In memoriam: Dick Waller

Dick Waller with Peter Wiley at a 40th anniversary concert of the Linton Music Series

Cincinnati has lost a musician who contributed much to the cultural life of our city. Richard “Dick” Waller passed away yesterday. His daughter, Margy Waller, said that he died while listening to a recording of Dvorak’s “Romance” in F Minor. It was days after celebrating his 93rd birthday with cake and Graeter’s Ice Cream.

“I’m grateful. And told him many times over the past few days that he has an incredible legacy of music, art, and community, and a beautiful family,” she said. “He showed us how to see the miracles, to be thankful and optimistic, and always to see the best in everything and everyone. That’s a high bar—and he inspires us to aim for it.”

Waller, former principal clarinetist of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, was the founder of the Linton Music Series. From its start in 1978, his mantra was “music making among friends.” It began with a small chamber music concert of “friends” in the historic church, First Unitarian Church on Linton Street in Avondale, and continued to grow. The gem of a sanctuary, with stained glass windows, turned out to have wonderful acoustics.

That first concert evolved into a second. Then Mr. Waller had an epiphany. World-renowned soloists appeared each week with the Cincinnati Symphony, where he worked. Why not ask the orchestra’s then-general manager, Judith Arron, whether the artists could stay in town for an extra day to play chamber music? Arron agreed.

His first artists in the new arrangement were concert pianist Andre-Michel Schub and Peter Wiley, then principal cellist of the CSO.

“In the old days, there was a pay phone at Music Hall and during intermission, I’d run to the pay phone to make calls about Linton,” he told me a few years ago.

It was a formula that continues with the CSO to this day. Mr. Waller paid his soloists little — but was a wonderful host and they loved coming to Cincinnati. There are legendary stories of dinners at the Maisonette, followed by poker games.

Born in Philadelphia in 1929, Mr. Waller grew up in Long Beach, CA, and attended the Marlboro Music Festival and the Juilliard School. However, his Juilliard education was cut short when his brother joined the armed forces and Mr. Waller had to return home to California to run his brother’s business. In the 1950s, the clarinetist became concertmaster of the United States Navy Band, a stint he said he undertook in order to avoid the draft.

During that time, a job opening was posted for the clarinet section of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, and he decided to apply. Then-music director Max Rudolf  hired him on the spot. He served as co-principal clarinet starting in 1960. From 1961 until his retirement in 1994, he was the orchestra’s principal clarinetist.

During his later years, Mr. Waller took up painting, and had a gallery downtown.

Many of you will have stories to tell. Here’s mine:  When I was classical music critic for the Cincinnati Enquirer, Mr. Waller would do anything to get an article in the newspaper about his beloved Linton Series. He called me frequently. I told him that I needed to discuss it with my editor. But he beat me to it. He called my editor and serenaded her on his clarinet over the phone. I believe he got that story…

Mr. Waller’s family and Linton Music Series leaders are planning a celebration of his contributions and community to take place next year.





Cincinnati Ballet expects to shatter attendance records in ‘Nutcracker’

Cincinnati Ballet photos provided

Cincinnati Ballet predicts it will shatter attendance records for its annual production of “The Nutcracker,” Dec. 15-24 in Music Hall. The company projects more than 25,000 patrons will see the holiday favorite over the course of the production run. Several performances are nearly sold out, the company said in a release today.

There is lots to enjoy in the sumptuous production staged in 2011 by former Artistic Director Victoria Morgan, featuring dancing cupcakes, a battle of mice and a poodle ensemble dancing the “Dance of the Mirlitons.” Fiona the Hippo continues to appear in the production. This year, audiences should play close attention to the second act for a special nod to her new baby brother, Fritz. 

In the charming tale, Clara embarks on a dreamy journey to the Land of Sweets after receiving a nutcracker as a gift on Christmas Eve. The large cast includes dozens of local performers alongside Cincinnati Ballet’s superb professional company.

Part of the joy of this production is hearing the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra in the pit, performing Tchaikovsky’s score conducted by the legendary Carmon DeLeone. Times vary. Tickets: 513-621-5282;

For more holiday favorites coming next month, visit my 10 picks on the Business Courier’s Arts Front.

French strike impacts CSO concerts this weekend

Maurice Cohn to step in at CSO this weekend. Photo by Ken Yanagisawa

The Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra is reporting that strikes that have been occurring in France over the last few days have caused “logistical complications” that will not allow music director Louis Langrée to be in Cincinnati this weekend to conduct concerts.

Langrée was originally scheduled to conduct performances of a program that includes Also sprach Zarathustra on October 21-23.

Maurice Cohn will step in to conduct all performances of the program this weekend.

The Wall Street Journal reports that thousands took to the streets today to protest rising energy bills and inflation. The journal reports  that striking teachers, railway and health workers staged marches in dozens of cities across France, joining refinery workers who are already on strike.

Louis Langree with soloist Inon Barnatan, the May Festival Chorus and Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, AJ Waltz, photo

Travel has been “basically halted. He is just stuck there,” said the CSO’s VP of communications Felecia Tchen Kanney. In addition, Langrée is “in essence, an official in France,” as the director of the Opéra Comique. He was appointed by the president of France, Emmanuel Macron.

Because of the fluid situation, the orchestra had to make a quick decision to find a replacement, she added.

Cohn is a two-time recipient of the Solti Foundation U.S. Career Assistance Award, Maurice Cohn currently serves as Assistant Conductor for the Dallas Symphony Orchestra. He is a regular guest conductor with the Chicago-based contemporary ensemble Zafa Collective and is also the Assistant Conductor of the Aspen Music Festival for the 2022 season.

Pianist Hélène Grimaud is still scheduled to perform the Schumann Piano Concerto.

Concerts are 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 2 p.m. Sunday in Music Hall. Tickets: 513-381-3300,


Why we needed opera this year

“Aida” photo by Philip Groshong

Cincinnati Opera returned to its Music Hall stage this summer after a two-year hiatus due to Covid. I’m sure there was trepidation in the company about whether the audience would return, just as new variants were emerging. Happily, audiences came. In fact, the total attendance for three grand operas in Music Hall and two new operas in a smaller venue at SCPA was higher than that of the 2019 season before the pandemic hit.

“We count our ‘return to Music Hall’ season a great success,” said general director and CEO Chris Milligan.

  • The company saw extraordinary national media coverage with reviews in the New York Times and Wall Street Journal and a story on NPR’s All Things Considered. Here’s a column about the international buzz surrounding this production.
  • Attendance exceeded that of the 2019 Summer Festival at 20,747, compared to 19,736 pre-pandemic.
  • The company met its revised revenue goal with $1.65 million in ticket sales.
  • Attendees from 42 states came to see performances.
  • There were zero canceled performances thanks to Covid-safety protocol.

Read More »

John Storgårds has to pull out of CSO concerts; Christian Reif steps in

Christian Reif

The CSO announced today that conductor John Storgårds has been forced to withdraw from this weekend’s Feb. 12 & 13 performances of Tango & City Noir. Conductor Christian Reif will step in on short notice to lead a slightly revised program which opens with Arturo Márquez’s Danzón No. 2 in place of Philip Glass’ Canyon.

The German-born conductor is former resident conductor of the San Francisco Symphony.

The revised program is below.

Saturday, February 12, 7:30pm

Sunday, February 13, 2:00pm

Cincinnati Music Hall

Tango & City Noir

Christian Reif, conductor

Ksenija Sidorova, accordion

Arturo MÁRQUEZ            Danzón No. 2

Astor PIAZZOLLA              Acongagua

John ADAMS                     City Noir

Information: 513-381-3300,

Hamilton County Commissioners and ArtsWave Announce COVID Relief Grants for Hard-hit Arts and Cultural Nonprofits

Melissa Gelfin De-Poli and Cervilio Miguel Amador dancing The Nutcracker from a previous Cincinnati Ballet season. Photography: Peter Mueller

Thanks to Covid-19, this has been a terrible time for everyone, including workers and performers in the arts, who have been among the hardest hit in the nation. And the new variants have not made their comeback any easier.

Hamilton County has teamed up with ArtsWave to announce that it will award $2 million in nonprofit arts and cultural grants funded through the County’s allocation of American Rescue Plan (ARP) dollars.

The grants will be awarded to combat the negative economic impact of Covid-19 on the local arts community and to fuel the region’s economic restart. Links to the applications and funding guidelines are available on the County’s Covid relief site – and

The Covid-19 relief grants will cover costs incurred due to business disruption, in a two-year period in which performing arts venues and museums lost significant box office and admissions revenue. The grants can also cover costs of mitigation expenses for re-opening and adaptations required for digital programming. Total grant amounts will be based on operating revenue from the prior fiscal year.
ArtsWave will host a virtual information session on Wednesday, February 3, 2022, from 12–1 p.m. answering questions and outlining the eligibility and application process. To join the information session, visit and click on “Hamilton County ARP Arts and Culture Grants Information Session.”

Read More »

What a year! Looking back and ahead in the arts

View of the CSO performing a livestreamed concert in Nov. 2020

I’ll never forget the fear in the eyes of both performers and audience members in the first few live, indoor performances I saw in the early months of the pandemic in 2020. We were masked, spaced vastly apart and there was no intermission to avoid viral spread. Otherwise, many performances were livestreamed online, with musicians masked and separated by space and screens.

Then in 2021, as vaccines became available and theaters began to reopen to full audiences, there was elation and relief by many who were able to finally attend a show in person.

Every concert, play, ballet or art exhibition I attended in 2021 was deeply moving because it showed the perseverance of artists — indeed of all humanity — during this unprecedented time. I feel that we’ve come a long way.

Now, we are buffeted again by the Omicron variant. Just announced, there are at least two museum “pauses” (Cincinnati Art Museum is closed Jan. 3-12 and the Taft Museum of Art is closed Jan. 3-13).

“Hairspray” is postponed to a later date due to Covid in the cast.

There are also a few postponed performances. At the Aronoff Center, “Hairspray” scheduled to play January 4 – 9, 2022 is being rescheduled due to breakthrough positive Covid cases within the company of “Hairspray.” Ticket holders are encouraged to hold onto their tickets while the engagement is being rescheduled.

At Music Hall, the Vocal Arts Ensemble of Cincinnati is postponing its January 8 and 9 performances of “The Song Among Us” to a later date, to be announced. The release states that the postponement “is prompted by production challenges exacerbated by the recent rise in positive Covid cases across the nation.” Ticket holders may complete this form or call the box office at 513-381-3300 for ticket options, including donations, exchanges, and refunds.

I prefer to see the glass half full.  I believe we will get through this, and the arts will persevere.

Singers Michelle DeYoung and Sean Panikkar share bows in Mahler’s “The Song of the Earth” with the CSO. (Photo by Lee Snow)

I wrote a list of some of my favorite performances in 2021 in a column for the Business Courier. My list begins with Mahler’s “Das Lied von der Erde” by the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra in Music Hall last March, and ends with “The Marriage of Figaro” at CCM in November. I’d like to know some of yours, too. (Let me know here, or on Facebook.)

And looking ahead, here is my list of “best bets” in 2022. It’s really just a broad sweep — because there are so many chamber music, vocal concerts, art exhibitions and dance performances that have yet to be announced. I think we have a lot to anticipate.

Verdi’s opulent “Aida” will be presented at Cincinnati Opera in summer 2022. Photo courtesy of Opéra de Montréal, Yves Renaud

WGUC to play tribute to Marco Panuccio, ‘the people’s tenor’

Marco Panuccio in Donizetti’s “Lucie de Lammermoor”/photo by Philip Groshong

I always looked forward to hearing the latest program that tenor Marco Panuccio was planning for his popular “O Holy Night” concert for the holiday season. This year, as I compiled my list of holiday shows, I didn’t hear from Marco, and I missed him. I didn’t know, like many of you, that he was battling a terrible virus named Covid-19. He died last weekend.

This Friday, Cincinnati Opera artistic director Evans Mirageas will devote his weekly segment at around 6:30 p.m. (right after the 6 O’Clock Symphony) to Marco’s memory. He’ll play excerpts from Marco’s performance as Edgard in Cincinnati Opera’s “Lucie de Lammermoor” (in French) in 2008.

Here is my tribute for the Business Courier.

You’ll find WGUC at 90.9 FM or listen online at or in the app.

Daniil Trifonov recital postponed

Daniil Trifonov

The CSO sent out this message today to ticket holders regarding Russian pianist Daniil Trifonov’s recital scheduled for Nov. 10:

Daniil is recovering from a recent elbow injury that will prevent him from performing this Wednesday. The recital has been rescheduled to MAR 1, 2022 at 7:30 pm.

Daniil expressed his regret, stating: “I have been advised to postpone the performance to avoid exacerbating the problem, and have with great disappointment agreed to focus on my health and recovery over the coming weeks. However, I look forward to rescheduling my recital presented by the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra for March 1, 2022.”

Let’s hope he heals quickly! Trifonov’s Carnegie Hall recital on Nov. 17 of the same program he would have played in Cincinnati is still on tap. Information:

The CSO will automatically honor all previously purchased tickets on the new recital date of MAR 1, 2022. If you are unable to attend the rescheduled date, please contact the Box Office at 513-381-3300 (M-F 10-5; SAT 10-2) for a flexible exchange or refund.

My November picks in classical music

CSO on opening night/photo provided by Hannah Kenney

Since the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra officially opened its subscription season this weekend (here’s the review), I decided to look at the arts calendar to see what musical performances I want to get on my November calendar.

Wow! I was pleasantly surprised to see that most of our performing arts are ramping up. My November calendar looks almost normal, which in Cincinnati means that you can be out every night of the week. So here are some of my picks.

Nov. 4, 7:30 p.m. – At CCM, renowned Russian pianist and pedagogue Boris Berman performs a guest recital performance in Robert J. Werner Recital Hall. Admission: FREE.

Note: Find all CCM events and the calendar here.

Nov. 7, 4 p.m. — Linton Music Series “Pure Bach,” featuring violinist Jennifer Koh performing the solo violin works of Bach. First Unitarian Church. For tickets and program, click here.

Nov. 9, 7:30 p.m. – Ariel Quartet, CCM String-Quartet-in-Residence, continues its concert series with Lera Auerbach’s “Frozen Dreams,” which premiered in 2020, and Béla Bartók’s penultimate quartet, String Quartet No. 5.  Robert J. Werner Recital Hall
Tickets: Prices start at $29.50.

Daniil Trifonov in recital

Nov. 10, 7:30 p.m., Russian pianist Daniil Trifonov performs a recital at Music Hall, presented by the CSO. His program includes music by Karol Szymanowski, Debussy, Prokofiev and Brahms.

Note: For all CSO events and concerts, click here.

Nov. 11, 8 p.m. —Stephen Hough recital at Xavier. Hough is a longtime visitor to the Xavier Piano Series, and is something of a Renaissance man. This month, he graces the cover of BBC Music magazine. His program includes Schumann’s Kreisleriana, Chopin’s Ballade No. 3 and Hough’s own “Partitia.” It’s in Xavier’s Gallagher Center Theater on the XU campus. For tickets and info about the entire Xavier Music Series, click here.Read More »