Celebrating Five Years

 

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We celebrate our just concluded fifth season and look back with pride at the names of the more than thirty artists who shared their talent with a capacity audience of over four hundred at four of our concerts:
Shareese Arnold, Aubrey Berg, Melisa Bonetti, Kayleigh Decker, Emily Fink, Amy Gillingham, Luke Flood, Aaron Jacobs, Sam Krausz, Christina Lalog-Seal, Chloe LeGrand , Jesse Leong, James Meade, Allan Palacios Chan, Kim Pensyl, Alan Rafferty, Kenneth Shaw, Rick VanMatre, Eben Wagenstroom, Daniel Weeks, Christopher Wilke, Gabe Wrobel and The Young Artists Cello Ensemble
These artists – vocalists, violinists, cellists, actors, pianists – performed traditional vocal and instrumental American music, show music, opera highlights, show tunes and spoken texts and poetry, by

Leonard Bernstein, Georges Bizet, Ignacio Cervantes, Ruperto Chapí, Enrique Granados, Franz Liszt, Pablo Luna, Astor Piazzolla, Henry Purcell, Sergei Rachmaninoff, Camille Saint-Saëns, Manuel Saumell, Alessandro Scarlatti, Franz Schubert, Richard Strauss, Francisco Tárrega, Joaquín Turina, Heitor Villa-Lobos, and Richard Wagner.

Guitarist James Meade played for us Spanish guitar music in a couple of our concerts: https://youtu.be/5RPzrOEOecg
Mezzo-soprano Melisa Bonetti sang arias from Spanish zarzuelas, Bizet’s Carmen and Camille Saint-Saëns Samson and Dalila in our April concert: https://youtu.be/vc3m-rfg_y8
South African Pianist Eben Wagenstroom returned to play in two of our concerts: https://youtu.be/aJjJDc_UDmg
Soprano Shareese Arnold sang Wagner arias, Rachmaninoff songs and Spirituals in two of our concerts: https://youtu.be/oH7juk-7eFw

In December, our Silent Auction, raised thousands of dollars, as patrons bid on gifts, goods and services by
Anna VanMatre, Artist …Cincinnati Art Museum …Cincinnati Ballet…Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra…Cincinnati Nature Center…Cincinnati Opera…Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park…Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra…concert:nova…Ensemble Theatre…James Meade, Classical Guitarist…Jim Slouffman, Artist…Johannes Bjorner, Artist…Karen Tully, Contributor…Kathy Doane, Contributor…Kim Pensyl, Jazz Musician…Linda Ellis, Jewelry Designer…National Exemplar Restaurant…Rick Van Matre, Jazz Musician…Taft Museum…Tri Health Pavilion Spa…Trio Bistro… UC – College-Conservatory of Music…Nancy Stetler, Designer…Virginia Cox, Photographer

The total income of over $10,000 generated by the auction and ticket sales during this past year, went for scholarships at CCM, the College-Conservatory of Music of the University of Cincinnati.

We thank the management and board of the Peterloon Foundation, our wonderful webmaster and graphic designer Kate Hursh, and all of you, artists, audience members, donors and friends for your hard work, your generosity and your support!

Rafael and Kimberly de Acha

MATEI VARGA

Dinu Lipatti, born 1917 might have possibly been the best known Rumanian pianist of his or any other generation had his career not been cut short by his untimely death at the age of 33 as a result of complications from Hodgkin Disease. Radu Lupu, born in 1945 might possibly be the most famous Rumanian pianist of his or any other generation. Tudor Dumitrescu, a pianist who lived from 1957 until his tragic death in an earthquake in his native Bucarest in 1977 was at the time of his passing another Rumanian national musical icon-to-be.

 

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Now the time is long overdue to make room for another master born to play in the grand manner. His name is Matei Varga and make no mistake, this artist is not yet another dazzling firebrand eagerly ready for his next interview and photo-op combo, but a deeply serious musician well in the midst of a major career.

Perhaps better known in Europe than here Varga’s playing is solid, elegant, of substance, containing gravitas, profound musicality, and rigorous musicianship. Varga’s hour-long CD, Early Departures (Sono Luminus DSL92223) is about to be released on June 29th and available for purchase as either a CD or as a digital download from http://www.sonoluminus.com

This treasure of an album is framed as a sober though not somber homage to three music giants of the 20th century linked together here by virtue of their premature encounters with death. And why J.S. Bach along with them? The brief Adagio from the Concerto in D Minor after Benedetto Marcello provides four and a half meditative minutes of reflection and repose after the four movement suite In the Mists by Leoš Janáček, the neighboring Bohemia’s national composer, who wrote it shortly after the death of his daughter

Tudor Dumitrescu, both concert pianist and composer, wrote 7 Preludes as a very personal, very introspective, heartfelt composition in which intimations of the tragedy that would befall him are palpably evident. In Varga’ splendid notes accompanying the CD, this is mentioned along with touching details about the pianist’s subsequent visits to Dimitrescu’s mother in their Bucarest apartment after her son’s death.

Dinu Lipatti is represented here by three brief pièces d’occasion most probably part of the late pianist arsenal of encores to be used at the end of his legendary recitals, one of which I still remember having attended as a six year old child in my native Havana. Listening to this music challenged one’s objectivity as it brought back a flood of happy memories.

Again, SONO LUMINUS proves to be a pioneer in the recording industry deserving of our thanks, and those thanks are also due and extended to Matei Varga for his musical explorations and his artistry.

Rafael de Acha

A MUSICAL MAVERICK

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It’s damn near impossible to hang a label on George Antheil’s music. Or, for that matter, it’s equally difficult to hang a label on the man himself. He kept changing his artistic and personal identity as often as he (hopefully) changed his underwear.

Do I like his music? More about that later. But Antheil himself did not care for much of it, initially raising Cain to get his work performed at any cost anywhere, then dismissing most of what he had written in the first half of his checkered career as unworthy.

When they first heard Antheil’s music, many critics called it naïve, coarse, boring… But Satie, Milhaud, Copland liked, even celebrated it. Leopold Stokowski and Antal Dorati programmed it. Yet I admit to be baffled by much of Antheil’s musical output, even when all of what is included in this CD is so beautifully played by the Duo Odeon in a neatly produced and packaged debut album.

I find what I just learned today about George Antheil, the man, utterly fascinating. Antheil’s life story reads like a tell-all page turner. But then there is the musician. As a young man he learned music and piano largely all on his own. He was notorious for turning all 88 keys of the average piano that fell under his control into instruments of perniciously percussive attack on the ears of his family, neighbors and, eventually, his audiences. He lusted to have opportunities to cause riots as large as the one that had greeted the premiere of Stravinsky’s Le Sacre du Printemps, and if nothing much happened he’d pout.

In 1923 he and his future wife moved to Paris and immediately fell in with the who’s who of the European Avant-garde, first in France, then in Berlin, then in the late thirties and one step ahead of the Nazis back to NYC, then on to California where Hollywood beckoned.

De Mille and other celluloid kings liked what he wrote, so he got hired to write incidental music for two dozen films. But he was dissatisfied with the low standards of Hollywood music-making so he took his checks and high-tailed it back home to NYC. Again, was life is colorful, varied, with a man ever eager to get all he could out of life. Antheil was the proud possessor of a powerfully-creative mind unfortunately paired up to a fatal flaw Olympian ego that more than once tripped him up

I gave the CD two careful listens. I find much too much of Antheil’s music blunt, derivatively sounding like warmed up Milhaud or Honegger, minus the French flair for wit and melody. There is an attractive muscularity and lots of testosterone-driven rhythms in Antheil’s Alpha Male music, but neither sweeping lyricism, nor much cantilena of the kind one can find by spades in the works of so many of his European contemporaries. All that I  said with one major exception: the salon-flavored waltzes from Specter of the Rose, film music at its best.

For the earnest collector of modern music, this SONO LUMINUS DSL 92222 release is a must have. For the musically curious I recommend acquiring both it and a copy of Antheil’s 1945 auto-biography, The Bad Boy of Music.

And to SONO LUMINUS and the Duo Odeon, a salute for their serious explorations of forgotten corners of the repertory.

Rafael de Acha

WORLD CLASS FORTH WORTH SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA PLAYS RUSSIAN CLASSICS

WORLD CLASS FORTH WORTH SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA PLAYS RUSSIAN CLASSICS

What does it take to turn a regional American symphony orchestra into a world-class one? To venture an answer would be a fool’s errand, so suffice for us to direct your attention to the live recording of Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition here coupled to a handful of selections from Prokofiev’s 1945 Cinderella, and let you be the judge.

In this CD we hear the FWSO forces led by Peruvian-American conductor Miguel Harth-Bedoya in a live recording of a 2018 performance given in front of a capacity audience in Ft. Worth’s Bass Hall. The sound we hear in this recording, helmed by producer/engineer Brad Michel is crystal clear in the upper range, rock solid in the lower register, excellently balanced throughout.

Maestro Bedoya has been at the helm of the 106 year-old FWSO for nearly two decades, and he has lovingly guided his musicians to play flawlessly as one when needed, yet allowing each enjoyment of his or her solo turns when they come, as witness Kyle Sherman’s clarion trumpet opening riff at the top of the first Promenade in the Mussorgsky.

 

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The FWSO strings deliver a perfect sweet-sour Slavic sound when called upon, the woodwinds whimsically excel at the filigree work in Tuilleries, and later in Ballet of the Chicks, and the brass section produces again and again an unabashedly bright sound just right for this music. All along Bedoya refuses to shy away from the rough and ready Mussorgsky trademarks, eliciting a gutsy, quintessentially Russian sound from his players.

Bedoya and his musicians turn on a dime as they go from Mussorgsky’s 1874 composition to Prokofiev’s 1945 ballet, the latter here given in 35 minutes that clearly and chronologically tell all the loose ends of the tale about the house maid who donned glass slippers and became a princess.

Prokofiev’s neoclassical sound is spiced with mid-20th century harmonies that color his music as more pan-European than post-WWII Soviet. All well and good, since the sweetness of the Perrault fairy tale is best kept from becoming saccharine by the composer’s disciplined aesthetic and further enhanced by the kind of limpid, on your toes sound the Fort Worth forces bathe this music in.

The results are splendidly satisfying and, for this listener, this FWSO release is a keeper.

Rafael de Acha

Bold Bartók

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The first movement of Béla Bartók’s Violin Concerto No. 2 is marked Allegro non troppo. All well and good, but the sudden changes of speed call for a different tempo marking, or none. This is the bold writing of a mature, 48 year old master at the top of his game requiring an equally mature interpreter, in this instance the impressive Christian Tetzlaff, with Finish maestro Hannu Lintu pacing the Finnish Radio Orchestra in a fiery, flashy, fully-developed reading.

The concerto No. 2 is moody, filled with bold flashes of color and blunt changes of tempo and dynamics. Hungarian to the core, often flirting with Serialism, as evidenced by a quip made by the composer to violinist Yehudi Menuhin when he said that he wanted to show Schoenberg, the deadly serious father of 12-tone music that he (Bartók) “…could use all 12 tones and still remain tonal.”

And tonal the work is but infused with the capriciously varied sound of the verbunkos style characteristic of the big city playing of the roving Romani bands in Bartok’s time. Add to that mix Bartók’s pan-European writing inspired by the folk music of Hungary and Romania and one gets a rich musical experience that never fails to surprise with its unpredictable twists and turns.

The CD’s other treasure is the Violin Concerto No. 1, a youthful yet not immature composition dedicated to and inspired by Hungarian violinist Stefi Geyer. Not a valentine, the concerto is rather a soulful, soul-searching musical confessional to a woman and musician with whom the composer was infatuated but one who never fully reciprocated that love.

From a deeply romantic first movement redolent of Richard Strauss and Zoltán Kodály, both of whom Bartók deeply admired, the composition moves to a tour de force of virtuoso writing in the second movement that expresses both the volatility of the relationship between Bartók and Geyer and the violinist’s protean prowess.

The two-movement concerto ends with a sense of resignation expressed in the music and in the words of Hungarian poet appended to it by the composer: “No two stars are as far apart as two human souls.”

Rafael de Acha

Bartok Violin Concertos Nos 1 and 2 Christian Tetzlaff, violin; Hannu Lintu conducting the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra ONDINE Recording live in Helsinki’s Music Centre in October, 2017. Producers: Reijo Kiilunen and Laura Hinkinheimo. Notes by David Cooper.

YOUNG ARTISTS COME OF AGE.

Sarah Kim and Alan Rafferty founded Cincinnati Young Artists in 2009. Initially they hoped to offer chamber music and cello workshops for local students.

CELLISTS

In nine years the former fledgling organization has grown into a nationally recognized program that attracts music students from all over the country to work with CYA’s esteemed faculty that includes Tim and Catharine Lees, Kurt Sassmannshaus, Giora Schmidt, Won-Bin Yim, Sibbi Bernhardsson, Janet Sung, Rictor Noren, John T. Posadas, Debbie Price, Joyce Chan Grabell and Marion Peraza de Webb.

This year 100 students converge on CCM from June 4-9 for CYA’s Chamber Music Festival to be followed by their 9th annual Cello Workshop also at CCM.

The Chamber Music Festival Schedule highlights include the debut of violinist Giora Schmidt with CYA, joined by Artistic Director Alan Rafferty and pianist Sandra Rivers in a performance of Brahms epic Piano Trio No. 1 in B Major on June 5, 7 pm in Werner Recital Hall at CCM

On Friday June 8th, at 7 pm in Werner Recital Hall the CYA faculty will take you on an Iceland to Italy musical journey culminating in a performance of Tchaikovsky’s Souvenir de Florence.

The festival concludes with Emerging Artist performances in Werner Recital Hall or in Patricia Corbett Theater also at CCM on June 7 at 6 pm, June 8 at 7 pm, and June 9 at 10 am and 1 pm.

Tickets and information at http://www.CincinnatiYoungArtists.org

 

A PREVIEW of MUSIC FOR ALL SEASONS

 

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A PREVIEW of MUSIC FOR ALL SEASONS opening concert: OCTOBER 14, 2018, 2 PM
Music from America, France and Spain
With Yaoyue Huang, James Meade, Joseph Rebman, Scott Sherman, Miriam Smith, Hayden Smith and Kimberly Daniel

The Music:

Maurice Ravel – Ma mère l’Oye (Mother Goose Suite)
Yaoyue Huang, piano Scott Sherman, piano Kimberly Daniel de Acha, Narrator
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Joaquín Rodrigo – Fantasy for a Gentleman
James Meade, Guitar Scott Sherman, Piano
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Marcel Grandjany – Fantasy on a theme of Haydn, Op. 31
Gabriel Fauré – Impromptu for Harp in D flat major
Joseph Rebman, Harp
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Gabriel Fauré – Elegie…Papillon
Camille Saint-Saëns – The Swan…Allegro Appassionato
Miriam Smith, cello and Yaoyue Huang, piano
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Erik Satie Selected Piano Pieces
Erik Satie Sports and Pastimes
Kimberly Daniel de Acha, Narrator Scott Sherman, Piano

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Selections from Leonard Bernstein’s On the Town, Wonderful Town and Trouble in Tahiti
Hayden Smith, baritone

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Tickets and reservations: MusicSeasons@zoomtown.com

Information: http://www.MusicSeasonsCincinnati.com

 

 

 

WHAT, WHERE, WHEN, WHO?

Here’s news about what, where and when and who about several of our musician friends, all of whom have appeared in the past and or will be performing for the first time with Music for All Seasons this year:

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JAMES MEADE will be participating in Neif Norf a New Music Festival that explores collaboration between composers and performers. Following that, James will be releasing CAROL, his second CD – an all-Latin American album coning out in July 8th on the Bandcamp label Then it will time to prepare Joaquin Rodrigo’s Fantasia para un Gentilhombre for the October Music for All Seasons concert

JOE REBMAN will be playing his harp in chamber music and orchestral concerts with the American Modern Orchestra at the Mostly Modern Festival in Saratoga Springs, New York in June. Joe will later be speaking about commissioning composers to write new works at the American Harp Society‘s Conference in Redlands, California. After his return he will be presenting his first Faculty Recital on Friday, September 7th at 7:00 at NKU featuring solo harp compositions commissioned by him.

Bass-baritone KEN SHAW heads for the Pittsburgh Opera Festival this summer, where he will ascending to the heights of Valhalla as he sings the role of Wotan in a Jonathan Eaton production of Wagner’s Das Rheingold in the Jonathan Dove English version. No stranger to the role, which along with the Walkuere‘S Wotan, Shaw has sung in concert several times, the bass-baritone looks forward to working alongside Jane Eaglen teaching the company’s young artists.

World traveling SCOTT SHERMAN and YAOYUE HUANG  have been touring in China, performing in concert and giving lectures in Shantou University and Shenzhen Meilin School. Scott and Yaoyue next travel to Japan, where they have been invited by the management of the classical music magazine Ongaku no Tomo, to perform in its recital hall in Tokyo. The duo pianists next head for Israel to participate in the Tel Hai Music Festival.

KANAKO SHIMSAKI  is in Japan, where she will perform in concerts with two other members of her trio: her sister, violinist Mariko Shimasaki and pianist Luke Gillespie. The concerts will feature several of the trio’s original arrangements: sections from Holst’s The Planets, Vltava from Ma Vlast by Smetana, and Beethoven’s Pathetique. Later in the summer Kanako will travel to Memphis to be a visiting artist and violin soloist with the Memphis Repertory Orchestra.

BILL WILLITS moves around, carrying his string instruments, starting this Tuesday, May 29, at 12 noon, when he takes on the Vivaldi Concerto for Lute and Orchestra, and Schubert’s Quartet for guitar and strings with the Consort in the Egg at Christ Church Cathedral. Beyond lies more chamber music, starting with a gig with Chamber Palooza on September 1 at the CAM and an all-Spanish line up with mezzo soprano Paulina Vilareal on September 22 for the Cincinnati Song Initiative

Rafael de Acha

Seen and Heard-International

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Established in 1999, http://www.SeenandHeard-International.com has more than 60 internationally based correspondents who publish hundreds of reviews of concert, opera and dance performances every year as well as other articles of musical interest. S&HI reports from most of the major venues in the UK and from many others in Europe, the Americas, Asia, Australia and New Zealand, making it probably the most comprehensive online classical music review magazine anywhere in the world.

I have been contributing to Seen and Heard now for the past five years and I am thrilled that some of my writings have brought international recognition to Cincinnati. I look forward to continuing to work with our wonderful editors in the UK and with the peerless Bruce Hodges in New York.

Please have a look at my latest contribution to S&HI: http://seenandheard-international.com/2018/05/a-mass-for-a-deeply-dispiriting-time  and check periodically for my upcoming coverage of the Cincinnati May Festival, Mam-Luft & Co. Dance, Summermusik and much of the Cincinnati Music Scene this coming season.

Keep the good music going!

WALTON WORLD CLASS

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This morning, listening to a classical music station the announcer let us know that next up was a viola concerto. The announcement pleased me, the snarky chuckle the announcer gave did not. I find nothing funny about all the tiresome viola jokes that go around in music circles, and I felt downright insulted when the announced composition turned out to be William Walton’s twice-revised Concerto for Viola and Orchestra.

I turned off the radio in a huff and put on the recently released Chandos CD of William Walton’s compositions (WALTON CHSA 5210) that includes the Concerto for Viola and Orchestra, the 1971 Sonata for String Orchestra, and the 1957 Partita for Orchestra.

Edward Gardner paces the BBC Symphony Orchestra in all three of the compositions in a patrician manner, ever attentive to his soloist in the Viola Concerto, and violinist James Ehnes is the superb viola soloist, utterly comfortable with his other instrument.

Listening to this album, some of its contents dating back to 1928, when Walton was a twenty-six year old hopeful still finding his way in the midst of the ever-changing European music scene of those years, pleased immensely and made one ponder the significance of Walton in the context of 20th century music.

And, in a personal way, the varied moods of the viola concerto brought back a memory of my first encounter with Walton’s music, when at age fourteen I was held transfixed by Walton’s score for Laurence Olivier’s 1948 film of Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Not the specific musical ideas from the film’s score, but the muscularity, the mercurial changes of tempo, the at times purposely dense, at others crystal-clear orchestration are all there to remind us of what a great composer Walton is.

Walton indicates no less than eight tempo markings in the first movement of the Concerto, that section lasting barely eight minutes. And a good thing it is that he has the indispensable Edward Gardner at the helm of the BBC Symphony Orchestra and the formidable James Ehnes on the viola, for no transition ever feels abrupt, and every switch of musical gears is pure quicksilver.

The second movement is marked in Italian: lively and very precisely and with resolve, and in it there are passages in which Walton whimsically employs odd pairings, like a humorous duettino for bassoon and viola, only to follow these moments with deadly serious, jagged patterns that remind us that the composer means business. In the third and final movement of the concerto, Walton tests the mettle of his conductor and orchestra with no less than a dozen changes of pace, each moodily different.

Throughout the three compositions, the writing is tonal (A minor, E minor, A Major in the Concerto) and there are plenty of melodic turns of phrase, even though none call attention to themselves. Never one to flirt with atonality, Walton held fast to an English tradition of tonality that was unselfconsciously embraced by many of his British predecessors and contemporaries. Yet unpredictable twists and turns in the harmony let us know that here was a young fellow with his  ears open to what was happening in the Paris, Berlin and Vienna of the first decades of the 20th century

The Concerto is the main event on this CD, but the inclusion of the Sonata for String Orchestra and the Partita for Orchestra should be noted. Both are admirable works that call for bravura and soloist-level playing, especially from the strings, and in both, concertmaster Igor Yuzepovich makes us wish for a future Chandos CD of English music for violin and orchestra, which hopefully would include Ralph Vaughn Williams’ The Lark Ascending.

Once again Chandos delivers here a world-class product, impeccably packaged, insightfully annotated by Anthony Burton, and perfectly engineered by Brian Pidgeon.

Rafael de Acha