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.


My 10 picks to see this Fall at CCM

The arts and e-media school — College-Conservatory of Music at the University of Cincinnati — offers an embarrassment of riches (the most performances in the state, I’m told) and much of it is free. The season starts Aug. 29. See the whole digital calendar here. (My list is just the tip of the iceberg.) For ticketed events, call the CCM Box Office at 513-556-4183.

Here are 10 picks that you won’t regret. Continue reading

Best of 2015

Everyone loves lists. Here are just 10 of my favorite concert memories from 2015. As soon as I wrote them, I realized there were many more I had left out, from the superb concert:nova concerts to Xavier Piano Series, the Linton Series, and a wonderful Mahler concert recently by the CCM Philharmonia. 

Best rock fusion: Shrieking fans, long lines snaking to the bars, a crush of people surrounding a band in the lobby – those are things you wouldn’t expect at a concert of the 120-year-old Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. The orchestra’s second annual collaboration in Music Hall with Cincinnati’s MusicNOW Festival, founded by Bryce Dessner a decade ago, rocked. The March concerts included the debut of Dessner’s indie-rock band The National with Louis Langrée and the Cincinnati Symphony – a first for both.

Cincinnati Opera's Turandot
Cincinnati Opera’s Turandot

Best sight gags in an opera: Mozart’s “Cosi fan tutte,” directed by Robin Guarino at CCM in April, had bawdy translations and hilarious sight gags that drew belly laughs. The updated production featured a Mid-Century Modern house with a hot tub, and a couple of swinging Albanian strangers looking like John Lennon and George Harrison had just wandered off the set of the “The Magical Mystery Tour.” It was brilliantly sung by CCM opera students and Mozart’s witty music was buoyant and fleet in the hands of conductor Mark Gibson. Continue reading