Tessa Lark dazzles in masterworks, bluegrass at Matinee Musicale

Tessa Lark

For Tessa Lark, performing in Cincinnati on Thursday was “basically coming home.” The violinist, who has appeared with dozens of American orchestras and is a Naumburg winner, among other prestigious awards, made an impressive recital debut at Matinee Musicale.

Cincinnati — specifically, the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music — was a kind of second home during her early years. Between the ages of 11 and 18, her mother drove her two hours each way every Saturday from Richmond, KY, to work with master teacher Kurt Sassmannshaus in CCM’s Starling Preparatory String Project, a program for vastly talented kids. She made her Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra debut at age 16.

Now 29, she plays with an easy virtuosity. But she also charmed the audience at Anderson Center on Thursday with her down-to-earth personality and sense of humor as she spoke about each piece that she was performing with her pianist, Andrew Armstrong.Read More »

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Review: Terrific all-Russian concert at CSO

Click here to read the review of pianist Yevgeny Sudbin with the Cincinnati Symphony, led by guest maestro Hannu Lintu this morning in Music Hall.

Yevgeny Sudbin wowed in his CSO debut, performing Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1. Photo by Lee Snow

Reviews on the Cincinnati Business Courier website are supported by the Rubin Institute for Music Criticism, San Francisco Conservatory of Music, and Ann and Gordon Getty Foundation.

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

An unusual concerto at the symphony

Photo provided/Lee Snow

Principal violist Christian Colberg performed his own viola concerto, an ambitious, 30-minute work on the theme of “Don Quixote” with the Cincinnati Symphony in last weekend’s concerts.

The notes said he was the first CSO musician in recent memory to perform his own work with the CSO.

But I do recall bassist Frank Proto performing his own music with the orchestra in years past.

Do you remember any others?

Click here to read the review.

Where are the reviews?

Joshua Bell performing Sibelius with the CSO. Photo by Lee Snow

Some of you have asked me where to find symphony reviews. Thanks to a grant from the Ann and Gordon Getty Foundation, they can be found on the Cincinnati Business Courier’s new Arts Front, which is free to read. (You may need to register for a FREE subscription).

Here’s the season so far:

‘Hamilton’ star Leslie Odom Jr. is electric in debut with Pops: There’s no question that there is life after “Hamilton” for Leslie Odom Jr., the Broadway star who played Aaron Burr in the hip-hop sensation until two years ago. The only question was whether the Tony- and Grammy-winning singer-actor would make it to Cincinnati in time for his Cincinnati Pops debut on Friday after Hurricane Florence canceled his flight. Review.

French program offers festive kickoff to CSO season: The French music, which demands both clarity and atmosphere, revealed that the orchestra is adjusting to Springer Auditorium’s new acoustics as it begins its second season in the hall following a transformational renovation. Review.

Joshua Bell dazzles, ‘Rite’ impresses in CSO’s season opener: It was vibrant, athletic playing. Bell leaned back, crouched, turned to the orchestra and mopped his brow between movements. The slow movement was warm and dark, and he smiled as he played its expressive themes. He soared brilliantly through the diabolical virtuosities of the finale, almost dancing along with the timpani beats that open the movement (Patrick Schleker). Review.

‘Dharma at Big Sur’ a mesmerizing experience in CSO’s all-American program: John Adams’ inspiration for the piece was Jack Kerouac’s description of the rugged California coastline at Big Sur as well as the beat poet’s interest in Buddhism. For this performance, the CSO also engaged video artist Adam Larsen to create projections that played on three screens above the orchestra. Review.

Read about this weekend’s soloist, principal violist Christian Colberg: CSO violist enjoying life after near-death scare. Click here for the story.

In memoriam: John Von Ohlen

Legendary jazz drummer John Von Ohlen, “The Baron,” died on Oct. 3 following a long illness. He was 77.

He was a drummer, bandleader and recording artist. You could only marvel at his effortless technique, his musicality and his seamless communication with his fellow musicians. Small wonder he was the drummer of choice for Rosemary Clooney, Stan Kenton, Woody Herman, Tony Bennett, Benny Goodman, Mel Torme and Perry Como. He toured and recorded with Kenton for two years.

Von Ohlen was one of the last big band drummers of his era.

“Performing with and discussing music — and philosophy — with John Von Ohlen has been one of the great joys of my life,” said Rick VanMatre, saxophonist and former director of Jazz Studies at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music. “Asking John to join the CCM jazz faculty in 1985 was the best decision we could have made for the students, the faculty, and the legacy of the Jazz Studies Program.”

Read More »

Xavier Piano and Jazz Series to have virtuoso lineup

Christian McBride. Photo provided

Polina Bespalko, artistic director of Xavier University’s Piano and Jazz Series, has a fascinating lineup of artists coming to Gallagher Center Theater at XU this year. The season opens this Friday Sept. 21, with a free concert by a piano virtuoso who won the silver in the Liszt International Competition.

“This roster this year is top-notch,” Bespalko said. “And in jazz, they are all connected in some way.”

Xavier Jazz Series opens with bassist Christian McBride on Oct. 27. McBride has worked with everyone on this list, as well as legends from Herbie Hancock to Sting and even opera soprano Kathleen Battle.Read More »