Music of the season

The Vocal Arts Ensemble

The holidays are upon us. You’ll find inspiring music in many of the region’s sacred spaces, as well as in the newly renovated Music Hall — now beautifully decorated for the holiday season. I’ve highlighted a few of my favorite concerts coming up this month, and discovered a few new ones, too.Read More »


This just in: Grammy nominations tap CSO, The National and Fred Hersch

The CSO has been nominated for two Grammy Awards

The Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra is up for two Grammy Awards for its groundbreaking album recorded live in Music Hall, Concertos for Orchestra. The orchestra, led by Louis Langrée, was nominated today for Best Orchestral Performance, as well as Best Contemporary Classical Composition for Zhou Tian’s score, which he called “a love letter” for the CSO.

Jazz pianist Fred Hersch is nominated — twice — for Best Jazz Instrumental Album for his latest album, Open Book, a lush, ravishing collection of solo piano improvisations. And his tune “Whisper Not” on the same album is nominated for Best Improvised Jazz Solo.

The National, the band whose members grew up in Cincy, is up for Best Alternative Music Album for Sleep Well Beast.

Of note to opera lovers, the great Siberian baritone who just died, Dmitri Hvorostovsky, was also nominated for Sviridov: Russia Cast Adrift with the St. Petersburg State Symphony, for Best Classical Solo Vocal Album. See the complete list here.

The Grammys will air live on CBS from Madison Square Garden in New York City on Sunday, Jan. 28.


Bookmark this: Janelle’s picks this month

Claire Huangci performs Prokofiev and Chopin for Matinee Musicale Nov. 9. Photo provided

It’s already November? Yes, and the fall classical music season is in full swing.  Some of these offerings, such as “Candide,” are hot tickets, so you’d better make plans soon.  Here are a few of my favorite things.

Nov. 4-5: J.S. Bach’s B Minor Mass. Earl Rivers leads the CCM Philharmonia, the CCM Chamber Choir and CCM soloists  in Bach’s supreme masterpiece. “The Mass in B Minor is a synthesis of every stylistic and technical contribution Bach made to music,” Rivers says. The concert takes place at 4 p.m. Saturday in Christ Church Cathedral, Downtown, and 5 p.m. Sunday, Knox Church, 3400 Michigan Ave. in Hyde Park, while CCM’s Corbett Auditorium undergoes its own renovation. Tickets: 513-556-4183,

Nov. 9: Matinee Musicale presents. Award-winning pianist Claire Huangci performs a recital for the storied, 105-year-old music series. Her program includes numbers from Prokofiev’s “Romeo and Juliet” – an added treat if you saw Cincinnati Ballet last week –as well as all 24 Chopin Preludes. 11 a.m. at the Anderson Center in Anderson Township. Tickets may be purchased at the door. More »

Thanks for the memories

It’s been a privilege. I can truthfully say I have loved every minute of writing about the arts in Cincinnati for the Cincinnati Enquirer. I am thankful to you, the readers of both print and digital, the people who have called me, written letters, followed me on social media, come up to me at Music Hall to say hello or to talk about music, and who have taken my OLLI class, “Behind the Scenes in the Arts.”

It has been a wonderful, totally unexpected ride that became 26 years almost overnight.

From the first day that I walked into the newsroom, never having taken a journalism course, I was starstruck by the people who worked there. What talent and creativity! In those days, I filed a review right after the symphony concert on Friday nights, which meant I raced to my car behind Music Hall, tore Downtown to the Enquirer building while forming the opening lines in my head, and wrote on a deadline of 45 minutes with a copy desk editor barking, “Where’s that review?” Loved those late-night editors, who would fix my typos and write the headlines. The best one described a pianist, to be nameless here, who slogged through a bizarre performance of Rach 2: “(Pianist) phones it in — From Mars.” I was usually home by 2 a.m. and the review was in the morning paper.

With James Conlon and the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and May Festival Chorus at Carnegie Hall, May 2014; photo provided by Spring for Music, Steve Sherman

But besides the reviews, I have loved writing stories about people. Sometimes I think that the whole artistic world has passed through Cincinnati. I’ve interviewed and met opera stars, violin legends, conductors, composers, crooners, rockers and movie stars. I couldn’t believe going backstage at the Met to interview Cincinnati’s own James Levine, who had pictures of his childhood home behind his desk. He knew everything happening in the Queen City. His mother, Helen, it turned out, had been sending him all of my clippings.

Then there was Rosemary Clooney. Driving down to Augusta, Kentucky, with photographer Craig Ruttle to spend time in her home was unforgettable. Later, John Kiesewetter, Jim Knippenberg and I covered her funeral. Yes, there were Hollywood stars. But more touching were the folks of Maysville who came out to bring their “girl singer” back home.

With rocker Peter Frampton in his studio at his Indian Hill home talking about his gig with the Pops.
With Rosemary Clooney and her husband, Dante DiPaolo

When Erich Kunzel died in 2009, I was proud that Reds announcer Marty Brennaman mentioned during the game the next day that The Enquirer had done a nice job on his obituary.  Early that morning, I was interviewed on NPR about the Cincinnati Pops maestro, and the force of nature that he was. And about a week later, I was on tour in Japan with the CSO.  On a day off at the mountainous shrine of Nikko, a man in my tour group said as we ate lunch, “Cincinnati. I heard you just lost a conductor there.” He’d heard my interview, 6,000 miles away.Read More »

About that footbridge to Music Hall


IMG_8653There are a lot of misconceptions in the online posts I’ve read about the Music Hall bridge that the city now says it will demolish and rebuild over Central Parkway. The elephant in the room that people are missing: There is no easy and safe pathway to the front door of Music Hall on Elm Street if you park behind the building, in the Town Center Garage on Central Parkway.

If the city-owned bridge, which leads from Town Center Garage to Music Hall, is rebuilt, the renovation team is pledging to construct a passageway into Music Hall from the Ballroom entrance on the second level — the new back door.

Here’s yesterday’s story.

Somehow amid expenditures of at least $135 million, planners decided not to provide a rear entrance to Music Hall. This intentional omission adversely affects many of the organizations that make Music Hall their home. People have been deciding not to renew subscriptions or to attend fewer concerts because of inconvenience and pedestrian safety.Read More »

Sandra Rivers steps in for André Watts at Phoenix festival

André Watts

Pianist and CCM professor Sandra Rivers is stepping in for André Watts to perform two extra programs for the Phoenix Chamber Music Society this week. Piano legend Watts is unable to perform for the Winter Festival due to ongoing cancer treatments, according to the festival’s website.

Rivers, who has collaborated with stars such as Itzhak Perlman, Joshua Bell, Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg, and Kathleen Battle, was already slated to perform Brahms sonatas with the wonderful violist/violinist Nokuthula Ngwenyama last Sunday. But after arriving, she was invited to add a heaping plate of repertoire at the last minute for performances on Monday and Wednesday, as well.

“It’s very exciting,” Rivers said by phone on Sunday. “I’ve been in nonstop rehearsals since I arrived.”

Last night she played the four Brahms Op. 119 piano pieces (Klavierstücke), as well as the lovely Brahms Sonata Op. 120, No. 1 for piano and clarinet with David Shifrin, who also directs the festival.

And tomorrow night, she will join four other artists to anchor Mozart’s Quintet for Piano and Winds, K. 452. This one will be in the Music Pavilion at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin West. It’s sold out. Rivers only concern: What to wear so as not to clash with the very red room!

Meanwhile, we send good vibes and our best wishes to Mr. Watts for a quick recovery! I hear that he hopes to be back on the concert stage by this summer.