Year in review: Lists and more lists

Danill Trifonov with the Ariel Quartet: For these performances, Trifonov collaborated with the celebrated Ariel Quartet, faculty quartet-in-residence at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music. There was great anticipation to hear this 28-year-old Russian-born virtuoso, whose name is on everyone’s lips.

People often ask me why my reviews of local concerts are generally positive. The answer is this: The quality of Cincinnati’s performing arts compares favorably to anywhere I’ve traveled (and lived) in the world. It’s remarkable to consider the longevity of Cincinnati’s arts institutions, such as the Cincinnati Symphony, marking 125 this year, Cincinnati Opera, turning 100 this summer and the May Festival, founded in 1873.

It’s always difficult to pick just 10 memorable performances, because there were many more that should be included. You can read the list here.

There was also some arts news in 2019 — one even happened at the peak of the holiday season, when Cincinnati Opera announced that Chris Milligan will succeed Patty Beggs as general director and CEO. Click here to read the news.

And there was other arts news — such as the success of “Blink,” the four-day art and light festival in October. Looking back, several important people in the arts left us in 2019. Read that column here.

Cincinnati May Festival 2019

I hope you had a chance to catch some holiday shows this month. Some, such as Cincinnati Ballet’s magical Nutcracker, are still running. See the list here.

Handel’s ‘Messiah’ was given an intimate, authentic performance by Collegium Cincinnati.

I attended several shows. The performance I reviewed of Collegium Cincinnati’s “Messiah” performance illustrates the breadth and depth of local talent that we have across the region. Many of the performers were familiar as they appear with organizations such as Cincinnati Opera, CCM, the Vocal Arts Ensemble and the Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra.

Watch for my list of upcoming performing events as well as art exhibitions that you won’t want to miss in 2020.

Don’t forget that the Business Courier’s Arts Front page is sponsored by ArtsWave, and therefore FREE to read. I’ve you’ve read three stories, you may be asked to sign up for a free subscription.

CSO, Pops nominated for two Grammy Awards

Both the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and the Pops are in the list of 2020 Grammy nominations released today by the Recording Academy. And there are several other Cincinnati-tied nominations this year, too.

Music director Louis Langrée, and the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra are nominated for Best Orchestral Performance for “Transatlantic.” This album includes the world premiere recording of the critical edition of George Gershwin’s An American in Paris. The CSO also gave the world premiere performance of this new edition at La Seine Musicale in Paris in 2017.

The award goes to both the conductor and to the orchestra.

And John Morris Russell and the Cincinnati Pops, as well as producer Elaine Martone, are nominated for “American Originals 1918” in the category of Best Classical Compendium. Performers on the album include collaborators Rhiannon GiddensSteep Canyon Rangers and Pokey LaFarge.

Other local ties include violinist Tessa Lark, who studied at CCM, for her recording of Torke’s “Sky” Violin Concerto with David Alan Miller and the Albany Symphony, in the category of Best Classical Instrumental Solo.

Cincinnati-born jazz pianist extraordinaire Fred Hersch has received yet another nod for Best Instrumental Composition for “Begin Again” on the album, Fred Hersch & The WDR Big Band” conducted by Vince Mendoza.

And from Northern Kentucky University, the recording of a composition by NKU School of the Arts faculty member Kurt Sander, The Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, is nominated for Best Choral Performance. The double-CD set features the PaTRAM Institute Singers led by Peter Jermihov, conductor. The 90-minute piece is one of the first English-language settings of the Eastern Orthodox liturgy.

And two choral conductors associated with the Vocal Arts Ensemble are up for Best Choral Performance: Craig Hella Johnson and Donald Nally.

Other names spotted:

Blanton Alspaugh, producer of the Vocal Arts Ensemble’s “Canticle” – released on the CSO’s Fanfare Cincinnati label – as well as Sander‘s The Divine Liturgy Of St. John Chrysostom, is nominated for “Producer of the Year, Classical.”

In the same list, under nominated producer James Ginsburg, I spotted brothers Anthony McGill, clarinetist, and Demarre McGill, flutist and CCM professor… 

Stewart Goodyear to perform Beethoven sonata marathon next week

Photo provided/Anita Zvonar

Beethoven wrote 32 Piano Sonatas spanning his lifetime. It’s possible to view his musical evolution through these sonatas, from the early classical ones to the late, more revolutionary pieces.

Many of you have heard, or perhaps even played some of the most famous ones: The Moonlight Sonata, the Appassionata, the Waldstein, the Pathetique and the Hammerklavier. But few pianists have attempted to perform them all together, in a daylong marathon from beginning to end.

Pianist Stewart Goodyear opens Chamber Music Cincinnati with a Beethoven “Sonatathon” next Saturday, Sept. 7, in Memorial Hall.

He’ll begin at 10 a.m. and finish at 11 p.m., with breaks for lunch and dinner.Read More »

Chuck Miller, savior of Sorg Opera House, steps down

Chuck Miller in his element, backstage at the Sorg

It took a man with a vision to see the beauty behind the dilapidated and abandoned Sorg Opera House in Middletown. Now, as John Kiesewetter reports this morning, Chuck Miller has resigned as president of the Sorg Opera Revitalization Group (SORG) to become the new executive director of the historic “State Movie Palace of Kansas,” the Fox Theatre in Hutchinson. Wife Denise Brodsky has also resigned her position on the board.

Current board members Roger Daniels and Chris Riva are stepping in to fill roles, although his successor has not been decided.

Here’s my story from about a year ago of how Chuck and his devoted board have been working — extremely hard — to restore the Hannaford-built theater to its former grandeur.

There are similarities between the Sorg Opera House (1891) and Music Hall (1878) as you can see in the balconies. Both were designed by Samuel Hannaford. The Sorg is on the National Register of Historic Places.
In the lobby
You can visit your old Music Hall seats

I’m posting a few memories of visiting the Sorg while these dedicated preservationists were at work restoring and programming a series of concerts in the hall. By the way, the acoustics are wonderful. And, for people who remember Music Hall’s old seats, you can revisit them up in Middletown.

Good luck Chuck and Denise! You’ll be missed.

Baroque Violin Shop owner Paul Bartel was an enthusiastic ambassador for music

Paul Bartel playing his Stradivarius violin, made in 1680

Paul Bartel was passionate about strings and equally passionate about sharing his love of classical music with students. The violinist, music educator, owner of the Baroque Violin Shop and founder of the Wyoming Fine Arts Center is remembered by Cincinnati’s music community as being generous, humble and always supportive.

‘He was a guy who was larger than life, always giving, always caring, always seeming to have boundless energy,” said Milan Dukic, executive director of the Wyoming Fine Arts Center since 2008. “In the early days of the center, if there was a shortfall, Paul wrote a check. He believed in the mission of having a community center and of having kids learn music.”

Mr. Bartel died on July 27 after a long battle with cancer. He was 67.

Mr. Bartel often spoke about how playing the violin in school became the inspiration for what he would become, Dukic said.

He was born in Columbus, OH. A 1972 graduate of Miami University, Mr. Bartel taught violin students and repaired instruments on the side while still a student in Oxford, OH. He taught strings at Finneytown School District for seven years, continuing to repair musical instruments in his spare time.

Paul Bartel in his workshop at the Baroque Violin Shop

With a vision to support young string players and school music programs by providing high quality instruments at low cost, he resigned from teaching to devote himself full-time to the Baroque Violin Shop, then in his Finneytown home.

As the business expanded, Mr. Bartel purchased the historic, 1805 Carrie-Jessup House in Finneytown in 1990, and spent six months restoring it. Over the years, the shop’s musical instrument rentals, repairs and sales have boomed, making the business one of the largest in the country, with a substantial inventory of stringed instruments.

The shop rents and sells violins, violas, cellos and basses to thousands of students and professionals in 50 states. There are 7,000 to 9,000 rental instruments in use at any given time, said CFO Stephen Heck, Mr. Bartel’s son-in-law.

“What I really respected about him was that he was quiet about his generosity. Most things people never knew about, because he didn’t want himself to be a focus,” Heck said. “He never did things to enhance his business. That was only secondary and never the focus.”Read More »