Where are the reviews?

Joshua Bell performing Sibelius with the CSO. Photo by Lee Snow

Some of you have asked me where to find symphony reviews. Thanks to a grant from the Ann and Gordon Getty Foundation, they can be found on the Cincinnati Business Courier’s new Arts Front, which is free to read. (You may need to register for a FREE subscription).

Here’s the season so far:

‘Hamilton’ star Leslie Odom Jr. is electric in debut with Pops: There’s no question that there is life after “Hamilton” for Leslie Odom Jr., the Broadway star who played Aaron Burr in the hip-hop sensation until two years ago. The only question was whether the Tony- and Grammy-winning singer-actor would make it to Cincinnati in time for his Cincinnati Pops debut on Friday after Hurricane Florence canceled his flight. Review.

French program offers festive kickoff to CSO season: The French music, which demands both clarity and atmosphere, revealed that the orchestra is adjusting to Springer Auditorium’s new acoustics as it begins its second season in the hall following a transformational renovation. Review.

Joshua Bell dazzles, ‘Rite’ impresses in CSO’s season opener: It was vibrant, athletic playing. Bell leaned back, crouched, turned to the orchestra and mopped his brow between movements. The slow movement was warm and dark, and he smiled as he played its expressive themes. He soared brilliantly through the diabolical virtuosities of the finale, almost dancing along with the timpani beats that open the movement (Patrick Schleker). Review.

‘Dharma at Big Sur’ a mesmerizing experience in CSO’s all-American program: John Adams’ inspiration for the piece was Jack Kerouac’s description of the rugged California coastline at Big Sur as well as the beat poet’s interest in Buddhism. For this performance, the CSO also engaged video artist Adam Larsen to create projections that played on three screens above the orchestra. Review.

Read about this weekend’s soloist, principal violist Christian Colberg: CSO violist enjoying life after near-death scare. Click here for the story.

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In memoriam: John Von Ohlen

Legendary jazz drummer John Von Ohlen, “The Baron,” died on Oct. 3 following a long illness. He was 77.

He was a drummer, bandleader and recording artist. You could only marvel at his effortless technique, his musicality and his seamless communication with his fellow musicians. Small wonder he was the drummer of choice for Rosemary Clooney, Stan Kenton, Woody Herman, Tony Bennett, Benny Goodman, Mel Torme and Perry Como. He toured and recorded with Kenton for two years.

Von Ohlen was one of the last big band drummers of his era.

“Performing with and discussing music — and philosophy — with John Von Ohlen has been one of the great joys of my life,” said Rick VanMatre, saxophonist and former director of Jazz Studies at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music. “Asking John to join the CCM jazz faculty in 1985 was the best decision we could have made for the students, the faculty, and the legacy of the Jazz Studies Program.”

Read More »

Xavier Piano and Jazz Series to have virtuoso lineup

Christian McBride. Photo provided

Polina Bespalko, artistic director of Xavier University’s Piano and Jazz Series, has a fascinating lineup of artists coming to Gallagher Center Theater at XU this year. The season opens this Friday Sept. 21, with a free concert by a piano virtuoso who won the silver in the Liszt International Competition.

“This roster this year is top-notch,” Bespalko said. “And in jazz, they are all connected in some way.”

Xavier Jazz Series opens with bassist Christian McBride on Oct. 27. McBride has worked with everyone on this list, as well as legends from Herbie Hancock to Sting and even opera soprano Kathleen Battle.Read More »

In the news: Local musicians win awards

Soprano Jessica Rivera (photo provided)

Cincinnati Song Initiative, established by Samuel Martin, is one of this year’s recipients of the arts network Ovation TV and Spectrum’s Stand for the Arts Awards. The new award is presented to arts organizations across the country who demonstrate efforts to be inclusive, accessible, and relevant to the needs of the communities they serve.

Cincinnati Song Initiative is one of 10 arts groups across the country to be honored. It will receive the award in a ceremony on Oct. 10 at Willis Music Steinway Gallery, 8118 Montgomery Rd.

Cincinnati Song Initiative kicks off its third season on Sept. 22 with Alma de España, a survey of art song from Spanish-speaking nations, 7:30 p.m. in Willis Music Steinway Gallery. The performers include Grammy Award-winning soprano Jessica Rivera, Mexican mezzo-soprano Paulina Villarreal, pianist Marie-France Lefebvre, and guitarist and lutenist William Willits. For information about the program and tickets, visit cincinnatisonginitiative.org.

Isaac Selya

Conductor Isaac Selya, known to local opera lovers as the founder of Queen City Opera, is the 2017-18 winner of The American Prize in Conducting in the professional opera division. He was recognized for Wagner’s Siegfried, in both Opera Production and Conducting.

Selya — who recently joined the music faculty as an orchestra conductor at Xavier Universitywas selected from applications reviewed recently from all across the United States. The American Prize recognizes the best performing artists, ensembles and composers in the United States based on submitted recordings.

The American Prize has awarded more than $50,000 in prizes in all categories since 2010, and is presented annually in many areas of the performing arts.

David Katz, chief judge and creator of The American Prize, was selected as one of Musical America’s “Professionals of the Year, 2016.” To see the other winners in all divisions, click here.

Oratorio to be given Ohio premiere: ‘Bayard Rustin: The Man Behind the Dream’

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Catherine Roma, artistic director, directing the World House Choir, which will perform the Ohio premiere of “Bayard Rustin: The Man Behind the Dream.” Photo provided.

A combined mass choir of 160 singers from 20 choirs in Cincinnati, Dayton and Yellow Springs have been rehearsing all summer for the premiere of an oratorio hailing the memory of a leading figure in the Civil Rights Movement, Bayard Rustin (1912-87).

The choral work, “Bayard Rustin: The Man Behind the Dream,” was composed by Steve Milloy, a Cincinnati composer, conductor and an alumnus of Miami University and the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music. Four performances — three in the Yellow Springs/Dayton area and one in Cincinnati — and numerous events from Cincinnati to Yellow Springs will celebrate Rustin’s life as the organizer of the 1963 March on Washington, which took place Aug. 28 1963 — 55 years ago today. Read More »

WGUC to air ‘Leonard Bernstein: A Legacy ‘ on Sunday

Leonard Bernstein conducting, provided/Paul de Hoeck, courtesy of the Leonard Bernstein Office, Inc.

WGUC (90.9-FM) continues its “100 Days of Bernstein” celebrating the centennial year of Leonard Bernstein’s birth with a special program, “Leonard Bernstein: A Legacy,” airing at 8 p.m. Sunday night Aug. 19.

Produced by WGUC music director, Jessica Lorey in collaboration with Naomi Lewin, Stephen Baum, and hosted by Brian O’Donnell, “Leonard Bernstein: A Legacy” will bring you a wide range of Bernstein music as well as insights from musicians, conductors, and academics with local ties who knew, worked with, or studied the man many called Lenny.

You’ll hear remarks from:Read More »

Matinée Musicale announces grants to 10 arts programs

Students from MYCincinnati. Photo provided

Thanks to a bequest from the estate of the late arts patron Louise Dieterle Nippert, Matinée Musicale is awarding $72,000 in grants to 10 deserving music education and outreach programs in Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky.

They are all achieving great things in the arts. The list:

Benjamin Carlson-Berne Scholarship Fund, which provides weekly private lessons and mentorship to youth of middle school age to high school age.Read More »