Levine’s fall from grace is complete

Levine cr Naomi Vaughan
James Levine, being applauded at the Metropolitan Opera, was fired by the company, citing “credible evidence” for sexual abuse. Photo by Naomi Vaughan

By now you’ve read, or you’ve heard about, Metropolitan Opera conductor James Levine’s fall from grace. Yesterday, the Metropolitan Opera fired the maestro, a Cincinnati native, citing “credible evidence” for sexual abuse allegations that go back decades.

Levine was one of the most powerful people in the opera world. He was revered as a conductor who rivaled legends such as Herbert von Karajan and Leonard Bernstein. In Cincinnati, Levine’s talent is a part of local lore. He made his Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra debut as piano soloist at age 10 under Thor Johnson. As a pre-teen, he would sit for hours at Cincinnati Opera rehearsals at the zoo, inhaling opera scores and imitating Italian conductor Fausto Cleva.

He was music director of the Cincinnati May Festival in 1974, before he turned 30, and served for five seasons. (The May Festival has canceled his planned appearance this season.)

In Cincinnati, he conducted his first performances of Wagner operas Lohengrin, Tannhauser and Parsifal, in concert version for the May Festival. Levine hand-picked his successor, James Conlon.

He was a personal champion of opera soprano Kathleen Battle, a graduate of the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music.

And his mentor from an early age into adulthood was Walter Levin, the late first violinist of the LaSalle Quartet, the distinguished former quartet-in-residence at CCM.

One of Levine’s honorary doctorates was from the University of Cincinnati.

I’m reposting the Met’s entire statement here:Read More »


Jesús López-Cobos remembered in CSO concerts, tributes around the world

CSO music director emeritus Jesús López-Cobos Photo provided/Javier del Real

In case you missed it on bizjournals.com, here’s the CSO review from the weekend: Janowski’s Bruckner, Wagner provide fitting tribute to López-Cobos.

Read an appreciation for CSO music director emeritus Jesús López-Cobos, who died of cancer on March 2 at age 78 by clicking here. During his 15-year tenure with the CSO, he made many contributions.

The CSO’s March 23-24 concerts will be performed in his memory.

You can read some comments in appreciation of the maestro, his CSO recordings and more on Norman Lebrecht’s blog, Slipped Disc.

In memoriam Jesús López-Cobos

Jesús López-Cobos
Photo By Javier del Real

CSO Music Director Emeritus Jesús López-Cobos passed away this morning in Berlin at age 78. The CSO released this statement today:

His extraordinary tenure as Music Director here in Cincinnati from 1986 to 2001 had a lasting impact and he forged so many wonderful friendships. We grieve with his family and honor and celebrate his tremendous legacy.

There will be a moment of silence before each of this weekend’s concerts and we will dedicate the performances on March 23 and 24 in Jesús López-Cobos’ memory.

Please keep his family, many friends and former colleagues in your thoughts and prayers in this time of loss.

Here is his obituary, with some local information, on bizjournals.com. Maestro López-Cobos had the second longest tenure (15 years) of any CSO music director in its history, surpassed only by that of Eugene Goossens. He was the orchestra’s 11th music director, succeeding Michael Gielen.

He led the CSO on European and Far East tours, and conducted the orchestra’s first nationally televised concerts in the United States and Japan. He conducted the CSO 14 times at Carnegie Hall and made 26 recordings, more than any other music director at the time.

Gramophone has a nice tribute to his many fine Telarc recordings with the CSO and other orchestras.

Do you have memories of the maestro that you’d like to share? Please post them here, or send me an e-mail to janellesnotes@yahoo.com and I will post them for you.


The National wins Grammy for ‘Sleep Well Beast’

The homegrown band The National has won a Grammy Award for “Best Alternative Music Album” in early awards at the 60th Annual Grammy Awards, broadcast Sunday night from New York’s Madison Square Garden. The brothers Bryce and Aaron Dessner thanked the Recording Academy via Twitter for the honor.

Hear NPR’s recording of “Sleep Well Beast” here.

Both the CSO and composer Zhou Tian, pictured, were nominated for the Concertos for Orchestra album and Zhou Tian’s composition on that disc. Photo provided/CSO

Among the other nominees with Cincinnati ties, the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra did not win its first Grammy with maestro Louis Langrée, although it was nominated for two for its album recorded live in Music Hall, Concertos for Orchestra. The classical awards always trickle out during the day. After learning that the Manfred Honeck and the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra won the Grammy for Best Orchestra Performance (Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 5 and Barber Adagio) as well as Best Engineered Album: Classical, Langree tweeted his “warm congratulations.”

Neither did Cincinnati-born jazz icon Fred Hersch make a win this year. But all agreed that they were thrilled to receive the recognition.

CSO, other locals hope for Grammy win

The CSO has been nominated for two Grammy Awards

Louis Langrée and The Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra will be waiting and watching on Sunday (Jan. 28) to see whether they win their first Grammy Award together when the Grammys air live on CBS from Madison Square Garden in New York City. The 60th Grammy Awards airs from 7:30 p.m. to 11 p.m. on CBS, in the first Grammy telecast from New York in 15 years.

The orchestra is up for two Grammy Awards for the groundbreaking album, “Concertos for Orchestra,” recorded live in Music Hall (before the renovation). It is nominated in the “Best Orchestral Performance” category, as well as for “Best Contemporary Classical Composition” for Zhou Tian’s score on the album.Read More »

Q&A: A bass player steps out to center stage

CSO principal bassist Owen Lee makes his fourth appearance as soloist with the orchestra. Photo provided

Owen Lee came to Cincinnati 22 years ago to take the post of principal bass of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. This weekend, Lee will come out from the bass section that he leads to perform the CSO’s premiere performance of Serge Koussevitzky’s Concerto for Double Bass.

This will be his fourth concerto appearance with the orchestra. He was soloist in Giovanni Bottesini’s Concerto No. 1 in 1998; played Estonian composer Eduard Tubin’s Concerto under then-music director Paavo Järvi, and about 11 years ago, performed a concerto by John Harbison that was co-commissioned by the CSO.

You’ve probably also seen him around town in chamber music performances, or perhaps at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, where he serves on the faculty. Or maybe you’ve caught him playing keyboard in the Cincinnati rock band Electric Citizen.Read More »