Here’s news about what, where and when and who about several of our musician friends, all of whom have appeared in the past and or will be performing for the first time with Music for All Seasons this year:

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JAMES MEADE will be participating in Neif Norf a New Music Festival that explores collaboration between composers and performers. Following that, James will be releasing CAROL, his second CD – an all-Latin American album coning out in July 8th on the Bandcamp label Then it will time to prepare Joaquin Rodrigo’s Fantasia para un Gentilhombre for the October Music for All Seasons concert

JOE REBMAN will be playing his harp in chamber music and orchestral concerts with the American Modern Orchestra at the Mostly Modern Festival in Saratoga Springs, New York in June. Joe will later be speaking about commissioning composers to write new works at the American Harp Society‘s Conference in Redlands, California. After his return he will be presenting his first Faculty Recital on Friday, September 7th at 7:00 at NKU featuring solo harp compositions commissioned by him.

Bass-baritone KEN SHAW heads for the Pittsburgh Opera Festival this summer, where he will ascending to the heights of Valhalla as he sings the role of Wotan in a Jonathan Eaton production of Wagner’s Das Rheingold in the Jonathan Dove English version. No stranger to the role, which along with the Walkuere‘S Wotan, Shaw has sung in concert several times, the bass-baritone looks forward to working alongside Jane Eaglen teaching the company’s young artists.

World traveling SCOTT SHERMAN and YAOYUE HUANG  have been touring in China, performing in concert and giving lectures in Shantou University and Shenzhen Meilin School. Scott and Yaoyue next travel to Japan, where they have been invited by the management of the classical music magazine Ongaku no Tomo, to perform in its recital hall in Tokyo. The duo pianists next head for Israel to participate in the Tel Hai Music Festival.

KANAKO SHIMSAKI  is in Japan, where she will perform in concerts with two other members of her trio: her sister, violinist Mariko Shimasaki and pianist Luke Gillespie. The concerts will feature several of the trio’s original arrangements: sections from Holst’s The Planets, Vltava from Ma Vlast by Smetana, and Beethoven’s Pathetique. Later in the summer Kanako will travel to Memphis to be a visiting artist and violin soloist with the Memphis Repertory Orchestra.

BILL WILLITS moves around, carrying his string instruments, starting this Tuesday, May 29, at 12 noon, when he takes on the Vivaldi Concerto for Lute and Orchestra, and Schubert’s Quartet for guitar and strings with the Consort in the Egg at Christ Church Cathedral. Beyond lies more chamber music, starting with a gig with Chamber Palooza on September 1 at the CAM and an all-Spanish line up with mezzo soprano Paulina Vilareal on September 22 for the Cincinnati Song Initiative

Rafael de Acha

Seen and Heard-International


Established in 1999, http://www.SeenandHeard-International.com has more than 60 internationally based correspondents who publish hundreds of reviews of concert, opera and dance performances every year as well as other articles of musical interest. S&HI reports from most of the major venues in the UK and from many others in Europe, the Americas, Asia, Australia and New Zealand, making it probably the most comprehensive online classical music review magazine anywhere in the world.

I have been contributing to Seen and Heard now for the past five years and I am thrilled that some of my writings have brought international recognition to Cincinnati. I look forward to continuing to work with our wonderful editors in the UK and with the peerless Bruce Hodges in New York.

Please have a look at my latest contribution to S&HI: http://seenandheard-international.com/2018/05/a-mass-for-a-deeply-dispiriting-time  and check periodically for my upcoming coverage of the Cincinnati May Festival, Mam-Luft & Co. Dance, Summermusik and much of the Cincinnati Music Scene this coming season.

Keep the good music going!



This morning, listening to a classical music station the announcer let us know that next up was a viola concerto. The announcement pleased me, the snarky chuckle the announcer gave did not. I find nothing funny about all the tiresome viola jokes that go around in music circles, and I felt downright insulted when the announced composition turned out to be William Walton’s twice-revised Concerto for Viola and Orchestra.

I turned off the radio in a huff and put on the recently released Chandos CD of William Walton’s compositions (WALTON CHSA 5210) that includes the Concerto for Viola and Orchestra, the 1971 Sonata for String Orchestra, and the 1957 Partita for Orchestra.

Edward Gardner paces the BBC Symphony Orchestra in all three of the compositions in a patrician manner, ever attentive to his soloist in the Viola Concerto, and violinist James Ehnes is the superb viola soloist, utterly comfortable with his other instrument.

Listening to this album, some of its contents dating back to 1928, when Walton was a twenty-six year old hopeful still finding his way in the midst of the ever-changing European music scene of those years, pleased immensely and made one ponder the significance of Walton in the context of 20th century music.

And, in a personal way, the varied moods of the viola concerto brought back a memory of my first encounter with Walton’s music, when at age fourteen I was held transfixed by Walton’s score for Laurence Olivier’s 1948 film of Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Not the specific musical ideas from the film’s score, but the muscularity, the mercurial changes of tempo, the at times purposely dense, at others crystal-clear orchestration are all there to remind us of what a great composer Walton is.

Walton indicates no less than eight tempo markings in the first movement of the Concerto, that section lasting barely eight minutes. And a good thing it is that he has the indispensable Edward Gardner at the helm of the BBC Symphony Orchestra and the formidable James Ehnes on the viola, for no transition ever feels abrupt, and every switch of musical gears is pure quicksilver.

The second movement is marked in Italian: lively and very precisely and with resolve, and in it there are passages in which Walton whimsically employs odd pairings, like a humorous duettino for bassoon and viola, only to follow these moments with deadly serious, jagged patterns that remind us that the composer means business. In the third and final movement of the concerto, Walton tests the mettle of his conductor and orchestra with no less than a dozen changes of pace, each moodily different.

Throughout the three compositions, the writing is tonal (A minor, E minor, A Major in the Concerto) and there are plenty of melodic turns of phras, even though none call attention to themselves. Never one to flirt with atonality, Walton held fast to an English tradition of tonality that was unselfconsciously embraced by many of his British predecessors and contemporaries. Yet unpredictable twists and turns in the harmony let us know that here was a young fellow with his  ears open to what was happening in the Paris, Berlin and Vienna of the first decades is the 20th century

The Concerto is the main event on this CD, but the inclusion of the Sonata for String Orchestra and the Partita for Orchestra should be noted. Both are admirable works that call for bravura and soloist-level playing, especially from the strings, and in both, concertmaster Igor Yuzepovich makes us wish for a future Chandos CD of English music for violin and orchestra, which hopefully would include Ralph Vaughn Williams’ The Lark Ascending.

Once again Chandos delivers here a world-class product, impeccably packaged, insightfully annotated by Anthony Burton, and perfectly engineered by Brian Pidgeon.

Rafael de Acha



In Tchaikovsky’s 1892 opera, Iolanta (his last), the composer’s brother Modeste, author of the libretto, based it on Henrik Hertz’s play Kong Renés Datter, a semi historical Danish language play about a blind princess. Tchaikovsky and his brother treat the subject of psychological blindness sensitively, sufficiently romanticizing it so as to make this one-act tale about the healing power of love something more than a scientific tract.

More than a century later, the first ever documented case of psychological blindness was treated in America when Shirl Jennings recovered his loss of sight becoming at first psychologically overwhelmed by the visual saturation to which his newly-recovered sight subjected him, ultimately becoming a painter.

The subject proved so fascinating that the movie, At First Sight and, later, Brian Friel’s play Molly Sweeney, and Dr. Oliver Saks’ book An Anthropologist in Mars all three dealt with the same story in markedly different ways.

Art may imitate life although it does not have to slavishly replicate it, and thus Tchaikovsky’s one-act romantic fairy tale makes for a fascinating evening of lyric theatre. Welcome then the enterprising Queen City Chamber Opera now gearing up to bring to the Queen City the first ever local production of the tale of Iolanta.

The young Isaac Selya helms this little company that could and has and will, assembling a very fine cast of young up and coming singers. In the title role, soprano Raquel Gonzalez will find love in the arms of tenor M. Andrew Jones (Count Vaudemont) against the wishes of Stefan Egerstrom (King Rene) and in spite of the cautious advise of bass-baritone, Adam Cioffari (medicine man Ibn-Hakia).

Baritone Simon Barrad is love-sick, Robert, and an assortment of courtiers and retinue is in the capable hands of several of this area’s finest singers: Shareese Arnold, Melisa Bonetti, Lauren Mc Allister, Travis Pearce and Junbo Zhou.

Maestro Isaac Selya paces the production, which has been staged by Rebecca Herman, and designed by Lizzie Duquette (set), Joy Galbraith (costumes), and Larry Cserink (lighting). Kseniia Polstiankina Barrad is the Russian-language coach. The opera will be sung in the original Russian, with projected English translations.

Performances will take place Friday May 25 at 8.00 pm and Sunday May 27 at 3.00 pm,
both at the Arts Center at Dunham (1945 Dunham Way). Tickets are available by visiting https://iolantaopera.brownpapertickets.com or by calling 1-800-838-3006.

Rafael de Acha



HAYDEN SMITHI first heard Hayden Smith a couple of years ago in a production of Benjamin Britten’s Albert Herring, playing to perfection the role of Sid. Later, in a triple bill of one act operas given by Opera d’Arte at CCM this past April, I found the singing of this 19-year old baritone to be well ahead of his chronological age, writing: “Finest among the very fine members of the triple-bill cast, in the role of Sam, the young baritone Hayden Smith, possessor of a burly physique and the voice to go with it, delivered the kind of vocally mature and dramatically honest performance that bodes well for a young man soon to be on the cusp of an operatic career.”

Hayden will be entering his junior year at CCM this fall, studying with Professor Kenneth Shaw. He is in good hands there, as he is also under the direction of Professor Shaw with whom he will be working on the role of Dr. Falke in the upcoming Opera d’Arte production of Johann Strauss’s Die Fledermaus, this coming February.

Hayden has been awarded a $1,000 tuition scholarship at Oregon’s prestigious Saratoga Music Festival. There he will be singing the role of Count Almaviva in an all-student production of Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro.

Cause for celebration? Sure. Bravo, Hayden!

But Hayden needs our help. He needs approximately $2,000 for his round-trip flight and his living expenses in Oregon. He even needs the money to buy the score of Mozart’s opera, so he can start to study it.

And like with most students at CCM, Hayden’s family pays his tuition, and tuition at UC, in case you did not know, is a killer.

Our De Acha Family Foundation has chosen Hayden Smith as its 2018 Young Artist of Great Promise. He will be the recipient of a cash award to be given him in our October 8 Music for All Seasons concert at Peterloon, in which he will also perform.

But that is then and this is now, and you too can help by taking out your checkbook and pen and sending a tax-deductible donation of any amount you can afford payable to the De Acha Family Foundation/MUSIC FOR ALL SEASONS, P0 Box 43172, Cincinnati, Ohio 45243, making sure to write at the bottom of the check: HAYDEN SMITH FUND.

Thank you for your support of a wonderful young artist.

Rafael de Acha




First the facts: Miriam K. Smith is ten years old. She has been studying with Sara Kim and Alan Rafferty since she was 4, and has already built up an extensive resume, playing in concert and in recitals across America. Her partner pianist was Jacob Miller, who just received his Master’s degree at CCM, and who will continue his work with Ran Dank towards a DMA this fall.

On Friday May 12, Miriam and Jacob played a recital at CCM’s Werner Hall, beginning with Beethoven’s Variations on the Pamina-Papageno Duet, from Mozart’s The Magic Flute. Miriam’s gift for producing a seamless, singing sound was soon in evidence. Miller proved at once to be a fine and flexible collaborator.

Schubert’s Arpeggione Sonata sounds best to this pair of ears when played by a cello, and Miriam Smith’s elicited from her instrument a creamy though robust sound perfectly suited to this seemingly simple yet complex composition. Miller again was an equal partner

After a brief pause, the recital began anew with Alberto Ginastera’s moody Pampeana No. 2. The fairly brief composition mines the lower register of the cello with restless, at times dissonant gestures that evoke the desolate and lonely expanses of Argentina’s southernmost regions. The Smith-Miller pairing excelled in their playing, both assertively taking on Ginastera’s musical asperities with flair and flawless musicality.

The recital came to a close with Mstislav Rostropovich’ Humoresque for Violoncello and Piano, an early opus by the legendary Russian maestro that would give pause to any but the bravest of cellists. Miriam Smith played it with cheeky virtuosity and Jacob Miller kept up with the rapid tempo, ever attentive to his partner.

The sizeable audience gave the pair a well-deserved ovation that brought the two back for a lovely rendition of Rachmaninoff’s Vocalise.

Miriam can be found on http://www.miriamksmith.com

Rafael de Acha



Joe Rebman


Cincinnati-born Joseph Rebman is passionate about the harp. Over coffee a few weeks ago we spoke at length about his life-long love: the harp. Joe told me how he began studying the harp and composition at age ten, eventually receiving a bachelor’s degree in harp performance from the Cleveland Institute of Music, a Master’s degree in composition from the University of Oklahoma, and an Artist Diploma from CCM.


Since then Joe has been performing with orchestras and ensembles throughout the United States, serving as principal harpist and acting principal harpist with the Amarillo Symphony, the Huntington Symphony, the Oklahoma City Philharmonic, the Fort Smith Symphony, and the Erie Philharmonic. He has also appeared as soloist with the Norfolk Chamber Music, and the Five-One Experimental Orchestra of Cleveland.


Joe has lectured on composing for the harp at the Atlantic Music Festival, the CIM Young Composers Program, the Rocky Ridge Music Festival, the University of Oklahoma, and CCM. He has had his own compositions played at the NACUSA convention, the TUTTI New Music Festival, the Ball State Festival of New Music, and the Greater Cleveland Flute Society’s Composers Connection Concert.


Joseph Rebman makes his first appearance with Music for All Seasons at Historic Peterloon on October 14, 2018, playing Marcel Grandjany’s Fantasy on a theme of Haydn, Op. 31 and Gabriel Fauré’s Impromptu’ for Harp in D flat major.


Here he is as both composer and harpist in his own composition Eros Pithos http://www.josephrebman.com/eros



From Shakespeare to Schubert to Allan Jay Lerner, poets and composers have sung about May, and now hopefully with the unseasonal frosts of the past couple of months behind us, we get ready to welcome spring with some music.

In the concert halls and alternative performance spaces of the Queen City exciting things will be turning up over the next few weeks, so here is my bucket list. Check these out and pencil them into your schedules.

May 5, Saturday at 8 pm (also Sunday May 6 at 2 pm)– CSO at Music Hall – Harry Bicket conducts Handel’s Concerto Grosso and vocal and instrumental music by Jean-Philippe Rameau, featuring countertenor Iestyn Davies. Tickets: http://www.cincinnatisymphony.org

May 11, Friday at 11 am (also Saturday May 12 at 8 pm and Sunday May 13 at 2 pm) – CSO at Music Hall: Beethoven’s Seventh, Louis Langree conducts and James Ehnes is the soloist in the Brahms Violin Concerto. Tickets: http://www.cincinnatisymphony.org


May 11, Friday at 7 pm at CCM’s Werner Recital Hall – 10-year old Cellist Miriam Smith playing a program that would give flop sweat to many a cellist twice her age: Schubert’s “Arpeggione” Sonata, Beethoven’s Variations on Mozart’s “Bei Männern” from “Die Zauberflöte”, Ginastera’s “Pampeana no. 2”…The Works! I have heard the child and none of this is hype: she is amazing and the concert is free.

May 17, Thursday at 7 pm at the Mercantile Library – Salon 21 presenting a woodwind quintet… Free admission but for Heaven’s sake, give them a donation!

May 18, Friday at 8 pm in Music Hall – May Festival Opening Concert: Giuseppe Verdi’s “Requiem Mass” Tickets: http://www.cincinnatisymphony.org

May 19, Saturday at 8 pm at Music Hall – May Festival: Leonard Bernstein’s “Mass” Tickets: http://www.cincinnatisymphony.org

May 24-26 – MamLuft&Co. Dance premieres “Iceman 3000”, an original work co-presented by the Contemporary Arts Center. Tickets: contemporaryartscenter.org/iceman or 513.345.8400

May 25, Friday at 8 pm at Music Hall – Benjamin Britten’s “Chichester Psalms” with Countertenor David Daniels, in a double-bill with Maurice Ravel’s “Daphnis et Chloe” Tickets: http://www.cincinnatisymphony.org

Word to the wise: my list is subjective to the point of being capricious and sometimes annoyingly subjective. Bear with my quirks– all for a good cause.

Rafael de Acha



Last week we saw two operas, both French, one at the MET, one at Juilliard. The MET’s production of Gounod’s Romeo et Juliette is actually a La Scala/Salzburg Festival co-production revived this season to please those in the MET audience that cry out for more French Romanticism and less Sturm und Drang. In order to satisfy that demand the MET has also included in its 2018 season its first ever production of Massenet’s Cendrillon, which alas! I could not catch as it hadn’t yet opened while we were in
NYC to satisfy our hunger for operatic haute cuisine.

At Juilliard we had a fine afternoon listening to Rameau’s gorgeous music for Hippolyte et Aricie while enjoying the work of some two dozen plus young artists who are still perfecting their craft as members of various ensembles as undergraduates, or as graduates on an Artist Diploma track. Without exception their work was stellar, due in great part to the training they receive from a faculty that includes stage director Stephen Wadsworth, choreographer Zack Winokur, and a phalanx of top-notch vocal, musical, movement, diction and acting coaches and master teachers.

French Baroque Opera has a complex set of demands for the singing actor, greater than many other operas in the canon. There is above all the French language – highly poetic in the hands of Quinault, Rameau’s librettist and immensely important in the telling of the convoluted story of Hippolytus, the hapless love object of Phedre, his stepmother, and the son of King Theseus.

Rameau was re-inventing French opera, half a century after Lully had created the first masterpieces of Baroque French tragedie lyrique, and he wove a seamless musical tapestry in this, his operatic debut at the age of 48, giving his singers pages and pages of accompanied recitative punctuated now and then by an arioso and very rarely by an ensemble. Instead choruses and dance sequences are interspersed throughout the opera’s five acts not merely to enliven the action but to tell the story and drive forward the action.

Portraying characters driven by fate rather than by psychology demands a cast comfortable with the style of French Baroque opera. Add to that the necessity to move comfortably about in period costumes and make it all look real, and the cast of this opera had its work cut out for it. Even though Hyppolitus is the co-protagonist of the opera, it is Theseus he who comes across as central and intrinsic to the denouement of the crazy-quilt story.

Bass-baritone Alex Rosen nobly held the stage for long stretches of time, delivering Rameau’s music as sonorously, comfortably and stylishly as one could ever hope for, especially in his invocation to Jupiter, Puisque Pluton est inflexible. Rosen will be singing Seneca in the upcoming production of Monteverdi’s Incoronazione di Poppea in this summer’s Cincinnati Opera, and we look forward to his debut.

Soprano Onadek Winan was a vulnerable, forthright Aricie, and guest haute-contre Kyle Stegall a sterling Hyppolite.  Soprano Natalia Kutateladze stopped the show cold a couple of times with her fierce singing of the role of the conflicted Phaedre.

The production is handsome, and scene changes smoothly transition from infernal darkness to Arcadian spring thanks to David Lander’s spot-on lighting. Charlie Corcoran’s set and Sarah Cubbage costumes perfectly straddle Greek classical references and Louis XV decadence.

Director Stephen Wadsworth and choreographer Zack Winokur keep it all aloft, and musical director Stephen Stubbs in the pit and often at the harpsichord keeps the performance on track.

At the MET, our seats at the Grand Tier provided a perfect view of a massive set by the usually reliable Michael Yeargan, whose take on Verona, is not the one of Shakespeare’s Renaissance, but a dark-hued 1700’s one which steadfastly resisted transforming itself into anything else. This was a lamentable setback that consigned the ill- fated loves of the tale to a public display of love-making on a flat platform situated smack dead center stage and presumably in the middle of Verona’s busiest marketplace.

The mixed metaphor then continued into the marriage scene in Friar Laurent’s cell again in the middle of things, and lastly into the tomb scene. Bartlet Sher’s production came off as a mixed bag in which metaphor and slice of life uneasily shared the stage.

The supporting cast was solid: Laurent Nouri’s convincing Capulet, Joshua Hopkins mercurial Mercutio, and Kangchul Youn’s fervent Friar Laurent were faultlessly cast. Placido Domingo is steadily developing into a first-rate conductor: he led well and remained ever sensitive to the singers.

Juliet is a tricky part. When first she appears we encounter Shakespeare’s painfully shy fourteen-year old singing about her wish to live freely as in a dream. Four acts later she has become a woman capable of feigning her own death so as to live in connubial bliss happily ever after. But Gounod places vocal demands on his protagonist that clearly call for a full-voice lyric soprano capable of matching her Romeo high note for high note in a couple of hefty duets. Ailyn Perez might just be the ideal Juliet for Gounod’s version of the classic tale. On opening night she sounded guardedly cautious at first, but by the time she got to the final scene she had thrown all caution to the wind and held the audience transfixed with impassioned translucent singing.

Bryan Hymel was to have sung the title role but took ill and had to be replaced by Andrea Shin. The Korean tenor made an auspicious debut, singing a lovely  Ah! Leve-toi, soleil! and navigating well through tricky blocking, difficult sword fights, and perilous music. He set all doubts to rest with glorious singing and well-intentioned acting.

But let the MET provide the two lovers with some privacy next time around!

Rafael de Acha

Soothing Sounds of Silence

NRR2013112553_1SOFT LIGHT is the title of a recent release by the métier label that has of recent been producing quite a great deal of new music. With the participation of SHONORITIES, a group that includes Shie Shoji on vocals, Naomi Sato on soprano saxophone and Japanese sho, Lin Lin on flutes, Stelios Chatziliosifidis on violin, and Jasmina Samssuli at the piano, composer Basil Athanasiadis offers a soothing sampling of seven of his compositions.

All ten tracks are nothing but mesmerizing quietude as their titles immediately and prior to listening indicate. Both Air Still and The Cat in Love are vocal settings of haikus, the first peaceful and meditative, the second whimsical. The instrumental tracks contain music that embraces both the western roots of the composer – Greek born, English-trained at Trinity College and at the Royal Academy of Music – and his study and complete assimilation of Japanese music acquired while living and doing research in Japan. The results are absolutely intriguing and immensely satisfying, leaving this listener in a state of completely peaceful relaxation.

Unlike western music with its frequent reliance on motif development, rhythmic drive and contrapuntal intricacy, this is music that hues closely to a Japanese aesthetic based on simplicity of utterance and purity of expression. Hence there is not one single moment of bombast in all of this CD. Instead Athanasiadis offers the listener a welcome respite from the hustle and bustle of a world where noise has come to supplant the sort of soothing sounds of silence that Basil Athanasiadis embraces quietly and unobtrusively intersperses with his calming compositions.

Rafael de Acha               http://www.RafaelMusicNotes.com                       April 7, 2018