One of the remedies to offset the heat of August is Summermusik, the Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra’s month-long festival of concerts.
After a year of exile outdoors, the festival opened its four-week season in its home at the Corbett Theatre of Cincinnati’s School for the Creative and Performing Arts with Tales of Two Countries, an all-Latin American program.
The first featured work, Gabriela Lena Frank’s Elegía Andina, is a heartfelt homage to the composer’s Peruvian, Chinese, and Jewish heritage. It gave the CCO’s sterling principal flutist Rebecca Tryon Andres a solo that evoked the haunting sounds of the Peruvian zampoña.
Eckart Preu conducted the vibrant South American prelude to the evening, which was then followed by three tangos of Astor Piazzolla brought to life by the elegant, earthy, and sensual dancing of Fernanda Ghi and Silvio Grand.
Osvaldo Golijov’s Last Round, an intensely emotional work, boldly dissonant and rhythmic, and a tribute to Astor Piazzolla, was given a knockout performance by the strings of the CCO. Piazzolla’s Bandoneon Concertogave stage center to Hector del Curto, his playing ranging from solo cadenzas infused with melancholy to unrelentingly hard-driving rhythmic passages.
Among the two-dozen plus members of the Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra, its String Section did superb work throughout the concert. Thanks to the imaginative programming we were once more reminded of this superb orchestra’s uniquely important contribution to our classical music scene.
In the second Summermusik full concert the Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra programmed György Ligeti’s joyously melodic Concert Românesc, a work influenced by Romanian folk melodies and rhythms, and one of the few truly Romantic compositions of the late Romanian master. Eckart Preu led the orchestra in a vibrantly colorful reading of Ligeti’s work, with concertmaster Celeste Golden Boyer stylishly soloing in the manner of old-time Romanian fiddlers, and Susan Magg doing brilliant filigree work on the piccolo.
Arturo Marquez’ Concerto for Harp Máscaras, provided the ideal vehicle for the gifted Moldovan-born American harpist Ina Zdorovetchi. Her impeccable technique and elegant musicality made Marquez’ authentic blend of the Mexican waltz, the Cuban import 19th century danzón, and the 20th century coastal son, a perfect closing for the first half of the concert.
The American premiere of Hector Berlioz’ Symphonie Fantastique in an arrangement by the 35-year-old French composer, Arthur Lavandier was performed after the intermission, following a wonderful first half that should have brought the concert to a close.
Lavandier sadly shortchanged Berlioz’s original intentions by adding electric guitar, synthesizer, an alpine horn, three percussionists, piano, synthesized sounds of water and woodland, and a marching band of 25. It was a ham-fisted take on Berlioz which with its all-but-the-kitchen sink instrumentation did the Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra no favors.
We were unable to take in the third of the CCO’s Saturday concerts, but did attend the fourth and last of them, which featured Tan Dun’s intriguing Water Concerto, Johann Strauss’ popular Blue Danube Waltz, and a reduced orchestration version for chamber orchestra of La Mer, which gave the Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra the opportunity to memorably shine in Claude Debussy’s musical depiction of the ocean.
Summermusik arrived in 2022 with a new management team which will surely take this indispensable ensemble in a new and fresh direction. All of us wish the Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra nothing but the best,
Rafael de Acha © 2022
Rafael de Acha has enjoyed a distinguished career in the arts as a performer, stage director, producer, and educator. He was born and grew up in Cuba. At the age of 17 he moved to the United States to study Drama at the University of Minnesota, and later Languages at L.A. City College, Music at the Juilliard School of Music, at the University of Cincinnati’s College Conservatory of Music, and at the New England Conservatory of Music, from which he received the Bachelor and Master of Music degrees. He has taught courses on the History of Music at the University of Miami’s Frost School of Music and at Florida International University, and contributed writings to Seen and Heard International and to this blog. He co-founded with his wife the award-winning New Theatre in Coral Gables, Florida, where he produced and staged twenty seasons of classical and contemporary theater, including fifty world premieres of plays that went on to have international and national productions on and off Broadway, including Ana in the Tropics by Nilo Cruz (Pulitzer Prize for Drama 2002 and Tony Nomination 2003.) In 2006 he and his wife, Kimberly were presented with a citation from The Dade County Cultural Affairs Council for “trailblazing contributions to the arts in South Florida.
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