Diploma at CCM, having sung in Cincinnati the roles of Peggy in Shalimar the Clown, the Fox in The Little Prince, the Fox (another one!) in The Cunning Little Vixen, and Idamante in Idomeneo. She was an Encouragement award winner in the Cincinnati District Metropolitan Opera Auditions and recently made her debut with the Glimmerglass Opera Festival. (                                                                                     Here she sings Hugo Wolf’s Kennst du das Land:

jesse Jesse Leong, Piano  just worked as Assistant Conductor at the Glimmerglass Opera, Jesse has been Associate Music Director of the Queen City Chamber Opera, Conducting Fellow at Opera Saratoga, Resident Pianist at Opera Pittsburgh, Studio Pianist and Conductor with the Wagner Society of Cincinnati, and is currently a Graduate Assistant at CCM’s Orchestral Studies and Opera Departments.( )

CHLOE LEGRAND Chloe LeGrand, Soprano is a recent member of the Cincinnati May Festival choir. While a student at the University of Louisville, she was the featured soloist in Mozart’s Vesperae solennes de confessore. An accomplished professional bluegrass musician, she was a founding member of the Blue Belles bluegrass band.  She is now working on a Master’s degree at CCM.

401000_jjnpsdqvjm6wlycd74hv James Meade, Guitar began his concert career in 2013 and has since given concerts in America and Europe. His CD, Canción will be available for purchase in the lobby after the concert. It was praised in our blog for its impeccable musicianship, profound musicality and a complete technical command of his instrument. ( ) Here he plays Francisco Tárrega’s Recuerdos de la Alhambra:

untitled Daniel Weeks, Tenor is a member of the Voice Faculty at the College-Conservatory of Music, Daniel Weeks continues a career encompassing opera, concert, solo recitals, and recordings, having appeared with the Houston, Dallas, Cincinnati, Indianapolis, Memphis and Louisville Symphony Orchestras and the Cincinnati Opera. He is represented by DISPEKER ARTISTS MGT, NYC.(                         Here he sings Franz Liszt’s O, quand je dors:

th Eben Wagenstroom, Piano graduated from the National Conservatory of Music in Johannesburg, South Africa, his native country, with a Bachelor’s degree in Piano. He is now a student of Professor Dror Biran, working on a Master’s degree in Piano Performance at the University of Cincinnati, College Conservatory of Music, where he plans to continue to pursue a DMA degree. Here he plays the Etude – Tableau in E-Flat Major, by Sergei Rachmaninoff:


Francisco Tárrega (1852-1909), the greatest guitarist virtuoso that Spain ever produced, concertized widely as a soloist and wrote extensively for his instrument.

Danza Mora (Moorish Dance)
Recuerdos de la Alhambra (Memories of the Alhambra)
Estudio Brillante (Brilliant Etude)

James Meade, Guitar

Enrique Granados (1867-1916), a virtuoso concert pianist in his own right assured a place for Spanish vocal music in the international concert repertoire with his Tonadillas.

Amor y Odio (Love and Hatred)
El Majo Tímido (The Timid Beau)
La maja de Goya (The Maja of Goya)
El Tra-la-la y el Punteado (La, la, la and so on…)
El Mirar de la Maja (The way she looks)
El Majo Discreto (The Discreet Beau)

Kayleigh Decker, Mezzo-soprano              James Meade, guitar

Joaquín Turina (1882-1949) wrote hundreds of compositions for piano, voice and orchestra, helping to gain a special place for Spanish music along with his friend, Enrique Granados.

Poema en forma de canciones (Poem in the form of songs)
Dedicatoria (Dedicatory) – Piano solo
Nunca olvidaré (I will never forget)
Cantares (Songs)
Los dos miedos (Two Fears)
Las locas por amor (Mad for love)

Daniel Weeks, Tenor        Jesse Leong, Piano

Ignacio Cervantes (1847-1905) wrote short but technically complex musical vignettes, giving each its own title and setting many of them to the dance rhythms of 19th century Cuba.

Improvisada (Improvised)
Ilusiones Perdidas (Lost Illusions)
Homenaje (Tribute)
Los tres golpes (Three Knocks at the Door)
Adiós a Cuba (Goodbye, Cuba)
Amistad (Friendship)
Cri Cri (Rustling Petticoats)
Duchas frías (Cold Showers)
Picotazos (Pecking)
¿Por qué?¿eh? (Why? Huh?)

Eben Wagenstrom, Piano

Astor Piazzolla (1921-1992) revolutionized the traditional Argentine tango by creating the nuevo tango, a blend of classical, jazz and Argentine music.

The Four Seasons of Buenos Aires

James Meade, guitar

Heitor Villalobos (1887-1959), Brazil’s greatest composer of concert music, wrote the Bachianas Brasileiras, a set of orchestral pieces blending 18th century counterpoint and Brazilian melody.

Bachiana Brasileira no. 1

Bachiana Brasileira no. 5

Chloe LeGrand , Soprano           The Cello Ensemble from the Studio of Allan Rafferty


All proceeds from ticket sales are donated to the Scholarship Fund of the College-Conservatory of Music of the University of Cincinnati. For tickets contact us by email at and or by mail at Music Seasons, PO Box 43172, Cincinnati, Ohio 45243. Visit us on Facebook at Music for all Seasons Cincinnati and on line at


The art of Danish-American painter Johannes Bjorner will be on view throughout the house before the concert, during intermission and after the concert.

Born in Denmark in 1939, at the beginning of WWI, Johannes Bjorner’s favorite toys were pencils and crayons, paper was procured by pulling the Blanc pages out of books. After the end of WWII his family immigrated to Argentina, where Johannes won his school’s competition in drawing.

In 1960 he returned to Denmark where he completed a study in Electrical Engineering. He then moved to the US in 1966. In the early 1970’s he began taking evening art classes at Boston College of Art and at the Massachusetts Museum School, also participating in numerous art workshops. Until his retirement from Engineering, he exhibited his paintings at weekend art festivals throughout New England, winning several prizes. He began exhibiting his Paintings at art galleries in Denmark, Sweden and Spain.

Over the years, Bjorner’s style and use of media have evolved from watercolor landscapes and portraits to painting influenced by American and European abstract painters. His paintings are in collections in The US, Europe, Argentina and Australia.

This exhibit at Peterloon, part of the Music for all Seasons 2017-2018 will be Bjorner’s first exhibit in Cincinnati. The artist feels that there is a strong link between music and visual art, as he usually paints while listening to classical music.

 Rafael de Acha  All About the Arts

A Satisfying Musical Banquet


As the Republic of Venice rose to a place of great power and wealth in the 16th and 17th centuries, the “City of Canals” became a harbor for music. This weekend Cincinnati became a haven for Baroque music, thanks to the Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra’s Venetian Madcap Musica, the third concert of Summermusik 2017.

With the CCO’s strings delicately spinning out the melancholy central melody of this familiar staple, Maestro Eckart Preu gently coaxed a seamless legato from his musicians, as Saturday evening’s concert opened with Tomaso Albinoni’s Adagio in G Minor. It was a mesmerizing start to a memorable evening.

Giovanni Gabrieli’s Canzon quarta was conceived to be played by two diverse groups of instruments in the huge nave of Venice’s St. Mark Cathedral. The CCO brass demonstrated this could be done today without having to fly to Venice, as they played from opposite sides of the SPCA Corbett Theater balcony, summoning a sound both mellow and brilliant that perfectly suited Gabrieli’s three-centuries old, three-minute work.

Claudio Monteverdi’s L’Orfeo tells a tale from Greek Antiquity about the young musician who goes to Hades and back in search of his beloved Euridice. The Sinfonie and Ritornelli in Monteverdi’s opera serve as connecting tissue between scenes and acts, and Eckart Preu fine-tuned the CCO strings by all but eliminating any vibrato, providing an opportunity for the orchestra to give life to centuries-old music that ranges from exultant to tragic.

Sold to a Dutch publisher in order to earn income from its sale and thus supplement his meager wages as a music teacher in Venice’s Ospedale della Pietà, Antonio Vivaldi composed L’Estro armonico as a celebration of life, which is ever-present in his Concerto No. 3 in G Major. This brief gem was lovingly performed with concert mistress, Janet Carpenter, masterfully honoring Vivaldi’s demanding composition.

Following intermission, and before leading the CCO’s strings in an emotionally charged performance of the fourth movement of Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 5, Maestro Preu humorously explained his reasons for mixing Mahler and Monteverdi in the same concert: Mahler’s Adagietto figured prominently in Visconti’s film, Death in Venice.

Igor Stravinsky adapted music by two Domenicos (Scarlatti and Cimarosa) in his ballet Pulcinella, which Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes premiered in Paris, in 1920. The story tells of the amorous adventures of several characters from the popular Italian Commedia dell’ Arte. The music is a curious mix of Italian Baroque with the asperities of Stravinsky’s 20th century sensibility.

Inspired by Picasso, who designed the original set for Diaghilev’s ballet, Cincinnati’s Madcap Puppets created life-size characters for five actor-puppeteers who impersonated Pimpinella, Pulcinella, Fiorindo, Rosetta, and Dottore, telling the story in dance and mime to Stravinsky’s eight-movement suite. It was a delightful nightcap to the evening’s musical banquet, again displaying the versatility of the CCO’s musicians and its gifted Maestro.

The music continued on Sunday, August 20, with two back-to-back all-Baroque concerts at The Barn, which will be reviewed separately. Stay tuned, there’s more to come.

Rafael de Acha All About the Arts.

Portions of this review will be included in an end-of-season overview of the Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra’s 2017 Summermusik to be published by

The details:
Cincinnati: August 19, 2017 SCPA Mayerson Theatre
Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra. Summermusik 2017
Eckart Preu, Music Director
Madcap Puppets, Puppetry
Venetian Madcap Musica
Tomaso Albinoni – Adagio in G Minor
Giovanni Gabrieli – Canzon per Sonar a Quattro, Canzon Quarta, Ch. 189
Claudio Monteverdi – Sinfonie and Ritornelli from L’Orfeo
Antonio Vivaldi – L’estro armonico, Op. 3, Concerto No. 3 in G Major
Gustav Mahler – From Symphony No. 5 – Fourth Movement
Igor Stravinsky – Pulcinella Suite

Beatriz Boizán plays with Pasión

maxresdefaultBeatriz Boizán plays with Pasión

Pasión is the right title for the debut CD of pianist Beatriz Boizán, a young keyboard artist who plays with genuine passion and utmost musical intelligence seventeen compositions by Spanish and Latin American composers.

Insightfully annotated by the artist herself, the CD is neatly packaged and nicely engineered.

The composers and styles represented in this CD span three centuries and as many countries.

From Spain, Ms. Boizán offers two sonatas by the Spanish priest and composer Antonio Soler, whose late-Baroque/early-Classical compositions for the harpsichord evidence an amalgam of influences from Bach to Mozart, distilled into a quintessentially Spanish sound.

The young Cuban-Canadian pianist Beatriz Boizán plays the music of Father Soler with utmost elegance and sobriety.

It is very appropriate to program in this CD six Cuban Danzas. The pianist mines all the languor and island flavor contained in these miniatures that the 19th century Cuban composer Ignacio Cervantes penned during the five years he lived and concertized in Paris.

Accenting where accents belong, syncopating when syncopation is needed, letting go when emotion is called for, and never wallowing in salon sentimentality, Beatriz Boizán’s understanding of the spirit and style of this masterful miniaturist is simply perfect.

Isaac Albeniz’ music challenges most pianists in both anticipated and unexpected ways. The technical hurdles are surely there, but that’s just the half of it.

Having lived and composed during an era in which the Romanticism of the 19th century was quickly giving elbow room to the new sonorities of Debussy, Albeniz was making the French master’s harmonic explorations very much his own. Understanding the importance of subtlety, Ms. Boizán delivers a chiaroscuro interpretation of Evocación and El Puerto then unabashedly takes on the high drama of Corpus Christi en Sevilla with vigor and spirituality.

If there is any doubt left as to this pianist’s chameleonic capability of transforming her playing from composer to composer, let one sit and take in the three dances by Antonio Ginastera towards the end of the CD.

Our artist can summon uncanny agility in Danza del Viejo Boyero, melancholia in Danza de la Moza Donosa and uncommon raw energy in Danza del Gaucho Matrero, all the while being in complete control of the Argentine composer’s propensity for bitonality and tricky changing rhythms.

Ernesto Lecuona is without doubt Cuba’s most famous composer. Even if one does not at once remember his name, the titles of some of his compositions will surely jug one’s memory: three Lecuona evergreens featured in Ms. Boizán’s album.

At the end of the CD, Beatriz Boizán returns to the sounds that all of us Cubans carry as part of our musical DNA, performing Lecuona’s Malagueña with uncanny abandon and primal Cuban pasión.

It is a stunning ending to a debut album by a young artist about whom we ought to be hearing much good very soon.

Rafael de Acha All About the Arts

The essentials:
Beatriz Boizán, piano
Produced, recorded and mixed by Su Goldberg for Galano Records
Available directly from the artist at

The gentlest and oldest of instruments



Clare Callahan, whom it would be fair to call The Mother of Guitar Instruction in our fair City just sent us a “Classical Guitar Aficionado” newsletter.

We hope that other blogs will pick up the good news therein and spread the good word, as the letter/newsletter covers everything being plucked or strummed this side of the Ohio River over in these parts and Indiana plus a good deal of Kentucky happenings.

And, one more thing, we are grateful that Clare is still in the teaching trenches at CCM after all these years.

Here’s the essential information:

Cincinnati Guitar Society ( …
… has three gigs lined up all at St. John’s Unitarian Church, all on Saturdays (evenings, I assume):
September 23 – Jeremy Bass (
October 21 – Richard Goering (
December 9 – Jeremy Collins ( )


Here he is, playing his own Meditation: (

Christopher Wilke’s Caladrian Ensemble ( presents the Pittoni Theorbo Duo on Saturday November 18th. Where and when TBA…

Music for All Seasons at Historic Peterloon
( will have James Meade

401000_jjnpsdqvjm6wlycd74hv  ( on Sunday October 8th at 2 pm., playing Astor Piazzolla’s Four Seasons of Buenos Aires and Francisco Tárrega’s Danza Mora, Marieta, Estudio Brillante and Recuerdos de la Alhambra, which you can listen to here: ( .

It is impossible to avoid conflicts of scheduling, what with so much that goes on in Cincinnati! In fairness we should mention that Oscar Ghiglia will be playing his annual concert at CCM that same afternoon.

Here’s hoping that CCM can see its way clear to putting Mr. Ghiglia on stage anytime after 4 pm. That will allow guitar aficionados to travel from the Peterloon Estate in Indian Hill to CCM in Clifton after the end of the Music for All Seasons concert (around 3:30 pm) without risking a speeding ticket.

There is more, much more in the way of guitar music in Cincinnati and beyond. Much of it is a direct result of Clare Callahan’s advocacy on behalf of the gentlest and oldest of instruments.

Rafael de Acha




As Summermusik winds down this year’s 5-week Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra summer season there is no down time before the regular fall-winter-spring line up of musical events kicks in.

Things musical around town might appear a little sparse to our readers this early in the game, but I don’t plan the seasons of our many musical organizations…I just follow them.

The one shining exception to that is CCM, which always gets up to a fast start in tandem with the start of its school year.

This is our first MONTHLY HIGHLIGHTS – a feature that will appear on my blog from here on out.

Not all of the events listed here are free-admission. To avoid surprises let me suggest that our readers check with the various box offices.

CCM’s telephone number 513-556-4183 can be used to purchase tickets.

Please note that most if not all CCM events this coming season will take place in either the Patricia Corbett Theatre (musicals, ballet, opera) and in the Robert J. Werner Recital Hall, while the Corbett Auditorium undergoes some major renovations.

Also, word to the wise: space constraints prevent us from listing all of the hundreds or concerts, recitals, ballets, operas, musicals and plays offered by CCM and other musical organizations in Cincinnati.

By calling this blog feature Monthly Highlights I put forward the notion that this is merely a subjective selection of events that are so exceptional as to merit our singling them out.

For a complete overview of musical offerings, it is best to go to the various websites of each arts organization.

  • Our datebook shows Sunday September 3 as our first date with music this month.  Pianist Soyeon Kate Lee will be performing two works at 4 pm: Schumann’s Carnival and Davidbundlertanze.


Here is Ms. Lee playing the entire Carnival

  • The CCM Philharmonia focuses for the rest of this year on the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation. The series is titled Faith, Doubt and Reason and it begins on Friday September 8 at 8 pm with Mark Gibson, the Philharmonia’s protean music director and conductor, pacing the orchestra in Mozart’s Overture to The Magic Flute, Brahms’ Symphony No, 3 in F Major and Mendelssohn’s Symphony No. 5 in D Minor, “Reformation”


On Monday September 11 at 8 pm, Maestro Gibson and fellow faculty member and pianist Marie France Lefebvre join up in a duo piano recital that will feature the Symphonic Dances of Sergei Rachmaninoff and Brahms’ F Minor Sonata for two pianos.


On Friday September 15 at 8 pm, CCM’s Concert Orchestra will be led by Maestro Aik Khai Pung in Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakoff’s tone poem, Scheherezade and Cesar Franck’s fantastical thriller-set-to-music The Accursed Hunter (Le Chausseur Maudit), sure to give the orchestra’s brass section a workout.

Listen here to Riccardo Muti and the Philadelphians spooking us:


Whatever tenor Daniel Weeks chooses to sing in his solo recital on Monday September 8 at 8 pm our readers should rest assured the singing will be glorious, the selections interesting and the accompaniment by accompanist par excellence Donna Loewy spot on.



On Tuesday September 26 at 8 pm, the essays 12 Microludes for String Quartet by the Hungarian experimentalist György Kurtág, whose music may baffle but never bore the traditionalists coming to hear the Beethoven and Schumann quartets in the first half of the program.

Have a listen:


Sunday September 23, at 7:30 pm Cincinnati Song Initiative presents an all-French concert of art songs by Poulenc, Milhaud, Honegger and Auric. Kenneth Griffiths curates and paces the event with vocalists Simon Barrad, Erin Keesy, Lauren McAllister, and pianists Ksenia Polstiankina Barrad and Ahyoung Jung. Admission: $21.99.

For more information visit CSI’s website:

The event will happen at Willis Music Steinway Gallery, on the downstairs level of the Kenwood Galleria, 8118 Montgomery Road (best to enter the parking lot it shares with TGI Friday’s from its side entrance on Hosbrook Road).

Rafael de Acha

All About the Arts





Yuri Liberzon’s ¡Acentuado!

IuntitledTell me what’s there not to love about self-produced CD’s

Our fondness for self-produced CD’s has its roots in our respect and admiration for musician-entrepreneurs who have the initiative to take matters in their own hands and get their music “out there.”

Many of these artists do so without representation and without the help of record companies. They do so not depending on an industry that is gradually fading from the picture.

All I wish for these enterprising young artists is for them to sell lots and lots of CD’s whenever and wherever they play a gig.

I hope and pray that they don’t get stuck with boxes of unsold CD’s in their attics or basements, something unlikely to happen anyway, since most musicians live in urban spaces that have neither attics nor basements (unless they happen to live in their parents’ house.)

But I digress.

Yuri Liberzon has already produced a debut CD, which I reviewed and raved about last January on my blog. The Russian-born, naturalized American guitarist does not sit on his laurels, for less than a year later he is out with his fresh off the press ¡Acentuado!

Note that inverted Spanish exclamation mark ¡  It hints about the emphatically emotional quality of our artist and the music on this CD, whose title means “accented.”

This is not a calling card debut album with a bit of this and a bit of that, but rather an in-depth sampler of the music of Nuevo Tango Master Astor Piazolla.

What makes an old dance form born well over a century ago in the dives and digs of Buenos Aires “nuevo” (Spanish for new) is essentially the lifetime labor of the late Astor Piazolla.  This kind of tango is not for dancing but for sitting and having a drink with someone you like or love or both and talking and maybe crying and reminiscing and laughing a little and making love.

Cuban guitarist Manuel Barrueco gave Liberzon six pieces originally conceived for solo flute by Piazzolla and adapted by Barrueco for solo guitar. The set of six studies bear French titles, translated here as Decidedly, Anxiously and Freely, Very Markedly and Energetically, Slow and Meditatively, Without Indication, and Anxiously.

In case the reader wonders how our guitarist would want to or could even play “anxiously” and not make a mess of the music let me suggest you buy the CD to dispel any doubts as to the “duende” of Yuri Liberzon. As a teaser, check out Liberzon’s website: There you shall find links to a couple of this album’s tracks and, what’s better, you’ll be able to order an MP3 download of it or, better, a hard copy.

But beyond musicality (what one does to the music) and musicianship (what one must have in order to do anything to the music) and technique (without which you better get a day job and forget about the music), there must be that which the Spaniards call “duende.”

Call it magic, passion, fire, expressiveness – it is in Spain the term for playing with fire in the belly. Liberzon has that. In spades.

In the 7th, 8th, 9th and 10th tracks, the guitarist sets out to tell Piazzolla’s four-movement History of the Tango and its journey from a 1900 River Plate bordello to a slightly tonier 1930’s Buenos Aires café to a trendy 1960’s nightclub to a dressed up concert of today in which the humbly-born tango is finally welcomed in polite society without losing any of its syncopated backbone.

Flautist Josué Casillas makes a very fine contribution to the album, bringing purely solid technique, a lovely singing tone and a keen flair for the down-home soul of the tango. I hope these two guys can get together again on some of the Bach sonatas for flute and guitar plus some other Baroque beauties.

Here’s wishing Yuri Liberzon many gigs, many sales of his CD and also here’s hoping for a third and upcoming CD in collaboration with his flautist friend.

Rafael de Acha

All About the Arts

Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco Piano Works


Just like Arnold Schoenberg before him and Igor Stravinsky around the same time, the Italian composer Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco fled Europe in 1939.

Mussolini’s new racial laws were endangering Italians of Jewish heritage and Tedesco left behind his beloved Italy and found with the help of Arturo Toscanini the much needed sponsorship to migrate to the United States.

Hollywood in the 1940’s was producing hundreds of films each year, each one needing film scoring. There he became one of 12,000 men and women employed by Metro Goldwyn Mayer, and there he made his living by composing over 200 film scores throughout the war years. In 1946 he chose to become an American citizen, and he and his family chose to remain in the United States.

By the time of his death in 1968, Castelnuovo-Tedesco was a respected and prolific composer, whose works were commissioned and premiered by the likes of Piatigorsky, Heifetz, Toscanini, and Segovia.

Italian pianist Alfonso Soldano has dedicated years to researching, studying and performing the piano music of Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco. The results of his labors can be enjoyed in his new album, Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco Piano Works (Divine Art 25152).

Nicely packaged by Divine Art’s Stephen Sutton, splendidly engineered by Christian Ugenti, intelligently annotated by Attilio Cantore and, most important, played to perfection by Alfonso Soldano on a Steinway concert grand piano, the recording was made over two months in the Concert Hall of the European Arts Academy “Aldo Ciccolini” in Trani, Italy, the album is a gem.

A member of the generation that followed Italian composers, Otorino Respighi, Ildebrando Pizzeti and Alfredo Casella, Castelnuovo-Tedesco rejected the artistic tendencies that influenced many European musicians coming of age in the 1920’s, choosing instead his own eclectic path, resolutely embracing tonality, disavowing the atonal and serial, and identifying most closely with the literary and poetic sources that inspire his music again and again in a sui generis fashion all his own.

Listening to each of the 16 tracks in this CD – roughly one hour and fifteen minutes of music – one cannot help but marvel at the variety of moods in this ever-changing music. Some of the titles give away at once the ideas behind the music: Notturno in Hollywood (Hollywood Nocturne), Alt Wien Rapsodia Viennese (Old Vienna – A Viennese Rhapsody), Vitalba e Biancospino, fiaba silvana (Vitalba and Biancospino, a sylvan fable), Cielo di Settembre (September Sky).

In Sonatina Zoologica (Zoological Sonatina) the music apes, mocks and celebrates the quirky movements of dragonflies, the stasis of snails, the suddenness of lizards, and the industriousness of ants. It is all done with delicate humor and not a trace of coyness.

Film Etudes, Op. 67 salutes Charlie Chaplin with wistful melancholy and gives Mickey Mouse a friendly high-five. In the five tracks of the Neapolitan Rhapsody that joyously brings the CD to its closing, the composer takes five Neapolitan Folk melodies and elevates them to the level of concert material.

Whatever the mood, whichever technical hurdles need to be met, no matter how esoteric the material, Alfonso Soldano proves himself a masterful interpreter of this music, managing to both respect the composer’s wishes and imprint the music with his own individuality.

One need only note the touch of turn of the century Viennese Schlag with which he freely lingers on the second or third beat of the waltz tempo in Old Viena on the second track. Note by contrast the amplitude and judicious pedaling he brings to the Canticle of St. Bernard, and the light touch, agility and humor he dispenses on Zoological Sonatina.

Alfonso Soldano is a pianist of the first order and his Castelnuovo-Tedesco album a thing to treasure.

Rafael de Acha                                                                                                
All About the Arts

The essential information:

(Divine Art 25152).







Divine Art is a record company that, rather than trying to be all things to all people, focuses its efforts instead on creating very special things for some people. For devotees of the rare, the neglected, the obscure and the unusual in recorded music Stephen Sutton’s Divine Art is the go-to one of a kind music boutique. One need go no further than their on-line catalogue ( and perusing its hundreds of titles, many showing composers one might or might not recall from one’s dreaded days in Music 101 in college.

Cases in point: Alfred Jaëll…Theodore Leschitizky…Even the name of Sigismund Thalberg sent us running to our Grove’s Dictionary of Music in order to jug one’s fading memory bank. Ah, yes! The big rival of Liszt’s!

Were it not for the larger than life musical labor of love of Scottish pianist Andrew Wright this album would have not been made. But love is not only what is at play in this CD (dda25153) but, rather, the pianistic prowess and large scale musicianship of Mr. Wright, who (begging the reader’s forgiveness for the pun) is simply the right artist for this job.

Through 67 minutes plus and nine tracks of 19th century piano music, Andrew Wright dazzles with his command and conquest of the pianistic mine fields of Liszt’s Fantasy on Themes from Wagner’s Rienzi or the endurance test Thalberg creates for the pianist in the fifteen-minute fantasy on Rossini’s Dal tuo stellato soglio, from Moses in Egypt.

The demands this repertory places on technical wizardry, including interlocking and alternating and cross-voicing from hand to hand, extended passages using massive octaves, unending arpeggios, and its call for the stamina of a sportsman are beyond the reach of any but the most valiant of pianists. Mr. Wright is one such keyboard artist.

In Wright’s own transcriptions of Bellini’s Col sorriso d’innocenza from Il Pirata, and in his Miserere, after Verdi’s from Il Trovatore, the piano not merely imitates the technical accomplishments of the great singers of these composers’ times, but inventively evokes the legendary agility, the legato singing and the bravura abandon of Patti and Malibran and Grisi and Viardot.

I asked myself: if I were not familiar with some of the music that inspires these works, would I respond in the same way to more familiar stuff?

I ventured an answer as I listened to Meyerbeer’s riff on his own Robert, toi que j’aime from Robert, le Diable. The lyricism is there and, yes, the piano version absolutely satisfied me and then re-directed me to enjoy once more a familiar piece of music. Altogether a musical win-win proposition, I dare say.

Is this Salon or Concert music? Or can it not have the same function and fulfill expectations in both musical milieus? Can we listen past the technical challenges or are they the only thing by which we measure these compositions?

These fantasies and paraphrases and reminiscences were conceived by Chopin and Liszt and Meyerbeer in the 19th Century – an era during which the salon played as important a part in musical life as the recital or concert hall. Any good music was good music back then and this music is good enough for me wherever it may be played.

Oh, how I wish to God it would get more play in the stultified concert venues of today, where the repertory encompasses just about everything from A to B and little else.

In an age in which the “intellectualization” of concert programs (in Mr. Wright’s choice of words) has subjected the concertgoer to many hours of numbing sameness, these musical tours of strength provide entertainment and solace. Our artist’s website (, his insightfully researched liner notes, and his sound cloud ( evidence that this extraordinary artist has made it a lifetime mission to unearth and cultivate this repertory.

Heartfelt thanks are due him.

Since the good people at Divine Art sent this CD on to us for reviewing I have played it over several times. And neither one of my two cats has left the room.

Rafael de Acha                All About the Arts



With all the excitement and anticipation of the upcoming solar eclipse, Celestial Voyage, the second concert of the Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra’s 2017 Summermusik, could not have been more fitting, taking the audience on an inter-planetary musical journey that began in the 17th century and ended in ours, with “Captain” Eckart Preu guiding the spaceship.

The evening opened with Le Chaos, an excerpt from Jean-Féry Rebel’s ballet Les Elements.  The composer, a favorite of Louis XIV—the Sun King—depicts the random disorganization of the four primordial elements, water, fire, air and earth, at the time of the creation of the world.

The massive cluster chord that begins the composition, and the tonally ambiguous section that follows, might just be the first instance of cacophony in the history of European music.  After that initial stunner, the music gradually moves into a consonant section in which the strings and woodwinds vie for the task of amicably settling their harmonic dispute.  The CCO performed this elegant piece with Eckart Preu conducting at the harpsichord.


Johannes Kepler, a German 16th century astronomer investigated the movement of five of the then-known planets in their journey around the Sun.  In Kepler’s Cosmos, composer Hans-Peter Preu vividly portrays the comings and goings of his discovery, by assigning five section leaders to play various solos. The solo violin that supposedly represents us anchors the planetary activity with its music.

Concertmaster Amy Kiradjieff, oboist Chris Philpotts, clarinetist John Kurokawa, bassoonist Hugh Michie, hornist Tom Sherwood, and trumpeter Ashley Hall gamely rotated around the audience and stage, as they embodied Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, and Jupiter.  The inherent theatricality of this world premiere was aided by pre-recorded electronic sounds and projections, giving this unusual work an eloquent performance.

Up in Elysium, Camille Saint-Saëns must have been delighted with pianist Ran Dank’s bravura playing of his Piano Concerto No. 2 in G Minor.  The snarky old quip, “It starts like Bach and ends like Offenbach,” has failed to mar the reputation of this formidable masterpiece.

The concerto is structured in three movements: an opening andante, a delicate scherzo, and a finale which is often played at warp speed, in order to show off technical virtuosity, even at the expense of risking a speeding ticket for lack of musicality.


Pianist Ran Dank gave a masterful performance of this Leviathan of a work, mining every note for clarity, not speed, and for quality, not quantity of sound, supported by Maestro Preu’s deft conducting, and exciting ensemble work from the CCO, which ended the first portion of the evening.

Whatever narrative one may attach to Mozart’s Jupiter Symphony must be consonant with the actual sound of its joyous music. The composer was having his share of financial and familial vicissitudes when he wrote this composition, but the music, mostly in the “happy” key of C Major, travels through four movements without a trace of disquiet. Eckart Preu and the CCO were surely born to conduct and play Mozart, giving the Jupiter a crisp and elegant performance, with particularly fine filigreed playing from the woodwinds and horns.

Up in Musicians’ Paradise, David Bowie, was keeping Jean-Féry Rebel, Mozart and good old Camille Saint-Saëns entertained. From his cloud on high, he must have gotten a kick out of hearing Scot Woolley’s nifty arrangement of his Space Oddity.

Preu, seated at an electric keyboard, led his players in a cool, idiomatic reading.

And, to round out our musical visit to outer space, Star Gazer’s co-host, Dean Regas, from the Cincinnati Observatory, took us on an insightful journey, giving us enthusiastic insights into the planets, and whetting our appetites for the upcoming solar event–even bringing along two telescopes, to allow everyone leaving the hall to take a close look at Saturn, which was clearly visible in all its glory.


It is also worth noting that the Cincinnati Observatory, housing one of the world’s oldest working telescopes, was the first observatory in the western hemisphere.

It was an upbeat ending to the second of four Summermusik concerts by the Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra and Music Director, Eckart Preu.

Next week, we’ll be taking a trip to Venice.  Please hop on board.

Rafael de Acha                               All About the Arts

Portions of this review, in addition to two other upcoming ones will be included in an end-of-season overview of the Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra’s 2017 Summermusik to be published on

The details:

Cincinnati: August 12, 2017 SCPA Mayerson Theatre Cincinnati Chamber Orhestra.  Summermusik 2017 Eckart Preu, Music Director

Jean-Fery Rebel – Le Chaos (from Les Elements)

Hans-Peter Preu – Kepler’s Cosmos (World Premiere)

Camille Saint-Saëns – Piano Concerto No. 2 in G Minor, Op. 22

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart – Symphony N. 41 in C Major. K 551 (Jupiter)

David Bowie/arr. Scot Wooley – Space Oddity