Michael Gielen championed modern music, led CSO through the ’80s

Michael Gielen was the CSO’s 10th music director. Photo courtesy of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra

The distinguished German-born conductor Michael Gielen, who led the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra in the 1980s, died of pneumonia on March 8 at his home in Mondsee, Austria. He was 91.

Gielen was appointed the 10th music director of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, serving from 1980 to 1986. He succeeded music adviser Walter Susskind, who stepped in for two seasons following the untimely death of Thomas Schippers in 1977.

An ardent champion of contemporary music, Gielen was one of the most important conductors of his generation.

As a music director, Gielen’s preference for programming the music of the Second Viennese School didn’t always endear him to Cincinnati audiences. But during his tenure, his discipline and exceptional ear became legendary, and the orchestra achieved new heights as a polished performing ensemble.

“Many felt that, through no fault of its own, the orchestra had lost some of its technical edge. Though his tenure was a brief six years, Michael’s strong, consistent artistic leadership restored the CSO’s luster and musical discipline,” said David Loebel, associate conductor of orchestras at the New England Conservatory, who was Gielen’s assistant conductor during his tenure.

“Many bristled at his demanding programs, which were meant to challenge and enlighten rather than merely entertain,” Loebel said. “Those who attended one of his CSO concerts expecting to relax and have pretty sounds wash over them were bound to be disappointed. Those willing to be exposed to worthwhile music they had never heard and to discover new things about the music they already knew, usually left exhilarated.”Read More »

Local debut of tenor Pene Pati — ‘young Pavarotti’ on March 3

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Samoan opera tenor Pene Pati makes his Cincinnati debut on March 3 at Memorial Hall. Photo courtesy of Harrison Parrott

He’s being called “a young Pavarotti.” Rising star tenor Pene Pati, who turned heads at San Francisco Opera when he sang the Duke in Verdi’s “Rigoletto” while still an Adler Fellow in the 2016-17 season, will make his Cincinnati debut in a recital this Sunday.

His concert takes place at 3 p.m. March 3 in Memorial Hall, Over-the-Rhine.

Pati’s program includes “Après un rêve” and “Poème d’un jour” by Gabriel Fauré, “Oh quand je dors” by  Franz Liszt and songs by Richard Strauss and Francesco Paolo Tosti.

Ronny Michael Greenberg, who is on the staff at San Francisco Opera, collaborates at the piano.

Pati, who was born in Samoa and raised in New Zealand, has won a fistful of major prizes:  Second and Audience Prize at Operalia (2015), Second Prize at Neue Stimmen (2015), First Prize at the Montserrat Caballé International Aria Competition (2014), as well as the prestigious Joan Sutherland and Richard Bonynge ‘Bel Canto’ Award (2012).

In the words of Richard Bonygne at the Sydney Opera House: “This young man has the voice from God.”

Pati is being presented by Matinee Musicale Cincinnati. Tickets: $25; $10 students with ID. Memorial Hall Box Office: 513-977-8838, or visit matineemusicalecincinnati.org.

Music Hall arts groups, FC Cincinnati pledge “good faith” agreement

A recent acoustical study determined that crowd noise from the FC Cincinnati stadium will infiltrate Music Hall’s Springer Auditorium, where concerts by the CSO, Opera, Ballet and others are held.

For the past week, there have been minute-by-minute reports on how the new $250 million stadium for FC Cincinnati will impact Music Hall, its tenants, and Cincinnati Ballet, which has its headquarters at Liberty and Central Parkway.

I’m publishing the statement from arts groups that arrived in my inbox today. For more, Chris Wetterich at the Business Courier is covering all the news at bizjournals.com/cincinnati. To read the latest news about City Council postponing its vote on FC Cincinnati’s development plan, click here.

JOINT STATEMENT FROM CINCINNATI ARTS ASSOCIATION, MUSIC HALL RESIDENT PERFORMING ARTS ORGANIZATIONS, and MUSIC HALL REVITALIZATION COMPANY

This morning the Arts Organizations entered into an agreement of cooperation and support with FC Cincinnati regarding specifically the relationship between the new stadium and Music Hall. The Parties in regard to Music Hall and Stadium Operations have agreed to work together as good neighbors and in good faith on concerns related to noise, parking, traffic, and scheduling. Our collective goal is to minimize the number of occasions where performances at Music Hall occur at the same time as FC Cincinnati home games, and to minimize the impact of the stadium’s noise on Music Hall on the occasions when there are simultaneous events.

Specifically, this will include minimizing the stadium’s noise impact on Music Hall through stadium design and other sound mitigation measures at Music Hall. Regarding parking, if FC Cincinnati manages the Town Center Garage on game days starting in March of 2021 per an agreement with the City of Cincinnati, the team has committed to making a substantial amount of parking in that garage available to audience members attending performances at Music Hall when games overlap with performances. To be clear, this agreement does not speak to the ongoing negotiations between Cincinnati Ballet and FCC regarding the Ballet Center.

A rendering of the stadium site on the West End near Central Parkway/courtesy Business Courier

Covenant-First Presbyterian to host first annual organ festival

The historic Austin Pipe Organ at Covenant-First Presbyterian Church

Covenant-First Presbyterian Church in downtown Cincinnati is inaugurating its first annual organ festival in partnership with the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, March 3 and 4 at the Elm Street church.

The church will host a free recital at 4 p.m. on Sunday, March 3, with renowned organist Andrew Henderson. A public master class will follow on March 4.

Currently director of music and organist at Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church in New York City, Dr. Henderson is chair of the organ department at the Manhattan School of Music and organ instructor at Teachers College, Columbia University. He is also the associate organist at New York City’s Temple Emanu-El, one of the world’s largest Jewish houses of worship.

The native of Thorold, Ontario, received degrees from Cambridge, Yale University and Juilliard.

“Andrew Henderson is an acclaimed organist who works as a performer, teacher, conductor, and musician of churches and synagogues in many of Manhattan’s most distinguished venues. His diverse program will highlight the color, depth and power of the organ at Covenant-First Presbyterian Church,” said Michael Unger, professor of organ and harpsichord at CCM. “He is an engaging, dynamic and thoughtful musician.”

Organist Andrew Henderson

Henderson will perform on the church’s historic, century-old Austin Pipe Organ. Built by the Austin Organ Co. of Hartford, Connecticut and installed in 1915, it was considered one of the largest organs in this part of the country, with 51 stops and more than 3,100 pipes.

His program –music of J.S. Bach, Bruhns, Sowerby and Mulet — includes works by composers with connections to his current post at New York’s Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church.

On Monday, 10 a.m. to noon, March 4, Henderson will lead a masterclass/workshop that will showcase the talents of CCM students in Unger’s studio. The event will focus on topics for church musicians.

Both events are free and open to the public at Covenant-First Presbyterian Church, 717 Elm Street, downtown.

The church will also sponsor a dinner at Moerlein Lager House for Dr. Henderson, Dr. Unger and CCM organ students.

The Austin Pipe Organ was given by Mrs. W. W. Seely in memory of her husband, Dr. William Wallace Seely. Following a fire in April, 1960, the organ was completely restored by Charles D. and James Hildreth and has since been updated and renovated in 1974, 1999, and 2000.

For more information, visit covfirstchurch.org; 513-621-4144.

Scot Woolley was a multi-talented performer and mentor to many

Scot Woolley at the keyboard with his brother, CSO violinist Stacey Woolley

Scot Woolley will be remembered as one of Cincinnati’s brightest stars and an indispensable member of the region’s arts community from Northern Kentucky to Dayton.

He was a gifted pianist, singer, conductor, arranger, dancer and composer who worked around the world. He was an adjunct faculty member at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music and a faculty member at Wright State University, where he was music director and voice instructor.

Mr. Woolley died on Jan. 26 after suffering a medical emergency while driving to his Westwood home. He was 60.

“A terrible void has been left and nobody can fill it,” said his brother, Stacey Woolley, a violinist in the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. “Scot really revered the Great American Songbook and the old Broadway. He loved Jerome Kern, Cole Porter, Harold Arlen, Richard Rodgers, Irving Berlin and George Gershwin. He revered the lyrics of Johnny Mercer and the high bar that was set by the MGM Studio. That’s what he tried to pass along to the generation that followed, that you must look back and understand that you’re all standing on the shoulders of giants.”Read More »

Young musicians encouraged to apply for unique scholarship

Scholarship winners who performed last spring at Greenacres

Young musicians from across the Tristate area are invited to compete for the Nancy F. Walker Memorial Scholarships (total of $50,000) for singers and instrumentalists now being offered by Matinée Musicale Cincinnati.

These have been made possible by recent generous donations in memory of Nancy Fuldner Walker and a bequest from the estate of Louise Dieterle Nippert.

As an extension of its longtime mission to advance the careers of young instrumentalists and singers, Matinée Musicale invites applications from juniors and seniors in college and high school. Awards will be given to both instrumentalists and singers.Read More »

Year in review: Great performances of 2018

It’s always revealing to look back at the best things I saw – and heard — over the year. Cincinnati audiences heard memorable performances, musical rarities and world premieres. There were also some musical milestones, such as the Cincinnati May Festival’s first concert conducted by a woman. Here are a few of my personal favorites from 2018.

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The incomparable Jamie Barton

In January, a rare recital: Jamie Barton and pianist Kathleen Kelly launched their road tour in the Queen City with the recital that they performed in December at Carnegie Hall. The recital tour was part of a big season for the mezzo-soprano, who was honored with the 2017 Beverly Sills Artist Award by the Metropolitan Opera. Her program was a journey of discovery — with many unexpectedly delicious moments. That was partly because, in a rare occurrence on concert stages today, fully half of her program consisted of music by women: Elinor Remick Warren, Lili and Nadia Boulanger, Amy Beach and Libby Larsen.

Presented by the venerable, 105-year-old music club Matinée Musicale, the event was held at the beautifully-restored, circa-1908 Memorial Hall in Cincinnati’s Over-the-Rhine historic district.  Its 550-seat theater was packed to the rafters.Read More »