VAE’s ‘Candlelit Christmas’ a radiant celebration of the season

Earl Rivers with the Vocal Arts Ensemble and Canterbury Brass. The concert will air on WGUC (90.9) at 7 p.m. Thursday. Thanks to John Ewalt, photo.

The Vocal Arts Ensemble’s annual Candlelit Christmas concert offered transformative choral treats spanning centuries and continents.

Sunday’s concert in Over-the-Rhine’s Memorial Hall was packed – the third sellout of the season. And small wonder. The all-professional vocal ensemble has developed a following for its inventive programs and peerless execution.

With the collaboration of the Canterbury Brass, this program captured the holiday spirit with a few entertaining and humorous selections, too. Who could ever forget the brass quintet’s “Twelve Days of Christmas”? The clever arrangement by Howard Cable altered the lyrics to include “some brass music on a CD,” with a dozen snippets from the classical hit parade played by the brass musicians between verses. The audience cheered.Read More »


Review: First impressions of Music Hall

img_8959“CINCINNATI – A $143 million renovation of the National Historic Landmark pushed the orchestra forward, narrowed the room, and cut 1,000 seats. In the Cincinnati Symphony’s homecoming, the acoustics were still a work in progress.”

Read my first impressions of Music Hall’s acoustics by clicking here:  “Old is New Again in Cincinnati’s Reborn Music Hall” at Classical Voice North America, journal of the Music Critics Association of North America.

img_8950I went back on Saturday for the free Community Open House, and was amazed to see thousands of people of all ages and some with strollers and wheelchairs, pouring through the doors and visiting every nook and cranny of the hall. Read More »

CSO in Spain

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The audience in San Sebastian, Spain. Photo: Chris Pinelo

On Monday, the Cincinnati Symphony took a charter flight to Bilbao, Spain, which, if you check your map is midway between its two tour destinations of San Sebastián and Santander.  The orchestra performed its Proms program last night (Tuesday) in Palacio de Congresso del Kursaal, San Sebastián as part of that city’s Musical Fortnight Festival. It is a northern port city of breathtaking beauty.

The orchestra was front-page news in a large feature in El Diario Vasco. Tonight (Aug. 30), in the same venue, the orchestra will be joined by violinist Renaud Capuçon in the Bruch Violin Concerto No. 1.  On Aug. 31, they’ll repeat that program (which includes John Adams’ “Short Ride in a Fast Machine” and Brahms’ First Symphony) in Santander, in the Palacio de Festivales de Cantabria.


Meanwhile, reviews are still being posted from their U.K. performances. One from a website called Bachtrack wrote about Bernstein’s “On the Waterfront”:   “Langrée’s interpretation was spot on; an excellent opening solo from principal horn Elizabeth Freimuth – a real trooper who also made a strong contribution to the Tchaikovsky – was full and evocative with just the right level of cinematic dreaminess.” The reviewer rounded out his views of Tchaikovsky’s Fifth by saying,  “Indeed the CSO’s brass section proved to be a major highlight of the evening with its even intonation and broad rotund sound.”


CSO reviews from the road

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Reviews are starting to appear for the CSO’s concerts in the UK, including the famous BBC Proms. Photo: Chris Christodoulou

The Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra is basking in the glow of positive reviews for its debut performances at both the Edinburgh International Festival and the BBC Proms in Royal Albert Hall, the first leg of its three-week tour of six nations.  Geoff Brown of The Times wrote that the orchestra’s program for the 58th Proms showed them “what we have been missing.”

“There’s that almost inordinate precision and sparkle, best experienced in its encore, Bernstein’s ‘Candide’ overture; and an intense clarity of colour and line, so telling in the early stages of Copland’s ‘Lincoln Portrait.’ And how about the sonic ballast, partly fuelled by the muscular buzz of double basses, placed on risers, facing the front?” he wrote.

By the way, it looks like the editors have corrected their initial spelling of our fair city (Cincinatti).Read More »

Cincinnati Symphony makes Proms debut

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Photos: Chris Christodoulou

Did you hear it? The Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra’s Sunday evening debut in London’s Royal Albert Hall for the BBC Proms was met with deafening cheers and applause from the Proms audience, estimated at 5,000 to 6,000 people.

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The enthusiastic audience for the Cincinnatians in Royal Albert Hall. Photo: Chris Christodoulou

I think the response surprised even the announcer on the BBC’s Radio 3, which was airing the concert live from Royal Albert Hall.

And what a concert it was. The program opened with Bernstein’s suite from the film, “On the Waterfront,” followed by Aaron Copland’s “Lincoln Portrait,” which was premiered by the CSO in 1942. The celebrity narrator was British actor Charles Dance, who spoke Lincoln’s words with a bit of an American accent.

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A capacity crowd of an estimated 6,000 for the CSO’s debut at the Proms in Royal Albert Hall, London. Photo: Chris Christodoulou

The announcer remarked that the piece had not been performed in the U.K. since 1943, when Sir Adrian Boult led its U.K. premiere at the Proms. At the intermission break, the broadcast continued with a panel discussion about Lincoln – interesting to hear from the British perspective.

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A thrilling performance of Tchaikovsky’s Fifth had the Brits cheering. Photo: Chris Christodoulou

The second half featured Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 5, given a high-voltage performance led by Louis Langrée. For an encore, Langrée and the orchestra delighted the crowd with Bernstein’s splashy Overture to Candide.

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Note the microphones over the CSO in their BBC Proms debut, broadcast live all over the UK and streamed live to the world. Photo: Chris Christodoulou

The broadcast was also notable because it was the first time that Cincinnatians could hear their orchestra, live in concert on tour across the Atlantic. I was impressed by the quality of the pickup – it was so clear and balanced, they could have been playing in downtown Cincinnati. But then the BBC obviously has lots of experience at recording and broadcasting.

If you missed the show, you’ll find it archived at BBC Radio 3 for another 30 days. In addition, Cincinnati’s WGUC-FM 90.9 is planning to air the American portion of the Proms broadcast, locally at 8 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 6. (WGUC will also air the fabled Last Night of the Proms on Sept. 26).

Today the orchestra flies to Northern Spain.

Photos from the Cincinnati Symphony in the U.K.

As you know, the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra is making an historic tour to the Edinburgh International Festival as well as the BBC Proms in London this weekend as part of their three-week European tour. Tonight, they play in Usher Hall in Edinburgh. One of the featured numbers is Aaron Copland’s “Lincoln Portrait,” featuring British actor Charles Dance (yes, that Charles Dance from “Game of Thrones”) as narrator.

Because I’m not traveling along this time, I’ll try to keep you updated as I get the news. After they arrived Wednesday morning, most musicians set out sightseeing in the hills, and I’m sure, to Edinburgh Castle, which is close to their hotel.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 »