Seen and Heard’s Best of 2018


Seen and Heard International is MusicWeb International’s live review section. Established in 1999, it now has more than 60 internationally based correspondents who publish 25 to 40 reviews of concert, opera and ballet performances weekly as well as other articles of musical interest. We report from most of the major venues in the UK and from many others in Europe, the Americas, Asia, Australia and New Zealand.

With an additional output of more than 50 disc reviews every week at MusicWeb International is probably the most comprehensive online classical music review magazine anywhere in the world.

Seen and Heard’s Best of 2018

Here is, in random order, the list of musical favorites for 2018 I contributed:

* In the Cincinnati Opera’s As One, an intriguing chamber work about the journey of a transgender person, by Laura Kaminsky, Mark Campbell, and Kimberly Reed, an impressive pair of singing actors, Matthew Worth and Amber Frasquelle played the before and after Hannah. Robin Guarino handled the material sensitively and intelligently, helping to craft a straightforward and elegant production.

* In the Cincinnati Opera’s La traviata, Norah Amsellem, a stunning French soprano, would have made Verdi very happy. Her film star looks and her dramatic and vocal gifts made her utterly convincing as the high-class toast of tout Paris in the elegant production designed by Desmond Heeley.

* Cello virtuoso Coleman Itzkoff mined the profound sadness of Elgar’s Cello Concerto with utmost intensity. Eckart Preu provided top-notch leadership at the helm of the Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra, which continues to surprise with its ever more cohesive sound.

* The Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra gave the world premiere of Mexican composer Enrico Chapela’s Radioaxial, a massively scored work that alternates moments of aural density with pockets of streamlined lyricism and crystal clarity.

* Daniel Weeks and Donna Loewy made magic happen on the stage of Werner Recital Hall in a recital of songs in German, Spanish and English. The two artists pulled this off not through sleight of hand but by means of musicality, technique and artistry, mercifully breaking free of the tired formality of the concert platform and spicing up the evening with humor and theatricality.

* Immaculata Church in Mt. Adams opened its inaugural Chamber Music Series with a nameless group of string players assembled into what we hope will be a permanent ensemble, playing a vigorously vibrant Octet by Mendelssohn. In a city rich in chamber music offerings, it is difficult for an ensemble of young players to establish an identity and make a mark. This one did, led by the superlative  violinist Kanako Shimasaki.

* In a concert that paid homage to Leonard Bernstein and several of his friends, the CCM Concert Orchestra opened with the single-movement Sinfonia India, by Carlos Chavez. Led by Aik Khai Pung, the ensemble gave an inspired reading of the 12-minute work, ending with a jarabe tapatio dance taken at warp speed that all but raised the roof of Corbett Auditorium.

Rafael de Acha

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