Brahms Concerto shines with Ehnes in CSO season finale

James Ehnes performed Brahms’ Violin Concerto in D Major with the CSO. Photo provided

Violinist James Ehnes’ inspired playing in the Brahms Violin Concerto with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra over the weekend can only be described as masterful. The golden sound that he achieved on his 1715 Stradivarius violin was stunning. In Saturday’s concert, it was equally fascinating to hear Ehnes reveal the Cincinnati connection behind his $8 million instrument.Read More »

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 »

Mahler spellbinds in James Conlon’s return to CSO


James Conlon, May Festival music director laureate, returned to conduct Mahler’s Symphony No. 1 with the CSO. Photo provided/Lee Snow

James Conlon raised his arms to begin Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 1, “Titan,” and the musicians of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra sounded the long, quiet ‘A’ that opens the work. From that pure tone, the woodwinds evoked the gradual awakenings of nature, trumpet fanfares sounded in the distance and every note had color and meaning.

It was a spellbinding start to the hour-long journey that is Mahler. Through it all, the warmth of Conlon’s interpretation was palpable.

Conlon’s masterful reading of Mahler’s First Symphony on Saturday was just the antidote for a cold, snowy weekend when a blustery winter storm bore down on the city. Some brave souls turned out on Friday despite the dire forecasts. On Saturday, with the storm past, Music Hall was filled to the rafters.Read More »

Clip and save: What to see this winter

The incomparable Jamie Barton performs Jan. 26 at Memorial Hall

Baby it’s cold outside – but Winter is the season when the arts heat up. In the coming weeks, there are many tempting concerts and events to warm you up. So, bundle up, because there are a few that you won’t want to miss.

Jan. 11-12: Canticle. The Vocal Arts Ensemble reprises Kile Smith’s gorgeous “Canticle,” a setting of the biblical Song of Solomon (or Song of Songs), 7:30 p.m. Jan. 11 and 12 in Memorial Hall. Tickets start at $25. 513-381-3300,

Jan. 12-13: Conlon returns. James Conlon, music director laureate of the Cincinnati May Festival, returns to conduct the CSO in Schubert’s Rosamunde Overture and Mahler’s Symphony No. 1. Violinist Jennifer Frautschi is soloist in Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 3. 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday in Music Hall. Tickets: 513-381-3300,

James Conlon at the 2016 May Festival
Photo provided

Jan. 19: Star soloist at Moveable Feast. CCM’s biggest fundraiser, this year on Friday, Jan. 19, will feature a performance by alumnus and star trumpeter Brian Newman, who will solo with the CCM Jazz Orchestra as the “opening course” in the CCM Village.  Read More »

Year in review: Classical music made news in 2017

The orchestra is now seated on risers, shown here on the “thrust” stage.

The year 2017 was a year of big change for Cincinnati’s arts organizations. The most significant story – one that garnered a large piece in the New York Times — was about Music Hall, home to the city’s major performing arts groups, which finished up a massive, ambitious renovation costing at least $143 million.

Music Hall reopened with fanfare on Oct. 6 and 7. The weekend included a community open house that drew thousands. Opening night revelers basked in the elegant new decor and patron-friendly amenities, which include cup holders for the first time on wider seats, more bars and more restrooms.

Reuben Springer now presides over a new bar at Music Hall.

There are now more than 1,000 fewer seats and Springer Auditorium is physically smaller. The musicians sit on risers on a new “thrust” stage, 12 feet closer to the audience than before. All of that – including new materials such as concrete floors – means that the acousticians are still in the “tuning” phase of what is really a new hall-within-a-hall.

Memorial Hall’s renovation beautifully preserved the historic theater (built by Hannaford & Sons) and also enhanced the acoustics. Shown here with the Vocal Arts Ensemble. Photo by Michael T. Moore, Jr.

The renovation was just one sign of the importance of Cincinnati’s growing arts district surrounding Washington Park. Read More »