MUST-SEE MUSIC: fall 2022

Our best bets in Cincinnati classical music and opera

Dare we even say it? “Back to normal”? Ever since the COVID pandemic brought the 2019-20 performing arts season to a halt, we’ve been looking forward to the day when our musical organizations could resume a full schedule. Looks like we’re just about there, though none of us are likely to take the miracle of live performance for granted again. Let’s count our blessings.

Must-see Music Christopher Rouse
The late composer Christopher Rouse

Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra

Tchaikovsky Symphony No. 6; Rouse Symphony No. 6 

To its everlasting credit, the CSO commissioned Christopher Rouse, one of the greatest symphonic composers of our time, to write his Symphony No. 6, which the orchestra premiered in 2019, a month after the American composer died of kidney cancer. This season’s reprise is paired with another final sixth, the famous “Pathétique” by Tchaikovsky, also completed shortly before the composer’s death. Hard to argue with that pairing, though Mahler’s Ninth, his last completed symphony, would have been an intriguing (though too-lengthy) match, as Rouse patterned his symphony after Mahler’s. (Side note: The CSO does perform Mahler – his glorious “Resurrection” Symphony – the weekend before, Sept. 24-25.)

Sept. 30, 11 a.m., and Oct. 2, 2 p.m. Music Hall;

Must-see Music Saxophonist Steven Banks
Saxophonist Steven Banks

Matinée Musicale

Steven Banks, saxophone; Xak Bjerken, piano

Banks, a leading and passionate advocate for the classical saxophone, makes his Cincinnati debut on the heels of winning an Avery Fisher Career Grant – the first ever awarded to a saxophonist. He’s been cited for his potential as “one of the transformational artists” of our century – high praise, but Banks is earning it. He champions the traditional repertoire, advances new works, gives lectures on the history of Black composers, and has become quite a composer himself – his latest work will be performed this season in Carnegie Hall.Side note: Matinee Musicale has a long tradition of bringing top young artists to Cincinnati, and this season also includes young violinist Christina Nam, pianist 2019 Tchaikovsky Competition winner Alexandre Kantorow, star mezzo Valerie Eickhoff in her U.S. debut, and the dazzling Silver-Garburg Piano Duo.

Must-see Music: Pacifica Quartet credit Lisa Marie Mazzucco
Pacifica Quartet
(Photo by Lisa Marie Mazzucco)

Chamber Music Cincinnati

Soprano Karen Slack and the Pacifica Quartet

The music of James Lee III (see Linton Chamber Music at right) makes yet another Cincinnati appearance with the Midwest premiere of “A Double Standard” for soprano and string quartet, co-commissioned by CMC with Carnegie Hall and others. The program also includes works by Black composers Florence Price and Margaret Bonds, plus Antonin Dvorak’s last string quartet.

Oct. 9, 4 p.m. New Jerusalem Baptist Church, Carthage and Oct. 11, 7:30 p.m. Memorial Hall;

AC-Must-see Music Robin Guarino (photo by Phil Groshong)
‘Dialogues of the Carmelites’ director Robin Guarino
(Photo by Philip Groshong)

CCM Opera

‘Dialogues of the Carmelites’ by Francis Poulenc

French composer Poulenc was noted for his frothy, witty (some say superficial) musical style. But he reached a deeper emotional depth and seriousness of purpose with this 1957 opera, based on the true story of an order of nuns guillotined during the French Revolution after they refused to renounce their vocation. It’s a masterpiece on many levels, touching on religious, political, social and psychological issues, with very approachable music, much of it gorgeous. As Poulenc put it, “You must forgive my Carmelites. It seems they can only sing tonal music.”

Nov. 18-19, 8 p.m., and Nov. 20, 2 p.m. Corbett Auditorium;

Titus Underwood, Evin Blomberg, Gabriel Napoli and Ilya Finkelshtey
Titus Underwood, Evin Blomberg, Gabriel Napoli and Ilya Finkelshteyn

Linton Chamber Music

‘Musical Explorations’ with oboist Titus Underwood, violinist Evin Blomberg, violist Gabriel Napoli and cellist Ilya Finkelshteyn

There’s plenty to explore in this program, with music from Mozart and Beethoven to Heitor Villa-Lobos and James Lee III, a leading Black composer whose brilliant music is familiar to CSO audiences. But the can’t-miss piece here is a string trio by Gideon Klein, which he wrote amid the horrors of captivity in the Nazis’ Terezin concentration camp. Klein composed and organized concerts at Terezin, where many fine composers and performers were imprisoned. He died at Auschwitz in 1945.

Nov. 6, 4 p.m. First Unitarian Church, Avondale;

MUST-SEE STAGE: fall 2022

MUST-SEE VISUAL: fall 2022

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