Fotina Naumenko

fotina_031_small Soprano Fotina Naumenko, praised for her “radiant voice” (Boston Globe), is a versatile artist who enjoys performing opera, oratorio, art song, musical theater, choral and contemporary music, both as a soloist and chamber musician. She will be featured in our February 10th concert, singing Claude Debussy’s Four Songs of Youth and a selection of Russian Songs, among them The Nightingale, which she sings here in a concert in St. Petersburg, Russia with the Rosiya Folk Ensemble:


Kanako Shimasaki

sv3_856Yamaha Young Performing Artist, Kanako Shimasaki will be appearing in the February 10 concert of Music for All Seasons at Peterloon, playing Reinhold Gliére’s Eight Duets for Violin and Cello, with violoncellist Phillip Goist.

She has been featured on Discover Classical 88.1, Weill Hall at Carnegie Hall, The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, and has appeared as a soloist with several orchestras, among them the Memphis Repertory Orchestra, with which she plays here Samuel Barber’s Violin Concerto: (at 25:00)

For more information on our concert visit us at For tickets and reservations email us at

Music from La Belle Époque

Much of the music in our program comes from the so-called La Belle Époque, a period of peace, economic prosperity, and intense creativity in the humanities and the arts. It was a time during which music reflected the elegance and the love of beauty that dominated European society until the outbreak of the Great War.

The audience for our afternoon musical salon on Sunday February 10, 2019 at 2 pm will be seated at tables. Complimentary tea, coffee, and pastries will be served.


Soprano Fotina Naumenko, whom the Boston Globe described as a “radiant voice” returns to Cincinnati to appear with Music for All Seasons. The CCM alumna recently appeared with the Ravinia Festival, the Tanglewood Music Festival, and Norway’s St. Olav Festival. She will be singing Claude Debussy’s gorgeous Four Songs of Youth, Russian Songs by Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakoff, and a selection of arias from Jules Massenet’s Manon. Here she is, singing Alabiev‘s The Nightingale

phillip goistJapanese-American violinist Kanako Shimasaki will be joined by cellist Phillip Goist playing Reinhold Gliere’s enchanting Eight Duets for Violin and Cello. Here is Kanako Shimasaki playing the final moments of Samuel Barber’s Violin Concerto:

EBEN Final CopySouth African pianist Eben Wagenstroom, will perform the exquisite Fantastical Dances by Joaquin Turina. Here’s Eben, seven years ago tackling Rachmaninoff’s Etude – Tableau in E-flat Major:

Information and Reservations:

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4_byron_janis_mockup_lpWhen confronted with the challenge of writing a review about the work of pianist Byron Janis, the old saw about bringing coals to Newcastle popped into my mind, and an inner voice quietly whispered: “How can you possibly bring any fresh insight, any yet unheard or unread accolade to the table of one of the greatest pianists of our time? Get real!”

But I forged ahead not out of hubris but eager to share with my music-loving reader-friends the news of the release of BYRON JANIS LIVE ON TOUR, a two-vinyl LP edition, autographed by the artist, also available in CD form from

First and in the spirit of full disclosure: I am basing my enthusiastic response on my listening today to this giant for the first time in my life live. Alright, an LP is not a live concert but this LP is all tracks of live appearances.

I should qualify that above. I did listen many times to Byron Janis playing his unique and beloved Chopin on the radio (thanks to WQXR in NYC and WGUC in Cincinnati) and always admired his art, but again never live.

When I grew up in Cuba listening to some great classical artists, Byron Janis was just beginning his career. When he played in Havana in 1999 I had already moved to the United States. I missed him live then.

Then living in various cities and pursuing my own career I kept missing his live appearances in recital and in concert. All that is just to say that sitting down to listen to this revelatory collection of excerpts from Byron Janis concerts in Paris, New York, Madrid, Brussels and various other cities is a great first time visit with this artist, live or not.

Let me cut to the chase by informing our readers of what he plays here: three movements from three different Haydn sonatas: his playing quintessentially classical; three waltzes, a Mazurka, a nocturne, and the Largo from the B Minor Sonata – all six by Chopin, all exquisite.

That’s the first of two LP’s.

In the second LP, Janis takes on the 104th Pace non trovo from the Petrarch Sonnets and the Rigoletto paraphrase, both by Liszt without breaking a sweat. He then lightens up and coolly riffs with the great Cy Coleman in By and Cy and then wins our hearts with three nifty label-less songs of his (which I will not call Pop but they are not Art Songs either): You Are More; David’s Star – A Son for Israel; and Like Any Man.

The album is a family undertaking, beautifully self-produced, insightfully annotated by Janis himself, with striking cover art by wife Maria Janis, and movingly dedicated to son Stefan Janis, who died tragically just months ago.

The remastering by Bill Lacey and the editing by Arthur Fierro are top notch.

But most movingly, this is not a last but one more hurrah by a restless, inquisitive, intellectually keen, musically gifted giant artist and human being who refuses to stop doing the many things he loves to do and we love for him to do. This from a man in his mid-80’s who has waged a long battle with a pernicious and debilitating form of Arthritis and has triumphed over tragedy.

I guess I have brought some coals to Newcastle but I hope the Maestro doesn’t mind.

Rafael de Acha

CITIZEN, music of civility


SONO LUMINUS will soon be releasing CITIZEN, an intriguing CD of piano works featuring world premiere recordings of music by American composers Nolan Gasser, David T. Little, Augusta Gross, C. Price Walden, and William Grant Still.

The mix of compositions both contemporary and Romantic, American and European, old and new featured in this recording is brilliantly played, amply justified, and insightfully annotated in straightforward prose by the ever questing Bruce Levingston, the artist/curator in this recording, whose idiomatically perfect reading of three Chopin mazurkas is given the same care by him as the lovely playing of William Grant Still’s elegantly bucolic SUMMERLAND.

Nolan Gasser’s AMERICAN CITIZEN opens the CD. It is a substantially developed piano composition, sui generis in structure, tonal in its melodies, and subtly evocative of things American in its fleetingly adopted snippets of blues and folk gestures.

Inspired by a painting by Marie Atkinson Hull of sharecropper John Wesley Washington, an American born into slavery, AMERICAN CITIZEN is a work both emotionally compelling in its recalling of tragedies and celebratory in its commemoration of libertarian victories.

Minimalist in its restraint and economy of means, David T. Little’s ACCUMULATION OF PURPOSE, is a remarkable six-part work with each of its movements assigned a subsidiary title.

The six miniatures bring to mind the piano works of Anton Webern, not through their freely atonal ambience but through their hauntingly beautiful use of compositional devices like a left hand perpetuum mobile figuration in counterpoint with an ostinato sounding of a single note in the highest reaches of the keyboard in the concluding Nocturne.

Augusta Gross contributes LOCATIONS IN TIME, a three-part cycle of pieces titled Other, Elegy, and Toward Night. Her composition inhabits a world of vague tonal centers, emotionally-charged changes of dynamics, blurred contours, and seeming stasis with a strong undercurrent flowing through. Gross’ quietly powerful music is achingly resigned in its sadness but questioning thereof.

C.Price Walden’s SACRED SPACES occupies two of the last three tracks of CITIZEN, both its Prelude and Chaconne (track 15) and its Hymn (The world is my home) on track 16, providing moments both climactic and sobering in their traditionally tonal and anthem-like music of celebration and joy.

This CD’s gathering of voices that celebrate the civility and brotherly love quintessential to what is American or more simply put, what it means to be a member of the human race, is a noble undertaking underpinned by the artistic excellence and commitment of its curator and pianist, Bruce Levingston, a notable artist who brings the album to an end with a profoundly touching AMAZING GRACE.

Dan Merceurio and Daniel Shores lend world class engineering to this well-packaged album, soon available from SONO LUMINUS (

Rafael de Acha

Music of La Belle Époque at Peterloon


fotina_031_small Music for All Seasons welcomes back an audience favorite of ours: Soprano Fotina Naumenko. Fotina was recently praised by the Boston Globe for her “radiant voice” and by the Boston Musical Intelligencer for her “seemingly inexhaustible execution of spectacular virtuosic hi-jinks.”

DANIEL WEEKS Praised for his “Italianate timbre and sensitive musicianship”, Daniel Weeks is a passionate advocate for Art Song who has sung hundreds of recitals sponsored by the Marilyn Horne Foundation across the country, after his New York recital debut.

eben final copyThe young South African pianist Eben Wagenstroom made his professional debut with the Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra of South Africa in an acclaimed performance of the Concerto in G minor by Saint-Saëns.
About the music

Much of the music being sung and played in our February 10th comes from the so-called La Belle Époque, a period of peace, economic prosperity, and intense creativity in the humanities and the arts. It was a time during which music reflected the elegance and the love of beauty that dominated European society until the outbreak of the Great War.

Our program will open with Fotina Naumenko singing Claude Debussy’s Four Songs of Youth, written while Debussy was still a young composer, reading the poetry of Verlaine, Mallarmé, and Banville, whose fantastical tales of dreams and youthful love inspired him to write these four songs.

Daniel Weeks will lend his lyric tenor voice to songs of  Paolo Tosti (1846-1916) Tosti obtained a position as director of the Musical Archives in the Court of Princess Margarita of Savoy, the future Queen of Italy, quickly becoming the most sought after pianist in the salons of the British aristocracy, thanks to his songs that straddle the worlds of the popular and the classical.

Eben Wagenstroon will solo with the music of Joaquín Turina (1882-1949), who wrote Danzas fantásticas in 1919, still young at heart and very much in love with his native Spain, its music and his wife, Obdulia, to whom he dedicated this suite of dances, appending to each his own poetic description.

Our soprano and tenor will join their voices in songs by Stephen Foster (1826-1864) predates most other American composers, making him in the minds of many, the Father of American Music, writing parlor songs that became the popular tunes of his time.

In the second half of our program our artists will sing selections from Jules Massenet’s (1842-1912) best known opera Manon, seen over 200 times at the Metropolitan Opera in New York.

Music for All Seasons presents four 2 pm Sunday concerts in February, April, October, and December in the Historic Peterloon Estate, at 8605 Hopewell Road, in the Village of Indian Hill.
* TICKETS: Single seats are $35. Student seats are $10. A $120 Flexpass may be used by one or more persons for 4 admissions to any of our four concerts during 2019. Flexpass buyers receive an additional complimentary single ticket that may be used to bring a guest to any of our concerts: a savings of more than 30% off the single ticket price.
* To reserve your seat (s), please email us at indicating the number of single tickets or Flexpasses you wish to purchase. We will hold your tickets for you to conveniently pay at the door (cash or check only)

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136 posts…9,547 views…6,626 visitors from 89 countries


During 2018 we posted 136 posts about music on our blog: http://www.Rafael’

We helped get the word out about many of our wonderful arts organizations, among them: CCM, the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, the Cincinnati Opera, the Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra, and our own Music for All Seasons.

We reviewed the work of many artists through their recordings, many of which made Best of 2018 lists on various websites and publications.

With the goodwill of fellow bloggers who specialize in Music we shared many of our on-line reviews with the viewership of:


Our posts were seen

9,547 times by 6,626 readers in 89 countries

the United Kingdom…Canada…Germany…Australia…Italy…Switzerland…the Czech Republic…Spain…the Netherlands…Poland…Brazil…France…Russia…Ireland…Sweden…Japan…South Africa…Austria…Romania…Mexico…Greece…Israel…Mongolia…Finland…South Korea…Argentina…Puerto Rico…Norway…India…Singapore…the Philippines…New Zealand…Hungary…Portugal…Serbia…China…the Virgin Islands…Croatia…Belgium…Taiwan…Denmark…Thailand…Ukraine…Slovakia…Bulgaria…Armenia… Chile…Colombia…Lithuania…Slovenia…Estonia…Georgia…Malta…The UAE…Vietnam… Peru…Cuba…Latvia…Venezuela…Turkey…The Dominican Republic…Kenya…Indonesia…The Aland Islands…Nepal… Uruguay…Algeria…Kazakhstan…Nigeria…Syria…Pakistan…Lebanon…Malaysia… Bosnia&Herzegovina…Luxembourg…Nicaragua…Iceland…Kyrgyzstan…Ecuador…Macedonia…Tunisia… Cambodia…Costa Rica…Sri Lanka…Swaziland…Albania…Panama…Qatar…Sierra Leone…Jamaica…


A GREAT 2019!

Rafael de Acha




After an overzealous blogger recently chastised me by blocking me and or one of my posts for being an “anti-Regie-Opera” zealot, I have begun to weigh my words when posting casual commentary on either my blog or my Facebook Group Page.

When it comes to a proper review, there I draw the line and let my readers know that I am sharing my views in the spirit of civilized discourse.

So, in that very spirit here I share some opinions and some basic information on the subject of Opera on the small screen, in the hope that it will provide some guidance given the wealth of options available to those of us who listen to and watch as much Opera on our computers and laptops as we do in the Opera House or at the Cinema.


The pluses are many. At $19.95 you get unlimited access to over 1,800 operas, concerts, ballets, films and documentaries about music, available in HD and watchable on any home screen.

Some of the offerings are impressive: Salzburg Festival operas with top-notch casts and conductors… Recitals by Ashkenazy or Barenboim…

The minuses are occasional transmission glitches that kick in at the worst possible times, and having to endure productions like Peter Sellars abysmally ugly La Clemenza di Tito for Salzburg along with some strange casting which I fail to comprehend.

Try it:


What’s not to like when it’s free? Recently I watched a very interesting Macbeth from Venice, a well-sung Lucia from Madrid’s Teatro Real, and an impressive gala concert from the Lithuanian National Opera. Check it out at:


I have never tested the HD presentations of the Vienna State Opera, but you certainly can.

They have an entire RING coming up at $15.95 per opera, which makes it more pricey than most on line Opera. I find it somewhat limiting that one has to catch the transmission on their terms, with little flexibility and a limited run of a few days.(


Many of us who could not afford to buy the complete Opera sets on LP available before the advent of the compact disc, had to depend on pirated copies of secretly recorded concerts and operas sold for a fraction of the price of the real thing. It wasn’t legal for the seller or probably for the buyer but we all did it so we could listen to Callas’ Venice Lady Macbeth or her Mexico City Aida.

And so, there is the touch and go You Tube with all those annoying commercials and often mediocre sound and visuals but with things that one will not easily find elsewhere and certainly not for free.

Happy watching!

Rafael de Acha


44 Waltzes on 88 keys

Peter Schaaf At first I set aside Peter Schaaf’s CD of Schubert/Brahms/Dvořák/Ravel waltzes in order to give some quality time to family and the holidays.

But now, saturated with Christmas Carols and presents and parties and too many treats, I long for the simpler joys of listening to the purity of Peter Schaaf’s elegant playing of 44 Waltzes on 88 keys, a CD featuring Franz Schubert’s Valses Nobles, D 969; Johannes Brahms’ Waltzes, Op. 39; Antonin Dvořák’s Waltzes, Op. 54; and Maurice Ravel’s Valses nobles et sentimentales.

By the time of the writing of his Valses Nobles, D 969, and after completing the emotionally-depleting composition of Winterreise in or around 1827, the year before his untimely death, the composer was whooping it up in Vienna, playing in salons and parties and Schubertiades and for just about any venue that could bring in some much-needed income to supplement the underpaid residuals he got for the published versions of his compositions.

With Schubert himself at the keyboard, these waltzes, whether noble or sentimental were just the ticket at social gatherings where dancing and drinking and smoking and running upstairs or going home with a young lady one had just met was absolutely acceptable.

Schubert’s waltzes were meant for dancing and carousing, not for the stiffness of the concert hall, and Peter Schaaf treats them with care for their value as perfect salon pieces and with unfettered energy.

Brahms’ waltzes, were cleverly dedicated by the composer to Edward Hanslick, the Austrian critic who could make or break a composer’s career with a stroke of his pen.

Already an eminence grise in his mid-thirties, Brahms could write a set of waltzes, hear them played by Clara Schumann the next day, and see them published by Simrock a month later.

There was no struggle, no angst, no wondering when the next gig or fee would be coming. And the music of Brahms’ opus 39 reflects this carefree Lebensfreude from start to finish, which Peter Schaaf mines it for all its worth.

Unlike Schubert’ and Brahms’ less-than-one-minute-long waltzes, Antonin Dvořák’s Waltzes, Op. 54 shun the Ländler roots of most if not all Viennese and German waltz and expand the form into more substantial musical episodes, two, three and four minutes in length.

They do reveal strong Bohemian folk roots, boldly going off-tempo and defying anyone who dares dance to them to keep up with the ever lively accelerando and capricious ritardando changes. Dvořák’s waltzes are high in charm and verve, and Peter Schaaf plays them with a lovely mix of sentiment and lightness.

Seventy-two minutes of music in ¾ time could tax the patience of the best of listeners. Luckily Peter Schaaf’s apposite programming permits one to put on hold the last eight tracks of this CD or, even better, to pour oneself a nice glass of French wine and cleanse one’s musical palate by continuing one’s listening session with the 20th century brittleness and vibrancy of Maurice Ravel’s Valses nobles et sentimentales played to the hilt by our pianist.

After having listened to and reviewed another CD by the superb pianist Peter Schaaf, I now find myself listening to a second album of his over and over again.

Rafael de Acha


44 Waltzes on 88 keys is available from www/,

Ingunn Adland plays Grieg


All of the music of Edvard Grieg comes straight from his romantic Norwegian soul, but it inhabits two worlds. One, the world of the Piano Concerto and the incidental music for Ibsen’s Peer Gynt is the public world of the large compositions – a world of a pragmatic artist who knew he had to make a living as a performing musician and deliver the big works in order to support his family.

The other world of Edvard Grieg is the very private world of his piano works.

It luckily was a world with enormous potential for financial gain, and Grieg was fortunate to live at a moment in Scandinavia where the growing music publishing and piano manufacturing industries were rapidly expanding thanks to a growing demand for music for the home.

When inclement winter weather and limited finances made it difficult or nearly impossible for a growing middle-class family to attend a public concert it was always possible for mother to sit at the piano and accompany the fine amateur baritone whom she had married in one of the easier songs of Edvard Grieg, the sheet music for which she had purchased in a Peters edition at a reasonable price.

And if father could not carry a tune, well then there was always that piano reduction of a Grieg song that she had worked on long and hard to master at the piano she had brought as part of her dowry.

Salon music, these days scoffed at by snobs and critics thrived in both the humbler homes and the mansions of the wealthy Norwegians in Oslo and Bergen and Christiania, and Edvard Grieg became a favored guest in the musical salons of his native land and in those of Copenhagen and Stockholm and Leipzig, side by side with Wagnerian transcriptions by Liszt and ditties by Rossini played by other artists.

But not for an instant should Grieg be labeled a salon figure! He was nothing of the sort but an immensely gifted musical miniaturist and poet with the uncanny ability to get to the very core of a poetic text, as the formidable Norwegian pianist Ingunn Adland so perceptively points out in her insightful liner notes to the CD Songs Without Words.

In eighteen vignettes from opus 41, opus 52 and the early opus 3, “Poetiske tonebilder” Ingunn Adland takes the listener through the grief of Vuggesang, the impassioned declaration of love in Jeg elsker dig, the doleful Modersong, and the joyful, the rapturous,  and the reflective.

She does so with impeccable technique, immense musicality, accurate musicianship, and great poetic sensibility.

On a recent visit to Grieg’s Troldhaugen in Bergen we were treated to a recital by Ms. Adland played on the very piano that the composer played when he lived out the rest of his life in the company of his beloved Nina.

It is a memory that we will carry for the rest of our life and that is replicated in this gorgeous CD with spot-on engineering by Arne Wilhelmsen, in the hands and soul of Ingunn Adland, a great pianist and artist.

Rafael de Acha

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