SPRING IS HERE and music’s in the air, part three


Art of the Piano is an intimate festival that brings together pianists from around the world to give a series of recitals and teach mater classes to a group of young artists.

An Enlight Prize of $3000.00, together with a recital on the 2018-2019 Salon 21 Series will go to one pianist chosen from among the young participants.

Lined up for recitals are pianists Alexander Korsantia, Boris Berman, Leon Fleisher, Jura Margulis, Maria Murawska, Vladimir Feltsman, and Christopher O’Riley.

This year’s Festival opens on May 25 with an interesting pairing of the young and fast-rising baritone Simon Barrad and Festival director Awadagin Pratt in a not to be missed performance of Franz Schubert’s Winterreise. As with all other performances in the Festival, this one will be given at CCM’s intimate Werner Recital Hall.

For details and tickets go to http://artofthepiano.org

May 25 – Awadagin Pratt and Simon Barrad, baritone
May 26 – Alexander Korsantia
May 31 – Boris Berman
June 2 – Leon Fleisher
June 7 – Jura Margulis
June 8 – Maria Murawska
June 14 – Vladimir Feltsman
June 15 – Christopher O’Riley

Rafael de Acha     RafaelMusicNotes.com

Baritone Thomas Meglioranza and fortepianist Reiko Uchida deliver a memorable Die schöne Müllerin

th1 Set to lyrical texts by Wilhelm Müller Franz Schubert’s Die schöne Müllerin requires intelligence, sensitivity and technique from both the singer and the pianist who set out to perform it – that, and the courage to add one’s interpretation to a long list of historic and contemporary recordings by male singers of every vocal category and legendary accompanists,

A vocal and interpretive hurdle course with its bars set high for both singer and pianist, Schubert’s song cycle about an ill-fated love is along with the same composer’s Schwanengesang and his final Winterreise a rite of passage for singers of German Lied.

Hans Hotter, Thomas Quasthoff brought their darker bass-baritone voices to their recordings of Die schöne Müllerin with most of the twenty songs that make up the cycle sung in lower keys than those in the original, while tenors – notably Ian Bostridge – are able to lend their higher, sweeter sound to Schubert’s original keys. But it is the lyric baritones who to the ears of this listener are able to encompass the variety of colors demanded by this music.

Welcome the golden voiced baritone Thomas Meglioranza, whose partnership with the gifted Reiko Uchida yields splendid results in their just-released CD, titled Die schöne Müllerin.

Ushida plays the accompaniments on an 1829 Zierer fortepiano, drawing a wide-ranging palette of colors from the instrument while providing a solid yet pliable platform for Meglioranza, both delivering a memorable rendition of Schubert’s cycle.

There is much to celebrate here, including both artists’ uncomplicated, unaffected approach that mercifully avoids over-interpretive eccentricity. There’s also the accompanying booklet with the texts of the songs in German and English, and the straightforward engineering by Paul Eachus, all of which go into making this CD available directly from the artist at http://www.meglioranza.com a valuable addition to the libraries of those who love German Lieder.

The album is available from CD Baby as a physical CD as well as a download.
https://store.cdbaby.com/cd/thomasmeglioranza3 It’s also on iTunes and most of the streaming services. And it should be showing up on Amazon any day now.

Rafael de Acha http://www.Rafael’sMusicNotes.com

What made me love music: Fotina Naumenko


When I was little, my sister and I would play records on my parents’ turntable and make up dances to whatever repertoire we had chosen on any particular day.

I remember that the carpet in our living room had a large circular pattern on it, and I would spend hours jumping and spinning around it.

Some of our favorite choices were Borodin’s Polovetsian Dances and Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake, in keeping with my family’s Russian heritage.

Now that I think about it, kudos to my parents for encouraging such a good way for us to let out energy!

Nowadays, I am a vocalist, and not a dancer or orchestral musician: but these early experiences paved the way for my love of the arts and gave me my first taste of the rich and varied creative palate available to us!

Fotina Naumenko, soprano

SPRING IS HERE and music’s in the air – part two

Don’t know exactly how many or how CCM manages it all, but here are just three of the hundreds of musical events our local gem of a conservatory offers every year. Just in time for Spring.


March 30 at 4 pm at CCM’s Patricia Corbett Theater

Bach to BachEarl Rivers helms the combined CCM Philharmonia and Chamber Choir in Handel’s Zadok the Priest, Bach’s Magnificat, Bach’ Brandenburg Concerto No. 4 in G Major, and Handel’s Water Music.



April 12, 13, 14 at CCM’s Corbett Auditorium

La Clemenza di Tito was Mozart’s last operatic hurrah and it contains some smashingly good showpieces for the female leads in the cast. In the upcoming CCM production director Robin Guarino sets the action during the Revolution that overthrew President Batista and saw the arrival in Havana of Fidel Castro and his bearded rebels in January of 1959. I was there then and look forward to see how this update lets art imitate life.



April 14 at 7 pm at CCM’s Patricia Corbett Theater

A Brazilian Fantasy – Featuring three-time Latin Grammy nominee Jovino Santos Neto, the CCM Philharmonia and CCM Jazz Orchestra join forces under the leadership of Aik Khai Pung and Scott Belck in Fantasia Brasileira, an evening of Brazilian music for orchestra and jazz ensemble.


Tickets are available over the telephone at 513-556-4183. CCM Box Office information can also be found online at https://ccm.uc.edu/boxoffice.html.

SPRING IS HERE and music’s in the air – part one

“The sun is shining where clouds have been. Maybe it’s something to do with spring!”

Thus sang Noël Coward, and a chorus of winter-weary concertgoers joins in celebrating the timid arrival of spring in our still rainy and chilly Queen City.

But head for any number of concert venues over the next couple months and you will be in for a musical treat and a reprieve from the nasty outdoors. This time around we focus on four of the small and mid-sized arts organizations that channel their precious $$$ into the art and the artists, rather than their marketing.

cho638 MATINEE MUSICALE still around

I don’t know anyone who was alive and going to concerts in 1912, which is the year Matinee Musicale began operations. Remarkable that they are still around and going strong as the foremost presenters of concert artists in Cincinnati! Our friends at MMC sent, no sooner I asked, an email detailing what they have up their sleeves this spring: Brandon Cho, cellist, on Sunday, April 14 at 3 pm, in Memorial Hall and...


Reed Tetzloff, pianist, on Sunday, May 19 at 3 pm. also in Memorial Hall


IMG_8236 SALON 21 tickles the ivories

Concertgoers continue to rejoice over Salon 21’s success. On May 2nd at 7pm, pianist Talon Smith will play in the welcoming atmosphere of the Weston Art Gallery.         

Dancing Interludes is up next on May 23rd at 7pm, at the Mercantile Library, where violinist Rebecca Culnan will collaborate with pianist Jill Jantzen in a program of piano settings of folk songs and dances from across many centuries and from all over the world.


48398869_1943586305690599_3019507582709530624_n IMMACULATE MUSIC at IMMACULATA 

Plan on coming early and parking for free in the lot next to the church… Next step out, weather permitting, and enjoy one of the nicest views of Cincinnati, the Ohio River, and Kentucky beyond. Then go inside, pick your pew and settle down to listen to Kanako Shimasaki, Christina Nam, Jack Bogard, Sophie Pariot, Judy Huang, Martin Hintz, Jonathan Lee and Hojoon Choi make heavenly music at Immaculata Chamber Music Series on May 5 at 5PM. In the program: Beethoven String Quartet No. 11, Op. 59 “Serioso”, Shostakovich String Quartet No. 7, Op. 108, and Mendelssohn Octet, Op. 20.

Free admission. Donations are welcome and you get brownie points in Heaven.


How about an opera from 1821 about a community obsessed with guns? Talk about art imitating life! Weber’s iconic Der Freischütz re-titled The Magic Bullets and given in a new edition by up and coming conductor Isaac Selya’s Queen City Opera (queencityopera.org) will get two performances, one on Friday May 31st at 8 pm ad one on Sunday June 2nd at 3 pm at the Finneytown Performing Arts Center (8916 Fontainebleau Terrace). Bass-baritone Brandon Morales returns to Cincinnati to star in the bad-guy role of Caspar. Testing his marksmanship, tenor M. Andrew Jones sings the role of Max and vies for the love of soprano Erin Keesey’s Agathe.

Next week: concert:nova, CCM, CSO, May Festival

Rafael de Acha     http://www.RafaelMusicNotes.com

What made me love music: D’Anna Fortunato


I loved music from the beginning when my father would play Opera and symphonic works on the old Victrola.

I started to play the piano at age 3 , mimicking the simple music that my older sister was learning – not a great way to endear oneself to one’s sibling! We little girls expressed ourselves with improvised dances to Swan Lake and other ballets , and went to many concerts my dad played in as a semi professional violinist .

Music was central in our lives and still is in many ways. I’m thankful to my parents, who encouraged all this wonderful madness which still continues to this day !

D’Anna Fortunato, mezzo-soprano

Christopher Langdown


Much too early in his life Polish pianist, teacher and composer Moritz Moszkowski retired from both playing and teaching, lamenting that his compositions students all wanted to write “like artistic madmen such as Scriabin, Schoenberg, Debussy and Satie.“

British pianist Christopher Longdown opened his 2009 Wigmore Hall debut recital with four moments musicaux from Moszkowski’s opus 84.

The performance is now released as a Live in London CD for Divine Art, and it is immensely rewarding to listen to the young and gifted Langdown journey from Moszkowski’s salon world to that of Claude Debussy, one of the Polish master’s ”madmen”, then on to Beethoven’s “Tempest” Sonata, and thence to a set of seven études by Alexander Scriabin, ending lastly with an all too brief Gnossiene by Eric Satie.

Langdown’s programming is both delightfully ironic and brilliant, and it keeps the listener interested during nearly two hour’s worth of lovely music making. Beyond that reading his insightful program notes further enhances the experience.

The engineer for the recording, Darius Weinberg did an excellent job by both faithfully capturing the warmth of the hall’s acoustics and keeping the sound of the piano at a realistic distance, thus avoiding the often claustrophobic intimacy of some recordings we hear these days.

Langdown plays the Moszkowski pieces with the same sobriety that he brings to his reading of Beethoven’s opus 31, no. 2, never condescending nor worshiping at the altar of The Great Composers, but merely playing with impeccable technique, while allowing the music plenty of room to do its thing. Never encumbering the selections with capricious interpretation the young pianist is all business, and the results are remarkable.

In the second CD of the set, we hear a very inventive and pleasantly surprising Dramatic Fantasia by the unjustly neglected (at least here in America) Frank Bridge, into which Langdown injects concentrated high-octane energy.

He follows it with his own composition Deo Omnis Gloria, a tripartite work infused with intense spirituality and emotion. It is an unabashedly romantic work worthy of attention and of its addition to the CD that validates Langdown as a composer of note.

Avoiding the catch all programming approach to so many debut recitals, Langdown ‘s program allows him to transition with assurance from the Romanticism of Moszkowski and Bridge to the transparency of Debussy and Scriabin and to the rigorous classicism of Beethoven, with never a technical misstep. Beyond the merely technical, Christopher Langdown’s immense musicality and unimpeachable musicianship places him in the mind of this listener as one of the finest pianists of Great Britain.

Rafael de Acha       http://www.RafaelMusicNotes.com

Leave it to the French…


Leave it to the French to pull off Rossini’s Le Comte Ory in a production exuding class, panache, and style.

The ingredients that went into this perfection of a concoction are many. Start with Louis Langrée in the pit, helming the peerless Orchestre des Champs Elysées, and the splendid choral ensemble Les elements.

On the basis of this production Louis Langrée should be extended invitations from every company considering a staging or recording of this or any other Rossini opera. He reveals himself here for once and for all as a great opera conductor.

Then there is the cast, with French tenor Phillippe Talbot in the title role. From the moment he comes on stage and sails into the stratospheric aria Que les destins… we are in the good company of a bel canto singer with an endless top voice and all the markings of a great artist. Oh and he can act.

The principals are each and every one terrific singing actors.

The Countess, Julie Fuchs is a visual and vocal delight in a great role.

Gaëlle Arquez in the pants role of Ysolier is the ideal Rossinian mezzo: agile, bright-voiced, and very pretty.

Bass Patrick Bolleire is a hilarious Gouverneur and noble of voice.

Baritone Jean-Sebastien Boud is vocally and dramatically a perfect Rimbaud.

The production sports a great look, ranging from Eric Ruf’s classy wood-paneled unit set, to Christian Lacroix’s richly textured costumes, and Stephanie Daniel’s subtle lighting, all of which situate the action in the Paris of Rossini’s time.

Bringing it all together, stage director Denis Podalydes uses a keen eye for what works and what doesn’t with opera singers creating a show that never lags in comic drive, and neither lapses into hockey humor nor backs off from the randy poly-sexual overtones of the story.

The video and the sound are flawless, quite remarkable for a live recording.

Kudos to C Major!

Rafael de Acha http://www.RafaelMusicNotes.com

Florence Price: The fortitude of the human spirit


The limitations of space (even on my blog) prevent me from giving free reign to my mix of sadness and anger at the fate suffered by so many musicians of color, especially women, and among the many, Florence Beatrice Price.

Instead of giving the reader a blow by blow account of Price’s difficult life as a woman and artist of color living in the American south during the Jim Crow era, and in the less-obviously but still racist Chicago of the 1940’s I instead direct her or him to a simple search on the Internet.

Having done that, I chanced on a wonderful New Yorker article (February 5, 2018) titled The Rediscovery of Florence Price: How an African-American composer’s works were saved from destruction written by the thinking person’s critic Alex Ross, from whom I quote: “If she were not black and a woman, would she be played? If racism and misogyny had not so profoundly defined European and American culture, would as many white male composers have prospered?”

Then let’s give a loud shout out to John Jeter, music director of the finely-tuned Fort Smith (Arkansas) Symphony Orchestra, who last year recorded Florence Price’s symphonies nos. 1 and 4 with excellent results. Additionally here goes a great big thank you to the ever-pioneering Naxos Records for including this CD in its American Classics series.

Briefly and to the point Florence Price’s life is an example of the fortitude of the human spirit. So is her music: highly original, unpredictable in melody and harmonies, flawlessly and carefully orchestrated, carefully crafted whenever she could get to it while bringing up two daughters as a divorced negro woman in 1940’s America and making ends meet by playing the organ in movie palaces and writing radio jingles.

Every time I attend a classical music concert and see a stage peopled by a mass of white, mostly middle-aged men I cringe. Every time I sit at one of those concerts led by yet another white, white-haired male I cringe again. Every time I sit at one of those concerts and not having done so earlier I open the program to encounter yet another line up of more music by the white, male, European composers of the 19th century, aka. “The Great Composers” I cringe yet again.

We should ask our symphony orchestras and chamber music ensembles and soloists to include more of Price’s music in their programs. Here I am not talking just a once-a-year nod on March 8th but as an ongoing effort.

Here’s Alex Ross again: “The idea is not to replace all performances of the “New World” with renditions of Price’s symphonies and concertos. But her pieces warrant more attention than they are receiving now—especially from major orchestras.”

Rafael de Acha      http://www.RafaelMusicNotes.com



After reading through the exhaustive notes provided by pianist Boris Giltburg to accompany his Naxos recording of Franz Liszt’s Twelve Studies (1852) coupled to the Rigoletto paraphrase (1859) and La Leggierezza, the second of the Concert Studies (1848), this listener is left with little to add to Giltburg’s encyclopedic liner notes even by way of an introductory paragraph.

All of these compositions are mature works written by the composer in his late thirties and forties. They are technically daunting, mostly large pieces, written by Liszt for himself, capitalizing on the Hungarian piano virtuoso’s legendary ability at the keyboard.

They were also conceived at the time as pièces d’occasion – the “occasions” often being any that called for an appearance by the keyboard superstar featuring highly descriptive music frequently meant to evoke a certain story or a natural phenomenon, and simultaneously wow the composer’s aristocratic audiences with his super-human technique.

These were short musical evocations that, excepting three – Mazeppa, Ricordanza and Harmonies du Soir, ran under five minutes and even as briefly as fifty-nine seconds. Replete with Lisztian gestures, glissandi, multi-octave arpeggios, and big climaxes back-to-back with delicate passages they are evocative of a perfumed, long lost, privileged era of music-making meant for the  enjoyment of the very few.

Boris Giltburg is the kind of pianist capable of taking on these challenging compositions and making them sound like Important Music, which they are and are not, depending on one’s mood and mindset. For me they belong to a world of salon music by the likes of Thalberg, Gottschalk, Sarasate, Carreño, and others who wrote perfectly beautiful compositions deserving of being preserved and played today by technical wizards like Giltburg, a musician who infuses his playing with deep sensitivity, reminding us that he is a superb artist, in addition to being a virtuoso of his instrument.

This recent Naxos release was perfectly engineered by Simon Eadon and elegantly produced by Andrew Keener.

Rafael de Acha http://www.RafaelMusicNotes.com