The course  is: Richard Wagner Film Biography by Tony Palmer

It will be given at the University of Dayton’s OLLI (Special Programs and Continuing Education Department) at 300 College Park, Dayton, OH. Taught by Jim Slouffman, classes start on Wednesday, September 20th from 12:30 -2:30 PM and run for 6 weeks.

Jim Slouffman is the President of the Wagner Society of Cincinnati and an authority on the subject.

To phone register call: 937-229-2347.

Tony Palmer, a friend of Jim’s produced and directed for BBC in London. Jim says: “He had many films on composers like Britten, Puccini and Stravinsky. The Wagner film was his mega-hit, with Richard Burton in the role of Wagner! The film is very revealing. It shows Wagner’s passion and creative process as well as his political intrigues, hi relationship with King Ludwig, the Dresden uprising, and his closeness to Nietzsche and Franz Liszt. It utilizes only Wagner’s music in the background and it assists in the story telling. An amazing film!”

Jim plans to show sections of the Palmer film and them lead a discussion on the content.

Hats of to Wagnerite Jim Slouffman for his efforts on behalf of good music in Southern Ohio!

Rafael de Acha    http://www.Rafael’   All About the Arts  




Maurice Renaud as Herod in Massenet’s Herodiade

While it is easy to hear of a really fine Russian bass or a brilliant newcomer Italian tenor or a “wait until you hear her” German soprano it is less common to encounter a really fine French baritone. That most manly of male voices – the baritone – is one thing to the Italians, and another to the Germans, and another to the Russians, and surely yet another to the French.

The immense French Opera repertoire is largely the domain of a lighter, suppler, more lyrical type of voice. French tenors are unsurpassed interpreters of the key leading male roles in the operas of Massenet, Gounod and the operettas of Offenbach. French lyric-coloratura sopranos are indisputably perfect for Massenet’s Manon, Gounod’s Marguerite, and two of the three Offenbach heroines in Les Contes d’Hoffman.

But, when it comes to casting the baritone parts in the staple baguette et beurre French operas the managements of American opera companies often settle for whoever is at the top of their rolodex, casting whoever sings the loudest and never mind style or linguistic prowess.

The Baryton Martin and the heavier, equally flexible, but more dramatic Baryton Noble are central to the French repertoire. This opinion was reinforced recently as we ”surfed” YouTube, coming upon several recordings of one of Herod’s arias in Massenet’s rarely produced gem, Herodiade.

Give it to You Tube regulars to voice their likes and dislikes! When one peruses these various links it is inevitable to read commentaries that range from respectful to rants.

We will refrain from harsh criticisms and from lamenting what is no more. The reality that the chronology of these selections evidences is that “they don’t make them that good” anymore. As we listen to the scratchy early recording of Vision Fugitive by Maurice Renaud (1860-1933), made in 1906 ( we are immediately impressed by a voice schooled in the grand 19th century French tradition.

Renaud’s ease of vocal emission, seamless legato, and evenness of registers are all three coupled to exemplary diction, with each word of the text given full value. When he moves into the main body of the aria he does so with increasing passion and a drive that leads up to the very difficult climax: Toi mon seul amour…mon espoir for which Massenet gives the baritone an F-Gb challenge on a single syllable. We hear no “cover”, no changing of vocal gears. Renaud then lands the final phrase on a resonant Eb.

We found three additional samples, two French-born, one American.

Arthur Endrèze (1893 – 1975) (

Martial Singher (1904-1990) (

Michel Dens (1911-2000) (

Arthur Endrèze was an American baritone whose entire career took place in France. His French diction and delivery are idiomatic and stand up to comparison with the better known Singher and Dens.

Singher was a fine artist with a keen talent for interpretation, and although his vocal equipment does not allow him to completely surmount the challenges of this aria, his immense intelligence helps him deliver one of the best renditions of this number ever heard by this listener.

Dens, a light baritone who made most of his career in Paris and primarily in the Opera Comique world, is similarly able to conquer the assignment by sheer willpower and interpretive skills.

From that point on we hear the glorious sound of Robert Merrill (1917-2004) ( making hash of the French but getting the most out of the dramatic moments of the aria, and a bit later in the list, the all-American John Charles Thomas (1890-1960) in a 1934 recording ( in which he struggles with the French pronunciation but is forgiven because of his very beautiful sound.

But neither Merrill nor Thomas are exemplary when it comes to mastery of the elusive French style and the necessary command of the language, although their magnificent voices make this listener forgive their singers’ sins.

Ernest Blanc (1923-2010) ( came of age during WWII, and consequently his career never became what his voice and artistry deserved. He initially sang as a lyric baritone but went on to tackle some of the Wagnerian repertoire (Wolfram, Amfortas, Telramund), which one can detect that in his dark-hued sound.

Robert Massard (b:1925) ( sang the Italian repertory with the same panache with which he excelled in the “big” French roles. In his Vision Fugitive he packs vocal beauty, dramatic punch, a great ability for coloring the voice and a marvelous flair for singing pianissimo without manipulating or crooning. A great artist largely unknown in this country but revered by his countrymen, Massard is hands down our favorite.

We hold in our minds a fleeting vision of the arrival of a baritone who regardless of nationality can best the pack in roles as wide ranging as Escamillo, Lescaut, Valentin, Zurga, and the Hoffman villains, and give some enterprising impresario the motivation to mount a new production of Herodiade for him.

Rafael de Acha






Cincinnati: 26.8.2017 SCPA Mayerson Theatre
Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra. Summermusik 2017
Eckart Preu, Music Director Alon Goldstein, piano MamLuft&Co. Dance, dancers
Philip Glass – Symphony No. 3 – III. Quarter-note= 112
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart – Piano Concerto No. 20 in D Minor, K. 466
Valentin Silvestrov – The Messenger
Ludwig van Beethoven – Symphony No. 8 in F Major, Op. 93

The closing concert of the Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra was a fitting finale to the 2017 SummerMusik, led by newly appointed Maestro, Eckart Preu.  The evening began with the oddly-titled third movement of Phillip Glass’s Symphony no. 3: III. Quarter-note= 112.

The CCO played Glass’s music as MamLuft&Co.Dance performed in a penumbra only illuminated by side lighting, their shadowy movements enhanced on the walls of the theatre.

Choreographers Susan Horner and Elena Moore utilized a rich kinetic vocabulary, creating not merely a storytelling narrative but a visual commentary in counterpoint with the music. Images of bonding, initiation, rejection and acceptance alternated with groupings and solo turns. One must stay alert and watch intently when witnessing a dance piece by this gem of a dance troupe.

Seemingly repetitive and arguably labeled “minimalist”, Phillip Glass’ music for III. Quarter-note= 112 uses a layering of melodic lines that harks back to the early explorations of polyphony in the Renaissance.  The composer positions solo phrases for the first violin that spring out of the dense orchestral fabric only to evanesce moments later.  In this 10 minute movement, the CCO strings created magic, with concertmaster, Mateusz Wolski and principal second violin, Manami White, subtly conversing, while the remainder of the string section supported their musical dialogue, providing the sonic backdrop for the dancers, led by Maestro Preu.

cco_0100Pianist, Alon Goldstein, made his Cincinnati debut, as soloist in Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 20 in D Minor.  More than merely playing, Goldstein inhabited the world of a work written in the 18th century that at times sounds like a harbinger of Romanticism.  The Israeli pianist’s insightful commentary,  given prior to the music was validated by a performance that fluctuated from soloist bravura to intimate musical conversation with the orchestra. Maestro Preu engaged in a superbly flexible musical give-and -take with the soloist.

Goldstein graciously responded to the ovation that followed by insisting that Preu share the bows with him. He then obliged with a “let-‘er-rip” performance of Alberto Ginastera‘s Danza Argentina.

The members of MamLuft&Co. Dance returned in the second half of the concert to interpret the Mozart-inspired music of Ukrainian composer Valentin Silvestrov. Goldstein performed the solo piano part, with both he and the string section playing delicately in the background Silvestrov’s loving tribute to the passing of his wife of many years.  Goldstein’s and the orchestra’s playing engaged one’s aural attention from start to finish, while one’s eyes were on the dancing. In a superbly executed sequence of dancer’s moves, the story of two trees that grow side by side and eventually intertwine became a stunning poetic parable about the cycle of life, and a tribute to a loving marriage.


Eckart Preu

The CCO’s 2017 season came to an end with a joyful reading of Beethoven’s happiest of compositions, his Symphony No. 8 in F Major. After a memorable performance, Preu joined his musicians, responding to the applause of an audience grateful for this year’s SummerMusik season, and for the rebirth of the Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra, one of Cincinnati’s gems.

Rafael de Acha All About the Arts







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



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


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


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



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