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 www.RafaelMusicNotes.com All About the Arts