Big weekend

IMG_8934I was happy to be invited to appear on a podcast for WCPO’s “Hear Cincinnati” with host Meghan Wesley Thursday to talk about all of the activities this weekend surrounding the opening of Music Hall after its 16-month, $143 million renovation.

The Music Hall segment is about 27 minutes into the podcast. Listen here.

Listen Friday when I visit 91.7 WVXU at 1 p.m., for “Cincinnati Edition.”

And speaking about events, you can find the lineup of free performances and tours during the FREE community open house at Music Hall, starting with a ribbon-cutting at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday at You’ll also catch lots of free performances in Washington Park.

And be sure to take a stroll around the neighborhood to see the newly renovated Memorial Hall, the brand-new Cincinnati Shakespeare Theater and recently expanded Ensemble Theatre. All will be open and offer tours and more.

To save you time,  here’s Saturday’s lineup:Read More »


Hello Cincinnati

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Music Hall, with its newly restored “black bricks” that were original to the building in 1878. Photo by Mark Lyons

I’m so happy to be joining the team at Cincinnati Public Radio with my classical music blog, Janelle’s Notes. The timing couldn’t be better, as Cincinnati will soon be the center of the universe when Music Hall reopens on Friday after its massive, 16-month renovation.

And this just in: The official reno budget is now confirmed to be $143 million. (Until now, the budget has been capped at $135 million.)

So, besides news-breaking tidbits like that, I hope to entertain and enlighten, but mostly give voice to Cincinnati’s remarkable arts scene. Thanks to Cincinnati Public Radio for hosting my commentary. And thanks to you for joining us.

This Friday, tune into “Cincinnati Edition,” 1 p.m. on 91.7 WVXU Cincinnati. I’ll be talking about the grand re-opening of Music Hall and that $143 million revitalization.

Thanks for the memories

It’s been a privilege. I can truthfully say I have loved every minute of writing about the arts in Cincinnati for the Cincinnati Enquirer. I am thankful to you, the readers of both print and digital, the people who have called me, written letters, followed me on social media, come up to me at Music Hall to say hello or to talk about music, and who have taken my OLLI class, “Behind the Scenes in the Arts.”

It has been a wonderful, totally unexpected ride that became 26 years almost overnight.

From the first day that I walked into the newsroom, never having taken a journalism course, I was starstruck by the people who worked there. What talent and creativity! In those days, I filed a review right after the symphony concert on Friday nights, which meant I raced to my car behind Music Hall, tore Downtown to the Enquirer building while forming the opening lines in my head, and wrote on a deadline of 45 minutes with a copy desk editor barking, “Where’s that review?” Loved those late-night editors, who would fix my typos and write the headlines. The best one described a pianist, to be nameless here, who slogged through a bizarre performance of Rach 2: “(Pianist) phones it in — From Mars.” I was usually home by 2 a.m. and the review was in the morning paper.

With James Conlon and the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and May Festival Chorus at Carnegie Hall, May 2014; photo provided by Spring for Music, Steve Sherman

But besides the reviews, I have loved writing stories about people. Sometimes I think that the whole artistic world has passed through Cincinnati. I’ve interviewed and met opera stars, violin legends, conductors, composers, crooners, rockers and movie stars. I couldn’t believe going backstage at the Met to interview Cincinnati’s own James Levine, who had pictures of his childhood home behind his desk. He knew everything happening in the Queen City. His mother, Helen, it turned out, had been sending him all of my clippings.

Then there was Rosemary Clooney. Driving down to Augusta, Kentucky, with photographer Craig Ruttle to spend time in her home was unforgettable. Later, John Kiesewetter, Jim Knippenberg and I covered her funeral. Yes, there were Hollywood stars. But more touching were the folks of Maysville who came out to bring their “girl singer” back home.

With rocker Peter Frampton in his studio at his Indian Hill home talking about his gig with the Pops.
With Rosemary Clooney and her husband, Dante DiPaolo

When Erich Kunzel died in 2009, I was proud that Reds announcer Marty Brennaman mentioned during the game the next day that The Enquirer had done a nice job on his obituary.  Early that morning, I was interviewed on NPR about the Cincinnati Pops maestro, and the force of nature that he was. And about a week later, I was on tour in Japan with the CSO.  On a day off at the mountainous shrine of Nikko, a man in my tour group said as we ate lunch, “Cincinnati. I heard you just lost a conductor there.” He’d heard my interview, 6,000 miles away.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.

Edinburgh concert review


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Scenes from Friday’s debut performance at the Edinburgh International Festival. Photos thanks to Beth Chalmers & Edinburgh International Festival

Tour reviews are starting to trickle in following the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra’s debuts in the United Kingdom over the weekend. Here’s what Hazel Rowland of The Scotland Herald had to say about the CSO’s debut in Usher Hall at the Edinburgh International Festival:

“With an extensive brass and percussion section, the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra relished the brash loudness that these composers (Copland and Bernstein) ask for, but that is not to suggest their performance was crudely one-dimensional.  …”
And she enjoyed Brahms’ Symphony No 1, saying, “The large string section was a treat to listen to, filling the Usher Hall’s expansive space with a beautiful sound for Brahms’s soaring melodies.”

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The CSO rehearses in Usher Hall in Edinburgh. Photo: Beth Chalmers & Edinburgh International Festival