Cincinnati’s Music Scene: A 2013-2014 Preview

United StatesUnited States  The Cincinnati Music Scene will be  rock-solid dependable and lively (RDA)Chamber Music Cincinnati is the Johnny-on-the-spot of Cincinnati’s classical music groups. Whereas larger organizations still have to decide what their seasons will be, CMC has its ducks in a tone-row: dates and artists lined up for yet another fascinating lineup of chamber music groups, including the Miró Quartet on October 1, 2013, the Morgenstern Trio on November 5, the quirky JACK Quartet on December 10, the duo Jennifer Koh & Shai Wosner on January 21, 2014, the world-class Berlin Philharmonic Wind Quintet on March 4 and the Pavel Haas Quartet on April 15. All concerts take place in the intimate Robert J. Werner Recital Hall at UC’s College-Conservatory of Music.

The Lynton Music Series, helmed by the estimable duo Sharon Robinson and Jaime Laredo also focuses on chamber music, performing with a mix of the top echelon of local musicians—many CSO players who long to play chamber music for a salutary change of pace—and national musical figures, in the intimate surroundings of the First Unitarian Church (Cincinnati), on Sunday afternoons, and in the large sanctuary of the Congregation Beth Adam (Loveland).

If you love chamber music you would not want to miss the concerts of the Ariel Quartet, in residence at the University of Cincinnati’s College-Conservatory of Music. The about-to-be-published season CCM schedule lists no less than six concerts given by this estimable group during the upcoming 13-14 season in an all-Beethoven cycle of the complete string quartets on Jan. 23 and 25, February 20 and 22, March 27 and 29 (2014) at CCM’s acoustically-perfect Corbett Auditorium.

October is dominated by the ever-growing and much-valued Constella Festival. With an assembly of dozens of concerts all over the city, it presents both international soloists—this year, Joshua Bell—and Cincinnati musicians in a series of eclectic concerts.

Opera in Cincinnati is well-represented in the summer although during the regular season the pickings used to be slim. Not so any more, with the Dayton Opera—admittedly not in Cincinnati but still less than an hour away—a desirable showcase for up and coming young American singers. The 2012-2013 season featured the Cincinnati basso Gustav Andreassen, who is chalking off debuts all over the American and European maps as he expands into the heldenbariton repertoire with forays into roles like Hans Sachs and Wotan.

Not one or two but three new kids on the block have recently announced that they are here to stay. Isaac Selya’s estimable Queen City Chamber Opera has proven its mettle with a couple of nice Mozartean double bills. The wunderkind conductor flexes his artistic director muscles next as he takes on Italo Montemezzi’s L’Amore dei Tre Re, directing the verismo gem about an ill-fated marriage in pre-Christian Italy, starring Cincinnati-based favorite tenor Marco Panuccio, who will sing the central tenor role of Avito. The roles of Manfredo, Flora and the blind Archibaldo will prove a testing ground for still-to-be-announced singers. Opera fans should pencil November 2 and 3 into their schedules, since the performances at the newly-refurbished Dunham Arts Centre will certainly sell out. And for spring 2014, word has it that the tireless Selya has yet another ace up his sleeve—stay tuned.

Cincinnati’s Nano Opera focuses its efforts on short works by contemporary Americans. Their choices for 2013-2014 include David Lang‘s Pulitzer-winning Little Match Girl Passion, a short opera by Daron Hagen titled The George Washington Suite, a new opera by CCM composer Rachel Walker, and then another premiere, Marie Incontrera‘s At the Other Side of the Earth.

Cincinnati Chamber Opera saw the light last year with Handel’s Acis and Galatea in a charming performance I caught on video. They return this year with a production of Haydn’s interplanetary comedy Il Mondo della Luna on Friday and Saturday, September 13-14.  The winter production will be Monteverdi’s L’Orfeo, presented in conjunction with the Cincinnati Early Music Festival being planned for February of 2014. The reliable Catacoustic Consort, led by the awesomely-gifted Annalisa Pappano, will not fail to please and surprise with its programing of anything (and everything) that can be sung or fiddled with written before 1700, both in the February Cincinnati Early Music Festival and throughout the city in its multiple-location series.

Meanwhile CCM has announced Benjamin Britten’s pacifist-themed Owen Wingrave and Donizetti’s comic gem Don Pasquale as its two main-stage offerings this year. Add all of that to the increasingly popular Met HD presentations and whatever else may pop up here and there, especially in CCM’s Studio productions and its Opera Fusion initiative, a program of the Cincinnati Opera with the College-Conservatory of Music to develop new works. A recent example, Morning Star by Ricky Ian Gordon, is sure to make its way onto America’s operatic stages in the near future. Cincinnati Opera fans should consider their plates more than full.

The Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra welcomes Louis Langrée as its new Music Director. Maestro Langrée has assembled an eclectic season that features several internationally-acclaimed soloists and guest conductors, including Japanese violinist Midori, the ubiquitous Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos, the beloved German violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter playing the rarely-heard Violin Concerto by Dvořák, Beethoven specialist Radu Lupu playing the composer’s third piano concerto, plus premieres of works by Jennifer Higdon and Nico Muhly.

CCM has announced a concert performance of the French version of Verdi’s Don Carlo for September 22 (2013), a recital by the formidable Canadian bass-baritone Gerald Finley for February 5 (2014), and a staged version of Bach’s St. John Passion to be given off-campus at Christ Church.

Not available as of this writing but eagerly awaited are the seasons of the Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra and the Vocal Arts Ensemble. Both organizations are exemplary in their music-making and imaginative programming, and I look forward to the announcement of their seasons.

The Classical Revolution continues its twice-a-month offerings at the Northside Tavern where you can sip a fine local beer and enjoy some Debussy or Steve Reich played by some of our finest musicians.

The stalwart concert:nova (yes, all lower case) continues to do major work in CAPS, with performances of everything under the musical sun in venues ranging from fancy eateries  to funky bars all over the city under the leadership of that one-woman-band Ixi Chen. We never know until just before it happens what sort of musical sleight-of-hand Ms. Chen will provide next, but the wait is worth the while.

Another one-in-a-thousand dynamo by the name of Laura Jeckel heads MY Cincinnati, an El-Sistema-inspired training program for musically-inclined tots—violinists, violists, cellists, bassists—in the Price Hill neighborhood of Cincinnati. Not quite satisfied with giving her life’s blood to this after-school program, she has now created the Price Hill String Quartet, setting out to prove that in the poorest of inner-city barrios yet another musical miracle can be forged.

Cincinnati’s premier contemporary dance company—Mam-Luft & Co—begins its seventh season with a fall tour that will include appearances at the Chicago Fringe Festival and the Roanoke Dance Festival in Virginia. Jeanne Mam-Luft, the company’s ever-surprising artistic director, continues her exploration of the multi-disciplinary use of videography, sound design and movement with her unique aesthetic informed by her background in the visual arts and dance. She next explores the symbols and hidden meanings of maps in A Sense of Place on February 22, 2014 at the Aronoff Center’s second space in downtown Cincinnati.

In the world of classical dance, Victoria Morgan’s Cincinnati Ballet satisfies the most demanding public with its fine productions of the traditional canon. For its fiftieth anniversary the company revives Swan Lake and the perennial Nutcracker in addition to creating several new works and producing a revival of Balanchine’s Symphony in C.

A new series is debuting in Cincinnati, helmed by this writer. Music for All Seasons will present four concerts of vocal music during its inaugural season at Cincinnati’s unique Peterloon—a Downton Abbey look-alike if there ever were one. The first Sunday afternoon concert, slated for October 13 and titled All’Italiana, will feature music by Rossini, Bellini, Donizetti and Mozart for solo voice and small ensembles, with artists yet to be announced. Three more events follow: December 15 (Happy Holidays), April 20 (The Voice of Spain) and June 1 (I Hear America Singing).

The Cincinnati weather may be unreliable (this mid-May week Cincinnatians saw the temperature range from 40 to 80 degrees) but the music scene is rock-solid dependable and always lively, come rain or shine.


Rafael de Acha