Sandra Rivers steps in for André Watts at Phoenix festival

André Watts

Pianist and CCM professor Sandra Rivers is stepping in for André Watts to perform two extra programs for the Phoenix Chamber Music Society this week. Piano legend Watts is unable to perform for the Winter Festival due to ongoing cancer treatments, according to the festival’s website.

Rivers, who has collaborated with stars such as Itzhak Perlman, Joshua Bell, Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg, and Kathleen Battle, was already slated to perform Brahms sonatas with the wonderful violist/violinist Nokuthula Ngwenyama last Sunday. But after arriving, she was invited to add a heaping plate of repertoire at the last minute for performances on Monday and Wednesday, as well.

“It’s very exciting,” Rivers said by phone on Sunday. “I’ve been in nonstop rehearsals since I arrived.”

Last night she played the four Brahms Op. 119 piano pieces (Klavierstücke), as well as the lovely Brahms Sonata Op. 120, No. 1 for piano and clarinet with David Shifrin, who also directs the festival.

And tomorrow night, she will join four other artists to anchor Mozart’s Quintet for Piano and Winds, K. 452. This one will be in the Music Pavilion at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin West. It’s sold out. Rivers only concern: What to wear so as not to clash with the very red room!

Meanwhile, we send good vibes and our best wishes to Mr. Watts for a quick recovery! I hear that he hopes to be back on the concert stage by this summer.


CCM Piano Professor Sandra Rivers to play at Phoenix Chamber Music Society’s 8th Winter Festival

Attention friends in the Phoenix area!


CCM Professor of Collaborative Piano Sandra Rivers will perform in three concerts at thePhoenix Chamber Music Society’s Eighth Winter Festivalnext week.

Rivers will play piano in concert with violist and violinist Nokuthula Ngwenyama on Sunday, March 5 and she will join clarinetist David Shifrin to play works by Brahms on Monday, March 6. Both concerts will be held in private homes in Phoenix, Arizona.

On Wednesday, March 8, Rivers will play a concert of works by Beethoven and Mozart with Shifrin, clarinet; Stephen Taylor, oboe; Julie Feves, bassoon; Frank Morelli, bassoon; William Purvis, horn, and fellowship students from the Yale School of Music. The concert will be held at the Music Pavilion of the iconic Taliesin West home, designed by architect Frank Lloyd Wright. The national historic landmark is located in the desert foothills of the McDowell Mountains outside of Scottsdale, Arizona.

The Society invited…

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CCM Announces 2017 Opera Scholarship Competition Results

Congratulations to these students. I was able to hear some of them, and was very impressed!


Artist Diploma candidate Yi Li with Mark Gibson and the CCM Philharmonia.

Five voice students were named winners of CCM’s 2017 Opera Scholarship Competition, which was held on Saturday, Feb. 25, in UC’s Patricia Corbett Theater.

Since its inauguration in 1976, the annual competition welcomes current and incoming CCM voice students to compete for scholarships and cash prizes, and a panel of judges composed of opera industry professionals selects each year’s class of prizewinners.

The 2017 CCM Opera Scholarship Competition winners are:

Nicolette Book (first year Artist Diploma student)
From Minneapolis, Minnesota, studying with William McGraw
Prize: Full-tuition scholarship and the Corbett Award ($15,000)
The Corbett Award is supported by the Corbett Foundation in cooperation with the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music.

Caitlin Gotimer (second year Master of Music student)
From Long Island, New York, studying with Kenneth Shaw
Prize: Full-tuition scholarship and the Italo Tajo Memorial Award ($15,000)
This award is supported by the Italo Tajo Memorial Scholarship Fund (established by…

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A maestro’s rare recital 

It’s always interesting to see a different side of an artist. On Sunday, Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra music director Louis Langrée departed from his day job to collaborate at the piano with mezzo-soprano Kelley O’Connor in a program of French and German art song at the Linton Series. It was a beautiful recital, and reminded me of other conductor-pianists who have performed at the keyboard in concert: Native son James Levine, Daniel Barenboim, Leonard Bernstein, Michael Tilson Thomas… and Thomas Schippers played the Organ Symphony with the CSO. Watch for my review.

Chasing an orchestra around the world

img005I had to laugh when I stumbled upon Cincinnati Enquirer critic Henry Humphreys’ description of trying to catch up with the Cincinnati Symphony on its 1966 World Tour. The ’round-the-world tour was famously funded by the U.S. State Department, but apparently, they didn’t fund Henry’s trip… Because of journalistic standards, his — and my — employer has always paid the critic’s way. One of the most common assumptions I hear from readers is that the orchestra pays for and provides accommodations, etc., for the accompanying critic on tours.

Not so. Until about 10 years ago, I was not even allowed on the bus with musicians to get to concert halls in far-away foreign cities, and I always book my own flights and hotels. Once, I nearly missed a show in Vienna’s Musikverein when my connecting flight was canceled from Amsterdam. A flight attendant tracked down my luggage sitting on the tarmac, or it might still be there, and literally threw it on a plane they had found to take me to Wien… I have so many stories. But here’s Henry’s:

“Enquirer music critic Henry S. Humphreys barely made the delayed opening concert of the CSO world tour at Salonika. There was no space available on CSO flights from Athens to Salonika. No bus space. He was sold a train ticket, then thrown off the train because it was over-crowded. He returned to Athens airport, wrangled a seat near crew of plane which took off after a 55-minute argument about whether takeoff should be made. No hotel room in Salonika for Humphreys, so he located attic boarding house space. He could have used a fan — even a palm leaf one, he says.”


5 things to know about The Lego Batman Movie if you are 8 (or older)

Jack reviews The Lego Batman Movie, in theaters on Feb. 10.
Jack reviews The Lego Batman Movie, in theaters on Feb. 10.

Let’s be clear. If I didn’t have an 8-year-old to take me, I never would have gone to that advance screening of the new Lego Batman Movie. But I have to say that both Jack, who is a third-grader, and I thought the latest Lego movie was “awesome.” I admit I was skeptical about how entertaining a nearly two-hour movie filled with animations of superhero minifigs could be.

However, Jack — whose own tabletop explosion of Legos (er, sorry, Lego Bricks) rivals some of Gotham City’s worst scenes of destruction in the movie — was on the edge of his seat. Indeed, so were most of the adults in the room, who (when they weren’t laughing) were no doubt wishing they could put a few scenes on “pause” to get a better look. For instance, the lineup of Batman’s Bat-vehicles in his futuristic Batcave was truly impressive.

Even the credits were fun, with voices by actors such as Will Arnett, Rosario Dawson, Ralph Fiennes, Michael Cera and Siri.  (I noticed quite a bit of Apple product placement, as well.)

I won’t divulge the plot. Suffice it to say that The Joker is up to his old tricks, and Batman, a real loner with several personality disorders, ultimately learns the meaning of family with his adopted son, Robin.

Jack’s review

Best part: That would be hard to tell. They were all really good. I would say the battle (in Gotham City). All the action was cool, and it was really funny.

Funniest joke: The password to Batcave.

Animation: It was really good. I don’t know how they did it. They probably just animated it, but they could have built it all out of Legos. But that would take forever.

What you need to know: It’s really good and it’s hilarious, and it has a great story-line. They added a bunch of superheroes and villains, and they also added villains from totally different places, like Harry Potter villains, sea monsters and King Kong.

Fun fact: They added a dark wizard, Voldemort from Harry Potter, and he actually yelled real curses, real Harry Potter spells.

Jack’s Rating: 5 stars


My last list … for now … of the best of 2016

636184558582936207-052816-May-Fest-08-1-.jpgIt seems that the end of a year always results in lists — looking back and looking ahead. And invariably, my list is different from your list. There were so many other great performances that I could have added here — the Polish Festival at CCM, the Ariel Quartet, the great jazz heard every week in our community, and the high-energy shows by John Morris Russell and the Cincinnati Pops… not to mention the entire opening season this fall at the CSO, with Emanuel Ax, Hilary Hahn, Lang Lang, Gil Shaham and Branford Marsalis!

I loved it all. But here’s my column, in case you missed it, for better or worse. At the list’s end, I look back at two of the big stories in the arts that I covered, and look forward to the opening of Music Hall next October.

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