MUST-SEE music and opera: fall 2018

Leonard Bernstein (Photo: Paul de Hueck)

Leonard Bernstein (Photo: Paul de Hueck)

Our intrepid category specialists waded through hundreds of events, handpicking the ones they find most intriguing for the Autumn of 2018. Below, find those for music and opera, courtesy of Ray Cooklis.

David Lyman also offers his picks for dance and theater.


By Ray Cooklis

All Lenny, All the Time

Well, at least it has seemed so this year – the centennial of the great American conductor-composer Leonard Bernstein’s birth. The CSO, May Festival, CCM and other organizations have presented Bernstein’s music throughout the year, from small pieces to his epic “Mass,” but we’re not quite finished. CCM wraps things up this fall with a flurry of Lenny – “Bernstein and Friends” programs by the Concert Orchestra Sept. 14 and the Wind Symphony Oct. 31, “Pianopalooza Celebrates Lenny” Nov. 1, “Songfest” and “Fancy Free” performed by the Philharmonia Nov. 2, and the CCM Jazz Orchestra playing Stan Kenton’s take on Bernstein’s masterpiece “West Side Story” Nov. 4. Wow. This year’s centennial focus has given us a rounded look at an influential artist whose stature continues to rise, 28 years after his death.

Sept. 14, Oct. 31, Nov. 1, 2 and 4, Corbett Auditorium, College-Conservatory of Music,

Violinist Joshua Bell (Photo: Marc Hom)

Violinist Joshua Bell (Photo: Marc Hom)

Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra

At the risk of committing near-blasphemy, let’s bypass the CSO’s Nov. 9-10 presentation of Beethoven’s iconic Ninth Symphony (a natural highlight of any concert season, for sure) and pick the regular season opener, an irresistible program led by Music Director Louis Langrée, with headliner Joshua Bell, perhaps the most influential and consequential violinist of his generation, conveying the soaring serenity of Jean Sibelius’ Violin Concerto.

The program then moves to one of the most shocking and revolutionary works of all time, Igor Stravinsky’s 1913 ballet “The Rite of Spring.” Even after 105 years, “Rite” can sound as radically fresh as it did to concertgoers who caused a near-riot in Paris’s Théâtre des Champs-Élysées during its premiere, stirred pro and con by the primitivist brutality of Stravinsky’s innovations in rhythm and harmony. About 40 members of the audience were ejected for fighting, so watch yourselves this time. The program opens with Stravinsky’s “Fireworks,” a nice contrast to the primal
scream of “Rite.”

Side note: Pianist Yefim Bronfman will have a busy weekend in Cincinnati, performing Brahms’ Concerto No. 1 for piano vs. orchestra, Nov. 30-Dec. 1 with the CSO, followed by a performance for the Linton Music Series (see next page).

Sept. 28-29, Music Hall, Over-the-Rhine,

Imani Winds (Photo: Matthew Murphy)

Imani Winds (Photo: Matthew Murphy)

Chamber Music Cincinnati

Two decades after its founding, the Imani Winds ensemble continues to surprise with its innovative programming and artistic success in diverse musical styles and traditions. Where else are you going to hear, say, Mendelssohn and Coltrane played with the same level of understanding and commitment? This brilliant quintet, which has almost single- (or five-) handedly jump-started the wind quintet repertoire into the 21st century, has premiered a slew of new music by an incredible range of composers, including two members of the quintet. In a return visit to the Chamber Music Cincinnati series, the group performs an intriguing mix of music by Rimsky-Korsakov, Astor Piazzolla, horn player Jeff Scott and several other composers.

Oct. 23, Jarson-Kaplan Theater, Aronoff Center, downtown,

Violinist Tessa Lark (Photo: Lauren Desberg)

Violinist Tessa Lark (Photo: Lauren Desberg)

Matinee Musicale

“Venerable” certainly describes Matinee Musicale, a recital series that’s been around longer than “The Rite of Spring.” Founded in 1912, Matinee has had an incredible knack for featuring up-and-coming classical stars as well as established artists. One young violinist who’s rapidly becoming one of those established artists is Tessa Lark, who does a recital Nov. 1 for Matinee Musicale. A Kentucky native and bluegrass aficionado, Lark made her concerto debut with the CSO at age 16, and has won several top grants and awards in her field – Naumburg, Avery Fisher, Annenberg and more. She also delves into jazz, bluegrass and Appalachian music, and did an album in 2014 with multi-genre arranger/composer Mark O’Connor. Her Cincinnati program is an imposing one: Beethoven’s “Kreutzer” Sonata, Franck’s Sonata in A Major, Stravinsky’s “Suite Italienne” and her own “Appalachian Fantasy.”

Nov. 1, The Anderson Center, Anderson Twp.,

Opera at CCM

In Henry James’ psychologically complex 1898 horror story “The Turn of the Screw,” British composer Benjamin Britten found ample inspiration for his intensely dramatic chamber opera, composed a half century later. By any standard, it’s an ambitious work to stage and perform, making CCM’s Nov. 15-18 production a can’t-miss for opera theater lovers.

Musically, the opera is notable for Britten’s obsessive use of a 12-note serial-like theme, but it also includes British nursery-rhyme tunes and other devices in the service of this very disturbing and unforgettable ghost story.

Nov. 15-18, Patricia Corbett Theater, College-Conservatory of Music,

Pianist Yefim Bronfman (Photo: Dario Acosta)

Pianist Yefim Bronfman (Photo: Dario Acosta)

Linton Music Series

“Music-making among friends”: That’s the idea the Linton Series was founded upon in 1978, and it’s still at the heart of this unique series in which CSO members and other local players perform, usually in ad hoc ensembles, with colleagues from around the country. Listeners get to experience the music close-up, and community engagement is a big part of Linton’s calling.

Celebrating its 40th anniversary, Linton has a great lineup of concerts. It’s hard to pick a highlight, but the Dec. 2 program should be a powerful one. The outstanding pianist Yefim Bronfman, a frequent Linton guest, joins the New York Philharmonic Quartet in Schumann’s Piano Quintet, with Haydn and Shostakovich also on the program. But don’t forget the Oct. 14 season-opener with co-directors Sharon Robinson and Jaime Laredo and friends in two string masterpieces, Schoenberg’s “Transfigured Night” and Schubert’s String Quintet. 

Dec. 2, First Unitarian Church, Avondale, (NOTE: There is no Monday encore of this special concert.)


– From co-publisher Thom Mariner

FotoFocus faces the music:

Chamber ensemble concert:nova

Oct. 7-8 – Cincinnati Art Museum. This musical reaction to Gillian Wearing’s “Snapshot” – a FotoFocus exhibit featuring seven photographs of women and a female narrator – includes works by female composers from Clara Schumann to Kaija Saariaho and features Elissa Cassini, violin.

Teju Cole & Vijay Iyer: “Blind Spot”

Oct. 6 – Contemporary Arts Center. Cole’s photography and spoken prose blend with Iyer’s intriguing jazz in what’s called “an investigation of humanity’s voluntary blindness to tragedy and injustice throughout history.”

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