How pianist Frederic Chiu — at Xavier this week — fell in love with Prokofiev

Pianist Frederic Chiu/photo by Chris Craymer

I’m always inspired when I hear a recital by a remarkable pianist. Frederic Chiu returns to Cincinnati this Sunday, 2:30 p.m. April 28, in Xavier University’s Gallagher Center Theater for an all-Prokofiev program for the Xavier Piano Series.

Chiu’s early career followed a traditional path — such as winning an Avery Fisher Career Grant, and becoming perhaps more famous as a “non-winner” of the 1993 Van Cliburn Competition than the actual winner because of the uproar caused by his elimination.

Since then, his career has been anything but traditional. For starters, he’s a savvy marketer on the Internet. His Chopin Etudes have gone viral on YouTube, with more than 200,000 views.

Then, there’s Prokofiev’s music, to which he’s devoted a lifetime to performing and recording.  Here is his Q&A with me, where he explains how he developed his affinity for the Russian composer — and much more.

Q: When it comes to Prokofiev, have you made more recordings than anyone of his complete piano literature?

When you say complete piano recordings, it can be many different things. I think my complete Prokofiev is perhaps the most extensive collection, because I’ve included a number of transcriptions and added my own, so I feel like I’ve covered a lot more ground that most.Read More »

Neil Armstrong’s son to perform with Harry James Orchestra

Mark Armstrong/Photo provided

“Fly Me to the Moon” is one of the songs Mark Armstrong, the youngest son of Janet and the late Neil Armstrong, will perform with the Harry James Orchestra on April 2 at the Music Hall Ballroom.

The moon-themed songs in Mark’s repertoire honor his father, who made history in 1969 as the first man to walk on the moon.

The Harry James Orchestra is led by Fred Radke, who played trumpet for James and has been the current orchestra’s director since James’ death in 1983.  Radke and Mark Armstrong struck up a friendship over their shared interest in the music and aerospace.

Armstrong, who lives in Cincinnati with his wife and three children, has had a 30-year career as a software engineer and was instrumental in the development of several successful startup companies, such as WebTV Networks.  In addition, Mark was a senior engineering leader for both Symantec and Microsoft and also wrote system software for Apple Computer.

He’s also a singer/songwriter as well as an actor, and serves on the board of trustees to several non-profit organizations.

The Harry James Orchestra plays original charts of such hits asI’ve Heard That Song Before,” “I Had the Craziest Dream”, “Sleepy Lagoon”, “I Don’t Want to Walk without You”, and “I’m Beginning to See the Light.” 

The concert and dance is Tuesday, April 2, from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. at Music Hall Ballroom.  Tickets are $30 ($20 for students with ID) and $35 on the day of the concert.

Tickets can be purchased at the Aronoff Center and Music Hall Ticket Offices, by calling (513)621-2787, or online atwww.cincinnatiarts.org.  The three-hour concert and dance will benefit public radio WMKV 89.3FM and WLHS 89.9FM.

 

Harry James Orchestra

Local debut of tenor Pene Pati — ‘young Pavarotti’ on March 3

pene pati
Samoan opera tenor Pene Pati makes his Cincinnati debut on March 3 at Memorial Hall. Photo courtesy of Harrison Parrott

He’s being called “a young Pavarotti.” Rising star tenor Pene Pati, who turned heads at San Francisco Opera when he sang the Duke in Verdi’s “Rigoletto” while still an Adler Fellow in the 2016-17 season, will make his Cincinnati debut in a recital this Sunday.

His concert takes place at 3 p.m. March 3 in Memorial Hall, Over-the-Rhine.

Pati’s program includes “Après un rêve” and “Poème d’un jour” by Gabriel Fauré, “Oh quand je dors” by  Franz Liszt and songs by Richard Strauss and Francesco Paolo Tosti.

Ronny Michael Greenberg, who is on the staff at San Francisco Opera, collaborates at the piano.

Pati, who was born in Samoa and raised in New Zealand, has won a fistful of major prizes:  Second and Audience Prize at Operalia (2015), Second Prize at Neue Stimmen (2015), First Prize at the Montserrat Caballé International Aria Competition (2014), as well as the prestigious Joan Sutherland and Richard Bonynge ‘Bel Canto’ Award (2012).

In the words of Richard Bonygne at the Sydney Opera House: “This young man has the voice from God.”

Pati is being presented by Matinee Musicale Cincinnati. Tickets: $25; $10 students with ID. Memorial Hall Box Office: 513-977-8838, or visit matineemusicalecincinnati.org.

Choral couple to leave area as Christopher Eanes takes on role at National Cathedral

Christopher Eanes. Courtesy of the Cathedral Choral Society

Christopher Eanes has been appointed the executive director of the Cathedral Choral Society at Washington National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. He and his wife, KellyAnn Nelson announced the end of their tenures as co-directors of the Cincinnati Boychoir on Facebook on Monday night. Eanes will also be departing Collegium Cincinnati, the ensemble he founded at Christ Church Cathedral.

Nelson, founding director of the Young Professionals Choral Collective, will continue her role with YPCC through the 2019-20 season. She grew the group of singers — all busy young professionals in the Cincinnati area — from a few who came together to sing in a bar in Dec. 2011 to a roster of more than 1,200 singers who perform concerts and sing carols city-wide.Read More »

Reviews in the New Year

I’m ,thinking how fitting it was to hear “Winter” from “The Four Seasons” this weekend, and then wake up to this. I meaasured 9 inches on my patio.

In case you missed the CSO reviews of the first two concerts of 2019, here are the links. Remember that you can sign up for a FREE subscription to the Arts Front at bizjournals.com/cincinnati.

Fireworks at Rach 3 in first concert of year. It’s amazing to think that Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 3 in D Minor was the composer’s own calling card to play on an American tour in 1909. Like his more famous Second Concerto (which he played in Cincinnati on that tour), it is lushly scored and features one great romantic tune after another. But technically, the Third goes a step further with nonstop fireworks for the pianist.

Benjamin Beilman in his debut with the CSO, conducted from the harpsichord by Richard Egarr. Photo by Lee Snow

Beilman wows in Four Seasons with CSO. I don’t think I’ve heard Baroque music played with such atmosphere and emotion while maintaining the “historically informed” performance style of clear textures and brisk tempos.

 

‘Tis the season…. for sing-along Messiahs

Butler Philharmonic and Chorus, Paul John Stanbery, music director

Performances of Handel’s Messiah are among the best-loved traditions of the holiday season. This year, there are several to choose from, for singers and listeners alike.

The Majesty of Christmas — The sing-along Messiah by the Butler Philharmonic and Chorus on Friday, Dec. 7, might be the region’s largest. Music director Paul John Stanbery says their first Messiah last year drew 1,000. It’s so popular, “we might need to do it twice,” he says.

Stanbery has assembled a fine cast of soloists: Soprano Jennifer Cherest, mezzo Kaylee Nichols, baritone Tom Dreeze and tenor Scott Wyatt. They’ll be performing the Christmas portion, plus selected arias and of course, the “Hallelujah Chorus.”

Oh, and you won’t need to bring your own score, unless you want to. The chorus parts will be shown on two giant video screens. There will be designated areas for singers by type: Soprano, Alto, Tenor and Bass.Read More »