Recommended: Tchaikovsky winner to play for Matinée Musicale

Alexandre Kantorow; photo by Sasha Gusov

He’s being called “Liszt reincarnated.” In 2019, pianist Alexandre Kantorow became the first French pianist to win the gold medal at the Tchaikovsky Competition, where he also won the Grand Prix, which has only been awarded three times before in the competition’s history. He was 22.

This month, Kantorow will make his Cincinnati debut in recital for Matinée Musicale, 3 p.m. Sunday Feb. 19 in Memorial Hall.

Kantorow made his debut at age 16, and since then has performed with many of the world’s major orchestras and festivals.

His program includes Brahms’ Piano Sonata No. 1 in C Major; several Schubert lieder arranged by Liszt; and Schubert’s “Wanderer Fantasy.”

He recently told BBC Music magazine that Brahms was the first composer he connected to. Brahms, he said, “has a lot of dignity in how he shows his emotions, but there are moments where he lets go.”

And speaking of Brahms, here’s his performance of the Brahms Piano Concerto No. 2, which won the Grand Prix of the Tchaikovsky Competition:

Kantorow records on the BIS label. His most recent recording of solo works by Brahms received the 2022 Diapason d’Or. His two previous recordings (Saint-Saëns concerti 3-5 and solo works by Brahms, Bartok and Liszt) each received both the Diapason d’Or and Choc Classica of the Year (for Classica magazine) in 2019 and 2020 respectively. The solo disc was Gramophone magazine’s Editor’s Choice, his performance described as “a further remarkable example of his virtuosity and artistry, showing both skill and sensitivity throughout.”

Purchase tickets online on the Memorial Hall website or call the Box Office at 513-977-8838.
The Memorial Hall Box Office is open Tuesday – Friday 1 PM – 6 PM.

Memorable afternoons at the Linton Music Series

Anthony McGill performing “Principal Brothers” No. 3 by James Lee III

The Linton Music Series presented two inspiring concerts this month in memory of founding artistic director Dick Waller. I want to share some terrific photos taken by Tina Gutierrez for Linton, along with a few thoughts about the programs.

Yesterday, Linton welcomed back an old friend, clarinetist Anthony McGill. The principal clarinetist of the New York Philharmonic started his career as a 21-year-old associate clarinetist of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. McGill spoke a bit about Dick Waller, former CSO principal clarinetist, who “showed him the ropes” and shared many dinners with him.

McGill opened the program with a wonderful work by his friend, James Lee III, “Principal Brothers” No. 3. Each of Lee’s “Principal Brothers” series is dedicated to a symphony music who is Black and a principal player. No. 1 is a flute solo for Anthony’s brother, Demarre McGill, principal flute of the Seattle Symphony Orchestra; No. 2 is for Titus Underwood, principal oboe of the Nashville Symphony; and No. 4 is for Bryan Young, principal bassoon of the Baltimore Chamber Orchestra. Lee’s three-movement piece for Anthony McGill was a ideal vehicle for the clarinetist’s beauty of line and expressive phrasing.

The remainder of the program consisted of two of the great clarinet quintets in music: Mozart’s Quintet in A Major, K. 581, and Brahms Quintet in B Minor. McGill was joined by Linton co-artistic directors Jaime Laredo, violinist, and Sharon Robinson, cellist, as well as violinist James Thompson and violist Milena Pajaro-van de Stadt.

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In memoriam: Dick Waller

Dick Waller with Peter Wiley at a 40th anniversary concert of the Linton Music Series

Cincinnati has lost a musician who contributed much to the cultural life of our city. Richard “Dick” Waller passed away yesterday. His daughter, Margy Waller, said that he died while listening to a recording of Dvorak’s “Romance” in F Minor. It was days after celebrating his 93rd birthday with cake and Graeter’s Ice Cream.

“I’m grateful. And told him many times over the past few days that he has an incredible legacy of music, art, and community, and a beautiful family,” she said. “He showed us how to see the miracles, to be thankful and optimistic, and always to see the best in everything and everyone. That’s a high bar—and he inspires us to aim for it.”

Waller, former principal clarinetist of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, was the founder of the Linton Music Series. From its start in 1978, his mantra was “music making among friends.” It began with a small chamber music concert of “friends” in the historic church, First Unitarian Church on Linton Street in Avondale, and continued to grow. The gem of a sanctuary, with stained glass windows, turned out to have wonderful acoustics.

That first concert evolved into a second. Then Mr. Waller had an epiphany. World-renowned soloists appeared each week with the Cincinnati Symphony, where he worked. Why not ask the orchestra’s then-general manager, Judith Arron, whether the artists could stay in town for an extra day to play chamber music? Arron agreed.

His first artists in the new arrangement were concert pianist Andre-Michel Schub and Peter Wiley, then principal cellist of the CSO.

“In the old days, there was a pay phone at Music Hall and during intermission, I’d run to the pay phone to make calls about Linton,” he told me a few years ago.

It was a formula that continues with the CSO to this day. Mr. Waller paid his soloists little — but was a wonderful host and they loved coming to Cincinnati. There are legendary stories of dinners at the Maisonette, followed by poker games.

Born in Philadelphia in 1929, Mr. Waller grew up in Long Beach, CA, and attended the Marlboro Music Festival and the Juilliard School. However, his Juilliard education was cut short when his brother joined the armed forces and Mr. Waller had to return home to California to run his brother’s business. In the 1950s, the clarinetist became concertmaster of the United States Navy Band, a stint he said he undertook in order to avoid the draft.

During that time, a job opening was posted for the clarinet section of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, and he decided to apply. Then-music director Max Rudolf  hired him on the spot. He served as co-principal clarinet starting in 1960. From 1961 until his retirement in 1994, he was the orchestra’s principal clarinetist.

During his later years, Mr. Waller took up painting, and had a gallery downtown.

Many of you will have stories to tell. Here’s mine:  When I was classical music critic for the Cincinnati Enquirer, Mr. Waller would do anything to get an article in the newspaper about his beloved Linton Series. He called me frequently. I told him that I needed to discuss it with my editor. But he beat me to it. He called my editor and serenaded her on his clarinet over the phone. I believe he got that story…

Mr. Waller’s family and Linton Music Series leaders are planning a celebration of his contributions and community to take place next year.





Cincinnati Ballet expects to shatter attendance records in ‘Nutcracker’

Cincinnati Ballet photos provided

Cincinnati Ballet predicts it will shatter attendance records for its annual production of “The Nutcracker,” Dec. 15-24 in Music Hall. The company projects more than 25,000 patrons will see the holiday favorite over the course of the production run. Several performances are nearly sold out, the company said in a release today.

There is lots to enjoy in the sumptuous production staged in 2011 by former Artistic Director Victoria Morgan, featuring dancing cupcakes, a battle of mice and a poodle ensemble dancing the “Dance of the Mirlitons.” Fiona the Hippo continues to appear in the production. This year, audiences should play close attention to the second act for a special nod to her new baby brother, Fritz. 

In the charming tale, Clara embarks on a dreamy journey to the Land of Sweets after receiving a nutcracker as a gift on Christmas Eve. The large cast includes dozens of local performers alongside Cincinnati Ballet’s superb professional company.

Part of the joy of this production is hearing the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra in the pit, performing Tchaikovsky’s score conducted by the legendary Carmon DeLeone. Times vary. Tickets: 513-621-5282;

For more holiday favorites coming next month, visit my 10 picks on the Business Courier’s Arts Front.

Artist change at CSO this weekend

Conrad Tao appeared last year over Thanksgiving weekend with Roderick Cox conducting. Photo provided by CSO.

The Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra is performing this Thanksgiving weekend, and it’s always fun to take those  out-of-town guests to Music Hall. The program features Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 3 and Elgar’s “Enigma Variations.”

The CSO issued a statement on Monday that pianist Khatia Buniatishvili has been forced to withdraw from this weekend’s performances.

The pianist Conrad Tao will step in for performances on November 26 & 27.  Ironically, he appeared exactly a year ago on Thanksgiving weekend.

Elim Chan, a graduate of the University of Michigan, is guest conductor.

Tickets: 513-381-3300,

Why we needed opera this year

“Aida” photo by Philip Groshong

Cincinnati Opera returned to its Music Hall stage this summer after a two-year hiatus due to Covid. I’m sure there was trepidation in the company about whether the audience would return, just as new variants were emerging. Happily, audiences came. In fact, the total attendance for three grand operas in Music Hall and two new operas in a smaller venue at SCPA was higher than that of the 2019 season before the pandemic hit.

“We count our ‘return to Music Hall’ season a great success,” said general director and CEO Chris Milligan.

  • The company saw extraordinary national media coverage with reviews in the New York Times and Wall Street Journal and a story on NPR’s All Things Considered. Here’s a column about the international buzz surrounding this production.
  • Attendance exceeded that of the 2019 Summer Festival at 20,747, compared to 19,736 pre-pandemic.
  • The company met its revised revenue goal with $1.65 million in ticket sales.
  • Attendees from 42 states came to see performances.
  • There were zero canceled performances thanks to Covid-safety protocol.

Read More »

Art of the Piano presents pianists, composers this month

Do you love piano music? Awadagin Pratt’s “Art of the PIano” Festival continues tonight with a recital by Conrad Tao at 7 p.m. in Werner Recital Hall at CCM. He is the recipient of the prestigious Avery Fisher Career Grant and was named a Gilmore Young Artist—an honor awarded every two years highlighting the most promising American pianists of the new generation.

His program is a combination of new music and classics:Read More »

New “Ascent” festival welcomes Cho-Liang Lin, Miró Quartet next week

Violinist Cho-Liang Lin

Alan Rafferty, a cellist in the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and CCM professor, is artistic director of a new, three-week festival, Ascent International Chamber Music Festival in Cincinnati. Alan tells me that 70 students have been at the festival, which is based at CCM, coming from all over the U.S.

In addition, there’s a concert series that continues this week, with three more concerts scheduled. The “headliners” include the renowned violinist Cho-Liang Lin and the Miró Quartet.

Performances are in Werner Recital Hall at CCM, which has excellent acoustics.

Visit to read more. The concerts are ticketed — visit Event Brite to secure your tickets.

Miró Quartet

Here’s the lineup:Read More »

CSO’s principal trumpet Robert Sullivan accepts new post

The Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra’s principal trumpet Robert Sullivan has accepted a position as professor of trumpet in the winds and percussion instruments department of the University of Michigan’s School of Music, Theatre & Dance beginning in August.

The CSO says that Sullivan will still remain CSO Principal Trumpet through the 2022-23 season and retire from the CSO in May.

It’s a natural choice for Sullivan, who is a graduate of UM. “It is humbling to be chosen to take over the trumpet studio where I began to learn and hone my craft so many years ago with Armando Ghitalla’s tutelage and mentorship,” he said in a statement on the website.

Sullivan has twice served as principal trumpet with the CSO; he joined in 2008, departed to teach, and returned in 2017. He has been featured as soloist five times, including a new work by Peter Boyer with a stirring trumpet solo, “In the Cause of the Free,” which is on the Cincinnati Pops’ “American Originals 1918” album. On most nights, he dazzles in his trumpet solos in the section.

Previously, Sullivan was associate principal trumpet with the New York Philharmonic and the Cleveland Orchestra, and second trumpet with the Charleston Symphony. He has also been a member of the US Air Force Band and a faculty member at the Cleveland Institute of Music, the Manhattan School of Music, and the Mannes College of Music.

He also served for five years as professor of trumpet at Northwestern University, during which time he was a regular performer with the Chicago Symphony and Lyric Opera Orchestra of Chicago.

The orchestra will begin a search for his successor this season.