Rupert Boyd makes his guitar sing


Rupert Boyd makes his guitar sing.

He swings comfortably with the laid back syncopations of Antonio Carlos Jobim’s Felicidade and Estrada Branca, squeezing every bit of Brazilian saudade out of the Jobim song about unattainable happiness, and making us old enough to have binged on repeated viewings of Orfeu Negro back in 1959 get… melancholy.

The Australian born Boyd must have been alive in a prior incarnation among the brown men who write choros about the possibility of perfect love and, in another life, hung out with Bach in a Leipzig café.

He plays the Suite in E Major, BWV 1006 with classical clarity, artful articulation and eloquence, and follows that with a perfect Introduction and Variation on a Theme of Mozart by Fernando Sor.

I had forgotten what a significant voice that of my compatriot Leo Brouwer is. Boyd’s playing of the Cuban master’s Estudios Sencillos one trough ten is impeccable: a brace of miniatures chock-full of technical hurdles some whimsically labeled by the composer: fast…very fast…as fast as possible…are surmounted by Boyd’s dexterity. Throughout Brouwer’s sensual melodies are lovingly brought out.

Astor Piazzolla’s Milonga del Angel and La Muerte del Angel are played by Boyd just right and by just right I mean with total flexibility, and a mix of River Plate sadness and Argentine bravura.

The SONO LUMINUS CD (DSL 92231) also includes a lovely piece by Boyd’s fellow Australian Graeme Koehne, and Julia, a John Lennon/Paul McCartney gem.

In his insightful liner notes Rupert Boyd writes about his chosen instrument’s capability of playing a variety of styles of music. This album, the third of Boyd’s in my CD library, once more reinforces that belief, as it extends to both Boyd’s precious guitar and his sensitive playing of music from Brazil, Argentina, Germany, Spain, and Cuba

The familiar and ever reliable team of Producer Dan Merceruio and Engineer Daniel Shores again prove themselves the best among the best.

The CD is widely available on several platforms come April 26.

Rafael de Acha


Labels can be torn off or replaced or scrapped or peeled off. Music that sets out to speak for itself need no labels. So let us agree on one thing: Cuban-American composer is the only label that Yalil Guerra is getting from me.

Depending on your state of mind and your musical preferences, should you sit down to listen to Cuba: The Legacy (RYCY Symphonic Series, Vol. I) you might come up with a label or two of your choosing or even make up one of your own. I entreat you though, before you rush to judgment, to give this music a listening ear. You will certainly be surprised if your concept of Cuban music has thus far been rumba, mambo and salsa accompanied by below-the-waist undulations. In this case you will discover two composers of symphonic music, both Cuban, both immensely gifted, the two from generations nearly sixty years apart.

Aurelio de la Vega, now in his nineties has labored in the trenches of serious writing since graduating mid-century with a couple of post-graduate diplomas from the Ada Iglesias Music Institute of Havana. Having composed for every imaginable musical instrument in just about every possible combination, his works have traversed several stylistic periods and have earned de la Vega’s his current status as the pre-eminent living composer of Cuban origin.

His Intrata is a brief and frequently programmed work that employs massive orchestral outbursts in the brass and percussion sections contrasted to quiet interludes: a solo violin here, a solo cello there. Intrata belongs to the world of free use of the 12 tones of the scale, either in snippets of fleeting melody or in vertical blocks that know no allegiance to traditional harmony. He bases the entire structure of his intriguing composition on subterranean rhythms, achieving a huge cumulative impact.

Yalil Guerra is a chameleonic composer. I have previously reviewed two of his CD’s and have been most impressed by his charismatic music, so redolent of his and mine native Havana, with its Afro and Iberian cadences.

Here, though, Yalil Guerra is up to something different. In this, his first symphony, titled La Palma Real, after Cuba’s proudly tall royal palm, the composer rends homage to the life and struggle of José Martí, the man we Cubans call The Apostle.

In four movements, each bearing a title referential to the life of the Cuban patriot, the composer traces and echoes in musical terms the Exile, the Battle, where Marti died, the Elegy that memorializes the fallen hero, and the final Legacy.

Guerra’s four-movement Symphony no. 1 is a massively orchestrated work that calls for some heavy lifting on the part of the orchestra and its maestro, here the top-notch National Symphony Orchestra of Cuba under the loving leadership of Enrique Perez Mesa.

Like a tropical Mahler, Guerra chooses to pile up motif after motif with no obvious intention to develop and recapitulate. For him and for this listener more is simply more.

The effect is transfixing and dramatic, leaving no stone unturned.

Giraldo Garcia engineered in Havana with impeccable results. Oscar Autie remastered and mixed State-side to great effect.

For a symphonic past master in his prime this would be a laudable work. For a young master sure of his voice and of himself yet still in search-and-discover musical missions, La Palma Real is the work of a genius full of promise. And that is cause for celebration.

Rafael de Acha

The CD is available through and from



Look at the program book of the symphony concert you are attending. Then look again at the musicians on stage. Then have a third look at the conductor just entering the stage. Take one more look to one side of you and then the other, and then glance in the direction of those sitting in the rows in front of yours. Once you’re done looking at all this tell me in a few words what you see.

Let me tell you what I see and hear at most of the dozens of concerts I attend and review on a regular basis. Let me add, if I may, my similar take on the hundreds of CD’s I review and write about on my blog. Let me tell you in a few words what I have been seeing and hearing for most of the sixty-plus years I have been going to the opera, the symphony, the ballet, chamber music concerts, conservatory recitals, and watching Live from Lincoln Center on PBS and Ed Sullivan on Sunday evenings before then.

I have been enjoying the music-making of a large number of mostly Caucasian, middle-aged men – marvelous musicians one and all – and wondering why they are always playing the same old pieces by the same old early 20th and 19th and 18th century composers mostly with Anglo-Saxon and Teutonic names, depicted in the program books with impressive portraits or vintage photographs of faces that look like nobody in my family.

As for those seated round and next to me at the concerts, I would describe them succinctly as a vast sea of white-haired, white, mostly female faces. Same goes for those up on the stage, except the majority of them are males and also white-haired and white.

Now in my mid-seventies I still remember back in the early years of this century when the first pioneering women conductors took on major podiums and rocked the music establishment. I was not around when Antonia Brico guest conducted the Berlin Philharmonic in 1930, but outside a gig here and another there, she had to go it alone and found her own orchestra in 1937, which at first had an all-female contingent. After that, years of unemployment for women conductors…

Gallons and gallons of water flowed under the bridges of the musical establishment until we finally saw Marin Alsop come on board to helm the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra in 2007, years after JoAnn Falletta took up the baton in Buffalo in 1999. The classical music world moves at a snail’s pace.

Conductors of color… May I count them with the fingers of one hand? Singers of color… Many females in my time, few males, now a little better than my memories of Julliard and the old MET in the 1960’s but still a ways to go… Look at the current MET roster. Look at the casts of most of their productions this season. I don’t know what you see but all I look at is another sea of white faces.

For us to build a future for classical music in our country we better have a good look around and see where we need to go from here, so that our grandchildren will be able to enjoy the wonder of classical music written and performed by people of all races and all ages and all sexes that look and sound like those seated in the darkened auditorium that make it possible for the music to go on and for the players to get paid.

Rafael de Acha


As a little girl we lived in Jovellanos, a small town next to the Carretera Central. Jovellanos had a large black population because at one time there were several sugar refineries in the area.

One of the most wonderful things about living there was going to sleep listening to the wonderful Afro-Cuban music of the bembes and waking up when the drumming stopped. 

Once or twice I had a chance to take a peek during one of these rituals and was fascinated by the music and the dancing.

These memories have made such an imprint in my imagination, that to this day, the music I compose is full of rhythm and dancing.

Odaline de la Martinez, composer, conductor

Here’s a link to Odaline’s Canciones for percussion and voice

Music for All Seasons at Historic Peterloon Season 2019-2020

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Music for All Seasons at Historic Peterloon Season 2019-2020

OCTOBER 6, 2019, 2 pm

Some Americans

Louis Gottschalk The Union The Banjo

Samuel Barber Knoxville Summer of 1915, Op. 24

Aaron Copland Variations on a Shaker Melody from Appalachian Spring 

Saturday Night Waltz from Rodeo

Hoe- Down from Rodeo

George Gershwin Summertime (Porgy and Bess)

Carlysle Floyd Ain’t it a pretty night (Susannah)

Leonard Bernstein Take care of this House (1600 Pennsylvania Avenue)

George Gershwin Three Preludes for piano

I’ve got rhythm

Amber R. Monroe, soprano Roman Rudnytsky, pianist

Roman Rudnytsky’s performances have taken him to over one hundred countries, appearing as soloist with orchestras and in recital. Recent engagements during his 21st tour of Great Britain and Australia included thirty concerts throughout those two countries. Retired from his position as professor of piano and music at the Dana School of Music of Youngstown State University, Indiana University School of Music, the Universities of Melbourne and Wollongong in Australia, Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, and as Artist-in-Residence at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music.

Amber R. Monroe recently sang the role of the Governess in Benjamin Britten’s The Turn of the Screw, about which Seen and Heard-International said: “The possessor of a crystalline lyric soprano and a superb singing actress, Amber R. Monroe turned the role of the Governess into the heart and soul of the opera.” Amber has appeared with the Glimmerglass Festival in Cooperstown, New York, with Opera Western Reserve, and with Oberlin in Italy, singing, among others, the part of Clara in Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess, and the title role of Puccini’s Suor Angelica



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

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

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 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. 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’

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

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 ( 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