A jazzy, joyful premiere

Ellen Taaffe Zwilich/photo by Bill Keefrey
Ellen Taaffe Zwilich/photo by Bill Keefrey

“I don’t like the ivory tower,” said Ellen Taaffe Zwilich. “When I’m writing for musicians, I can hear them in my head.”

Indeed, there was no “ivory tower” here. On Sunday, the Pulitzer Prize-winning American composer was in the house — First Unitarian Church, home of the Linton Music Series — to hear the world premiere of her delightful “Pas de Trois,” honoring the 40th anniversary of the Kalichstein-Laredo-Robinson Trio, to whom the piece is dedicated. It was her sixth piece for the ensemble: Pianist Joseph Kalichstein, violinst Jaime Laredo and cellist Sharon Robinson.

Her Piano Trio marked their 10th anniversary, and she has also written a Double Concerto (violin and cello), a Triple Concerto, a Septet and a Quintet for the musicians:

Creator and performers discuss their longtime collaboration.
Creator and performers discuss their longtime collaboration.

Admitting that she had “butterflies,” Zwilich said “When there’s a commission, I feel like people are betting on me, and that inspires me…. This is not my piece. This is their piece. Performance breathes life into music.” Continue reading

Play of the day: Finding common ground in music and the NFL

Concert pianist Emanuel Ax with Bengals Assistant Head Coach Paul Alexander.
Concert pianist Emanuel Ax with Bengals Assistant Head Coach Paul Alexander.

I love this photo. Here is Emanuel “Manny” Ax, one of the great pianists of the world, who just performed Beethoven’s “Emperor” Concerto with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra (and played it like a god) standing with Cincinnati Bengals assistant head coach Paul Alexander, right after the Bengals’ win against the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium today.

I bumped into Coach at the CSO concert in Cincy on Thursday. I’m not surprised he was there. Besides the Bengals (where he’s also offensive line coach) he’s a dedicated student of classical piano. That’s right. He has even performed in public and written a book: “Perform,” comparing lessons he has learned at the piano with motivation and skill on the field.

As  I wrote in my review, it was a joy to hear Ax “perform” so beautifully in the “Emperor.” I was also able to catch him last week for a few minutes for a brief conversation after he arrived in Cincinnati, and was surprised to learn that he gets nervous, just like the rest of us.

I would venture to say, after watching today’s Bengals win and that amazing US Open Final, that sports and music have more in common than meets the eye.

Linton celebrates KLR’s 40th, and more

40 years of piano trios: Joseph Kalichstein, piano, right, Sharon Ronbinson, cello, and Jaime Laredo, violin
40 years of piano trios: Joseph Kalichstein, piano, right, Sharon Robinson, cello, and Jaime Laredo, violin

Chamber music lovers won’t want to miss the Linton Music Series season this year, The 38th season of this musical gem takes place in Avondale’s First Unitarian Church and Loveland’s Congregation Beth Adam, Besides the 40th birthday tribute to the KLR Trio — two of whom, Jaime Laredo and Sharon Robinson, are the series artistic directors — -there will also be the Cincinnati debut of the McGill/McHale Trio, a rare performance by CSO maestro Louis Langrée and Kelley O’Connor, and much more. Continue reading

My 10 picks to see this Fall at CCM

The arts and e-media school — College-Conservatory of Music at the University of Cincinnati — offers an embarrassment of riches (the most performances in the state, I’m told) and much of it is free. The season starts Aug. 29. See the whole digital calendar here. (My list is just the tip of the iceberg.) For ticketed events, call the CCM Box Office at 513-556-4183.

Here are 10 picks that you won’t regret. Continue reading

It’s almost Fall — Matinee Musicale turns 104

I can’t believe the fall season is upon us. I am getting season lineups daily in my inbox, and I’m going to try to post many of them on this blog.

First up is the 104th season of the venerable Matinee Musicale, which has launched the Cincinnati debuts of hundreds of major artists. Mark your calendars:

Sept. 18: Cellist Amit Peled performs a Tribute to Casals. The Israeli musician will perform two recitals on his historic Gofriller cello (1733) that once belonged to the eminent Pablo Casals, loaned to him by Casals’ widow Marta.  His program features music the legendary cellist frequently performed in recitals. Sunday, Sept. 18, 3 p.m., at Anderson Town Center (7850 Five Mile Road, Cincinnati 45230),

On Monday, Sept. 19, the personable Peled will offer a lecture/recital, “Journey with My Jewishness,” discussing his personal, musical and spiritual evolution. His program will include traditional numbers as well as Max Bruch’s “Kol Nidrei,” Mark Kopytman’s “Kaddish” and Ernest Bloch’s three scenes “From Jewish Life.”  Sept. 19,  7:30 p.m., a program presented jointly with the Isaac M. Wise Center (8329 Ridge Road, Cincinnati 45236),  Continue reading

Rare treat: Music@Menlo

Violinist Kyoko Takezawa soared in Tchaikovsky with pianist Wu Qian/photo provided by Music@Menlo
Violinist Kyoko Takezawa soared in Tchaikovsky with pianist Wu Qian/photo provided by Music@Menlo

For years, I have wished I could be in Menlo Park in person to see the superb chamber music offerings of Music@Menlo. I am familiar with their annual box set of CDs, recorded live and compiled at the end of each season. Finally, it happened, and I was able to take in the final concert last night of the series’ 14th season entitled Russian Reflections. Continue reading

The last Lumenocity

I have to agree with some comments I have seen and heard regarding the final Lumenocity, held indoors for the first time. While I admired some of the designs, they didn’t hold my attention like the previous shows, outdoors in Washington Park. Rather than stories and recognizable local imagery — such as famous Cincinnatians, local icons or Charley Harper animals–  this was more a choreography of abstract images set to music. Except of course for Music Hall and Cincinnati of the future. Inventive as some of these images were, I found myself more engaged by the playing of the orchestra. But if it brought new people to see the orchestra, that was its real success.