FROM MY POV: THE MUSICAL HIGHLIGHTS OF 2017.
Yes, I know, it’s a bit early for end of year lists. But we’re not planning much concert-going this December, not with all the parties and dinners coming up!
No doubt about it, for an urban area of its size, Southern Ohio has an amazing number of musical organizations that keep us all happily attending concerts and operas all year long. Here are my most memorable musical performances from the year 2017.
Three concerts in August showed the talent and versatility of the Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra, which, under its brilliant new conductor, Eckart Preu has never sounded more cohesive and assured.
Camille Saint-Saëns would have been delighted with Ran Dank’s bravura playing of his Second Piano Concerto for the CCO this past summer. The young pianist gave a masterful performance of this leviathan, mining every note for clarity rather than speed, and for quality rather than quantity of sound.
In the Dayton Opera’s production of Menotti’s The Consul, conductor Patrick Reynolds helmed a cast that any company anywhere would be fortunate to assemble. With the maestro leading the Dayton Philharmonic with commanding assurance, and the hugely gifted stage director Gary Briggle obtaining naturalistic, cohesive and believable performances from his cast, and soprano, Kara Shay Thomson singing up a storm as Magda Sorel, this was world class opera, if you asked me.
Cincinnati’s Music Hall reopened after an extensive renovation and much improved acoustics with a gala concert that featured the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, led by Louis Langrée. In a heartfelt curtain speech Langrée announced the finale: Leonard Bernstein’s Overture to Candide. In the same way that Bernstein’s opus closes with a resolution to “build a house and make its garden grow,” the Maestro expressed his hope “that this newly-built home will be a similar garden, where great music will thrive and flourish.” I fully agree.
The story of the fatally flawed love between two giants of 20th-century art was brought to life in the Cincinnati Opera production of Frida, a new work with music by Robert Xavier Rodriguez, book by Hilary Blecher, and lyrics and monologues by Migdalia Cruz. Director José María Condemi boldly fleshed out the relationship between Mexican artists Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, obtaining high-octane results from the excellent baritone Ricardo Herrera and soprano Catalina Cuervo, both of whom delivered memorable career-defining performances.
The CCM Philharmonia opened the 2017-2018 Concert Season at the University of Cincinnati’s College Conservatory of Music recently-renovated Patricia Corbett Theatre with Mark Gibson brilliantly conducting a tour de force program that included Mozart’s Overture to The Magic Flute, Brahms’ Symphony no. 3 in F, and Mendelssohn’s Reformation Symphony. Many a professional orchestra would envy how this top-notch student ensemble sounds.
Stewart Goodyear played a memorable recital as part of The Art of the Piano Festival at CCM, encompassing Bach, Gibbons, Beethoven, Ravel, and Liszt. Goodyear is awesome in technical dexterity, always unfailingly musical and stylish, balancing the impulses of a warm heart with the counsel of a cool brain. The audience would not let him leave, not even after a marathon two-hour recital.
There usually are one or two CD’s in my PO Box every time I go to the post office to pick up my mail. Most recently there was a double CD album from Delos. I was thrilled to see it was Dimitri Hvorostovsky’s first recording of the title role of Rigoletto. It turned out to be his last: the Russian baritone succumbed after a long battle with brain cancer. He died last night, at age 55. Still reeling from the news, I offer Dmitri Aleksandrovich a respectful salute: Прощай, Дмитрий Александрович, ты ушла от нас, но память о твоём искусстве будет жить вечно!
Rafael de Acha 11/22/17