LOOKING BACK ON 2019

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The three-year calendar helps keep track of week-to-week appointments, concert dates, and both social and work commitments, but does no good when one tries to look back over the year that’s about to end. And looking back is just what we’re trying to do by drafting an end-of-year account of all the good artistic things that 2019 brought our way.

So here it is, in random order, relying solely on memory, which as we all know can be faulty, so please one and all forgive me for anything or anyone I leave out.

IN NEW YORK

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Kimberly and I celebrated our 51st anniversary quietly at home, having just weeks before taken our annual pilgrimage to NYC to recharge our batteries by attending some good theatre, highlighted by two performances “for the books”: Network with Brian Cranston, and King Lear with Glenda Jackson.

Oh and there were some good meals with good friends, among them Seen and Heard-International ’s Bruce Hodges, and concert pianist Matei Varga.

We were at a Naxos breakfast announcing a comprehensive series of recordings of Brazilian classical music to which our friend Paula Mlyn invited us, and we were honored by the label’s decision to include a review of their first release: one of the 200+ reviews from our blog http://www.RafaelMusicNotes.com in the folder given to all those in attendance at the event.

IN CINCINNATI

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In Cincinnati we continued to take in as many music events as we could possibly fit into our lives, and among those live concerts and operas we now continue to enjoy the memory of the 2019 Cincinnati Opera season highlighted by a fine Marriage of Figaro, a terrific Romeo et Juliette, and an especially good Ariadne auf Naxos on the main Music Hall stage, and in the smaller hall an intriguing new chamber opera, Blind Injustice, all of which we reviewed for http://www.SeenandHeard-International.com

Again, in Cincinnati, the Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra gave one more exciting Summermusik lineup highlighted by two appearances by the superb guitarist Pepe Romero.

The Immaculata Church in Mt. Adams filled its 2019 Chamber Music Series led by Kanako Shimasaki and Jonathan Lee with great music-making, and the Philharmonia Orchestra at CCM, led by the superb Mark Gibson triumphed time and again, as did the CCM Concert Orchestra, led by yet another first class conductor, the Malaysian-born Aik Khai Pung.

Two concerts by the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra still linger in our memory, one the notoriously treacherous Rachmaninoff Third Piano Concerto, brilliantly played by the Russian-born Kirill Gerstein with Karina Canellakis leading the CSO. The other: a powerful, soulful performance, with Louis Langrée at the helm heroically holding together Christopher Rouse’s Sixth Symphony, his final work – music that spoke of a great life well lived nearing its end.

RECORDED MUSIC

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The here today, gone tomorrow nature of live music is by nature ephemeral while recorded music can live on in the privacy of one’s home. Among dozens of CD’s and DVD’s I reviewed, the Baltimore Consort’s Sono Luminus CD The Food of Love continues to make listening to its treasure trove of Elizabethan music sheer joy.

Daniel Tarrab’s music with its jazzy riffs, its classical cadenzas, and its improvisatory flights of fancy reveal this artist’s soul in every bar of every tango of every track of Otra Mirada.

Stewart Goodyear’s brilliantly inventive Callaloo is a musical fantasy in which snippets of Trinidad’s Calypso vie for attention with a heady mix of Jamaican Mento, afro-Cuban Guaguancó, Son, Conga and Guaracha, and inter-island Soca.

Pentatones CD of American songs with soprano Melody Moore and pianist Bradley Moore makes one hard put to find enough adequate words of praise for both artists.

Two Cuban choral groups lend their voices to an intriguingly varied collection of works by international composers in the Ansonica CD, Coro del Mundo, with the all-women Ensemble Vocal Luna creating dazzling instrumental sounds with its voices, and Schola Cantorum Coralina shining in various hip-swaying settings of Cuban poetry.

Norwegian harpist Sidsel Walstad, protean in her ability to spin a long legato line with an instrument notoriously hard to master, joins forces with the Norwegian Radio Orchestra, led by Miguel Harth-Bedoya delivers a memorable performance of Ginastera’s Harp Concerto in this LAWO release.

The four players in the Métier release FOUR are formidable musicians, impeccable technicians, young of age but mature in music by Eugène Bozza, Frank Bridge, Jean Françaix, Richard Rodney-Bennett, Jacques Ibert, and Claude Arrieu that is now lyrical, now outrageously humorous, and blessedly unpretentious.

In Ricciardo e Zoraide a new release of a Rossini rarity by Cmajor, Peruvian tenor Juan Diego Florez and South African soprano Pretty Yende in the title roles are simply perfect, with Tenor Sergey Romanovsky, mezzo-soprano Victoria Yarovaya, tenor Xabier Anduaga and bass-baritone Nicola Ulivieri all first class in other roles.

The BIS recording of the rough-hewn, big-boned 1869 original version of Mussorgsky’s Boris Godunov stars the young Ukrainian bass Alexander Tsymbalyuk, commanding yet restrained, vulnerable and ultimately heartbreaking in his Death scene.

MUSIC FOR ALL SEASONS and THE READER’S THEATRE PROJECT

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Both Kimberly and I kept out of trouble busying ourselves with the organizing of our seven and eighth years of Music for All Seasons concerts at Peterloon, where we brought four musical events to a loyal audience that helped raise for CCM over four thousand dollars in a Silent Auction at year’s end, and a few more much-needed scholarship dollars in ticket sales during a lineup involving countless artists far too many to single out here.

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Kimberly embarked on a new venture: a play-reading series at The Barn in Mariemont, which she flawlessly helmed, directing readings of plays some about visual artists: Gertrude Stein and a Companion, Alfred Stieglitz Loves O’Keefe, Painting Churches, and the closing Love Letters.

We look forward to our next series, which we hope will feature readings of new plays by our friends Michael McKeever and Mario Diament.

We continue to celebrate life with the life-giving arts while we treasure the memory of several artists who passed during 2019 who in one way or another made a mark on us personally with their life and their art, among them the majestic Jessye Norman, who famously said that “pigeonholes are for pigeons” and who by sheer example taught us all to defy those who want to limit and label art and artists.

Rafael de Acha     Rafael Music Notes   December 2019

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