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 »

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 »

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.

Jamie Barton red dress sm
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 »

A father’s meaningful memorial to his son

Jordan McFaull

Rod McFaull, of Ft. Mitchell, wanted to make a lasting memorial to his son, Jordan, who died tragically at age 26 in 2015 of complications from diabetes. Jordan, who had just finished his first year practicing maritime law in New Orleans, loved classical music. He studied viola with Dorotea Vismara Hoffman at CCM Prep, at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music. McFaull decided that a fitting tribute to his son would be to commission a new string quartet in his memory.

On Nov. 15, Kyle Werner’s String Quartet No. 2, “In Memory,” was given its world premiere at CCM.Read More »

Who are the next leaders in the arts?

One of the most interesting stories I have had the privilege to write for the Business Courier was about 10 up-and-coming young arts patrons who will be guiding our great Cincinnati arts institutions in the decades to come. For as long as I’ve covered the arts here, there has been hand-wringing over who will replace those great philanthropists and board leaders who have gone before. The Nipperts and Corbetts are just two of most well-known names from the previous generation, among many others.

Cincinnati has a great history of generosity and stewardship that goes back more than a century. You only need to consider this:

The CSO turns 125 in 2020

Cincinnati Opera turns 100 in 2020

Art Academy of Cincinnati turns 150 in 2019

UC’s College-Conservatory of Music is celebrating its 150th this year.

That kind of legacy takes leadership and creativity. And it takes changing with the times. Who could have imagined that an arts event called Blink could bring a million people downtown last year?

These young leaders already hold some of the city’s most important board roles. I think the arts are and will be in very good hands.

So who are the 10? Read the story here.

Where to find arts news and reviews: Visit the new Arts Front at bizjournals.com/cincinnati. It’s free, but you may need to register for a free subscription. For the latest CSO review of Beethoven’s Ninth, click here.

CCM Jazz to honor John Von Ohlen

John von ohlen provided
Provided photo: John Von Ohlen, co-founder of the Blue Wisp Big Band, was an adjunct instructor of jazz drums at the University of Cincinnati’s College-Conservatory of Music.

I’m sharing this note I received from CCM director of Jazz Studies Scott Belck:

The CCM Jazz Orchestra proud to present Stan Kenton’s “West Side Story” Sunday night,  November 4th. The band will be paying homage to the thrilling music of the Stan Kenton Orchestra’s first Grammy Award winning album, all of the magnificent arrangements by Kenton stalwart Johnny Richards.
This concert will be dedicated to the memory of distinguished faculty member and Stan Kenton alumnus, John Von Ohlen.
Special guest conductor, Vaughn Wiester, a veteran of the Woody Herman Band and a Stan Kenton scholar, will also be presenting a Pre-Concert Lecture entitled: “Three Outsized Personalities.”
Belck says he expects this prestige event to sell quickly, so get your tickets soon.
Von Ohlen died early this month. Read more about his achievements in the jazz world in John Kiesewetter’s tribute on WVXU.
What: Stan Kenton’s “West Side Story”
CCM Jazz Orchestra
Scott Belck, music director
Vaughn Wiester, guest conductor
When: Sunday, November 4th at 7pm
Corbett Auditorium
CCM Jazz Orchestra , Scott Belck, musical director/conductor
Vaughn Wiester Pre-Concert Lecture “Three Outsized Personalities”
6:15 in Corbett Auditorium
Tickets: $20 general, $15 non-UC students, UC students FREE
CCM Box Office:  ccm.uc.edu/boxoffice
Phone: 513-556-6638