Looking at the CSO’s line up for 2022-2023 I am once more deeply disappointed as a music lover, and, as a Hispanic, slighted.

If my calculations don’t fail me, between September of 2022 and May of 2023, the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra will play 21 programs mostly given in pairs of performances. Two or three additional programs will feature performing organizations other than the CSO.

42 composers, listed below by 12 nationalities, will be represented in the CSO programs. 10 out of the 21 programs will feature guest conductors, of which 3 will be led by female conductors:

American (11): Adams, Ayres, Bryan, Childs, Ellington, Gershwin, Ives, Mazzoli, Rouse, Shaw, Simpson

Austrian, German (6): Beethoven, Korngold, Mahler, Mendelssohn, Schumann, Strauss III, Zemlinsky

Chinese (2): Chen, Tian

Czech (1): Dvorak

English (6): Britten, Elgar, Holst, Perry, Smyth, Vaughn Williams

Finnish (1): Sibelius

French (4): Berlioz II, Milhaud, Ravel, Saint-Saens

Hungarian (2): Bartok, Liszt

Icelandic (1): Bjarnasson

Norwegian (1): Grieg

Polish (1): Panufnik

Russian (6): Mussorgsky, Prokofiev. Rachmaninoff II, Rimsky Korsakoff, Shostakovich, Tchaikovsky II

Visiting Organizationss: Classical Roots, Sundogs

Hector Berlioz, Sergei Rachmaninoff, Richard Strauss, and Tchaikovsky will each have two or more works performed by the CSO.

With a budget a fraction of that of other musical organizations in our community, the enterprising Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra has announced one of its four mainstage concerts featuring an all-Latin American concert with the music of Gabriela Lena Frank, Astor Piazolla, and Osvaldo Golijov, thus setting a significant musical diversity example for others to follow.

Missing not only in this season’s CSO lineup but absent in season after season of our largest musical institution are the names of Spanish composers Manuel de Falla, Joaquín Turina, Enrique Granados,  Isaac Albéniz, and Joaquín Rodrigo. Not only those Spaniards, but the Argentinian Alberto Ginastera, the Brazilian Heitor Villa-Lobos, the Mexicans Silvestre Revueltas and Carlos Chávez, all four recognized among the major 20th century composers are ignored year after year by those in charge of programming the CSO’s concerts.

While the CSO’s programs emphasize in numbing sameness the works of the Romantic and the 20th century masters, the compositions of the 18th century’s Mozart and Haydn are completely ignored by the masterminds of the CSO. Likewise, the 2022 season fails to include even one of the often-neglected Slavic composers Glinka and Balakireff, for example, or the well-known Czech Smetana. In the German repertory there’s unthinkably no Brahms or Wagner in sight, nor is there a Debussy or a Poulenc included in one of the 20-plus CSO programs. Italians Respighi – a creator of tone poems that are marvels of orchestration – and Verdi, whose overtures provide very nice openings to concerts, are also ignored by the CSO.

I once tried to get to the bottom of this repertoire malaise by asking more than one person part of the management team of the CSO just what or who guides the programming policies of our symphony orchestra. Sad to say, I failed to get a straight answer from anyone. Perhaps with an upcoming changing of the guard things will improve.

Rafael de Acha © 2022

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