CSO shines in Paavo Järvi’s return

The CSO and Paavo Järvi, music director laureate, in Music Hall on Friday.

Music director laureate Paavo Järvi returned to the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra on Friday, conducting for the first time in the all-new Music Hall.  It was just like old times. Well, almost.

Järvi’s energized leadership and a top-notch piano soloist, Alice Sara Ott, added up to a gripping program for the CSO’s first morning concert of the season. But even more uplifting than the performance was the sound that Järvi achieved in the hall.Read More »


CET Music Hall documentary to air Thursday

A few months ago, this was the view of the stage and orchestra pit.

Viewers will be able to go behind the scenes of Music Hall’s historic, $143 million renovation when CET debuts the documentary “Cincinnati Music Hall: The Next Movement,” 9 p.m. Thursday (Nov. 16) on CET.

Encore broadcasts will continue on CET and its sister channel CET Arts through November, including 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. Nov. 19 on CET and 9 p.m. Nov. 20 on CET Arts. (See the full schedule at cetconnect.org/musichall.)

The documentary takes the viewer from the initial demolition  after the May Festival ended in May, 2016, to the opening weekend last month.

With co-producers Richard Wonderling and Don Hancock

In an interview earlier this fall, CET-TV documentary co-producers Don Hancock and Richard Wonderling said they aimed to film the construction site in all its grittiness, with dust and sparks, which would then dissolve away as people in opening-night attire arrived at the hall on opening night.

Above all, they tried to convey the special place that Music Hall holds in the hearts of generations of Cincinnati citizens, and its importance in the city’s historic and cultural life.

“Don and I needed a beauty shot of the grand chandelier in Springer Auditorium. We went up to the gallery and it was so silent – there was no one else in the house. It was almost spiritual. Just this pervading sense of beauty and tradition that stretched across time – across generations. Magnificent things happen at Music Hall, you just felt that. Vividly,” Wonderling said.

John Kiesewetter’s Media Beat review of the 60-minute documentary describes some of their fascinating discoveries as they filmed the 16-month project.


Review: Pops’ American Originals looks back a century

Steep Canyon Rangers
Steep Canyon Rangers stole the show at the Pops. Lee Snow, photo

The Cincinnati Pops’ American Originals concert on Friday was a trip down memory lane to America’s musical roots a century ago.

For Vol. 2 of his Americana project, Pops maestro John Morris Russell brought together an eclectic  group  of guests, ranging from the sensational bluegrass band Steep Canyon Rangers to the extraordinary singer and MacArthur Foundation “Genius” Rhiannon Giddens.

Like the first edition, the show was recorded live in Music Hall for an album on the Pops’ Fanfare Cincinnati label by the Grammy-winning producer Elaine Martone and engineer Michael Bishop.Read More »

Barry Douglas to kick off extensive tour in Cincinnati

Irish pianist is in the midst of three “complete works” recording projects.

It’s been more than 30 years since Irish pianist Barry Douglas won the Tchaikovsky International Piano Competition. And his playing is as fresh and inspired as ever.

Take his latest album of Brahms piano pieces, his sixth CD in a collection of Brahms complete piano solo works for Chandos. Every piece is played as if a discovery. Douglas’ concept is to present each album as a recital.  Consequently, this album is vastly entertaining, from the opening Rokoczy March to the irresistible set of Hungarian Dances.

Douglas’ luminous touch is ideal in three Brahms’ studies, the composer’s arrangements of music by Chopin, Weber and Bach. But the most unforgettable are the pieces from Op. 76, which are rich with expressive beauty.

He kicks off an ambitious, five-week concert tour on Sunday at the Xavier Piano Series. Douglas performs at 2:30 p.m. in Gallagher Center Theater, Xavier University.

The pianist spoke by phone from Lurgan, Ireland. He and his wife had just enjoyed a fall day at Newgrange, a prehistoric monument on the River Boyne, a small break before getting on the plane Friday to Cincinnati.

Question: How extensive is your upcoming tour?

Answer: I will be gone for five-and-a-half weeks. I haven’t done a tour like that for a long time. I try to keep them around three weeks. I’ll be in the U.S., Canada and then I finish in China before Christmas. It’s mostly solo recitals, and I’m also playing with the Vancouver Symphony in November.

I’m going to be in the country for Thanksgiving, so I’m looking forward to that. It will be my second Thanksgiving, with friends in Fort Worth.Read More »

May Festival stars in engaging choral evening at Music Hall

May Festival Bach
Louis Langrée leading the CSO, May Festival Chorus and soloists in Bach’s glorious Magnificat in D. Photo provided/Lee Snow

Audiences at Music Hall heard the May Festival Chorus in three different configurations for three different choral works.  And the acoustical differences between them were startling.

The Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra concluded its five-week rededication of the newly-renovated Music Hall on Saturday by showcasing the May Festival, for whom the hall was built. The engaging program (which repeated Sunday) looked back to music that graced the 1875 season: J.S. Bach’s Magnificat in D and Brahms’ little-known “Triumphlied.”

As the story goes, they were interrupted when a thunderstorm pounded the tin roof of Saengerhalle, spurring Reuben Springer to mount a campaign to build Music Hall.

The program also looked ahead by commissioning a stunning new a cappella choral work entitled “Equinox” by American composer Julia Adolphe. The world premiere was conducted by the May Festival’s director of choruses Robert Porco.

Each of the five concert weeks has allowed the performers – and the acousticians – to adjust to the new sound in the renovated space. It’s been a fascinating process to observe.Read More »

In memoriam Nancy Walker: Arts patron, influential classical music devotee

Nancy Walker with ClaireHuangci__ 2015
Nancy Walker shown with pianist Claire Huangci

Nancy Fuldner Walker was devoted to Cincinnati’s arts, with a special passion for Matinée Musicale.

An accomplished pianist, oboist and teacher, Mrs. Walker headed the 105-year-old music club for nearly five decades. During her tenure, Matinée Musicale presented a stellar roster of rising stars, thanks to her contacts with artist agents and her immense knowledge about the classical music industry.

“Walker was the heart and soul of Matinée Musicale, selecting music performers for recitals on their way to famous careers,” said Rick Pender, a theater critic and member of Matinée Musicale. “Her knowledge, judgment and great musical instincts sustained the organization at the forefront of local presenters for nearly half of its 105-year existence.”

Mrs. Walker died on Oct. 30 at Jewish Hospital. The longtime resident of Mount Lookout was 87.Read More »

Writing for May Festival Chorus a ‘dream come true’ for Julia Adolphe

JuliaAdolpheFor its fifth week in the just-renovated Music Hall, the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra is shining a light on the May Festival Chorus. The program looks back to the event that precipitated the construction of Music Hall, when a thunderstorm pounding on the tin roof of its predecessor, Saengerhalle, ruined a May Festival concert.

Besides revisiting the works from that 1875 program by Bach and Brahms, the orchestra and chorus have commissioned a young American composer, Julia Adolphe, to compose a new work for the chorus.

“Equinox,” an a cappella piece for chorus, will have its world premiere this weekend (8 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday) in Music Hall.

Adolphe, 29, a New York native, has already written three works for the New York Philharmonic. Her work is also championed by May Festival music director laureate James Conlon, who presented one of her pieces at the 2016 May Festival. She is now at work on her second opera.

We spoke by phone this week after she had taken the red-eye from Los Angeles where she is earning a doctorate at the Thornton School of Music, University of Southern California (USC).

Question: I recall hearing your atmospheric piece at the Cathedral Basilica during James Conlon’s final May Festival season. Did your Cincinnati connection come about because of Conlon?Read More »