Sunday, May 21, 2000

Classical music notes

Carnegie gig earns students London invitation

        “It was really cool,” says 17-year-old violin virtuoso Sarah Zun.

        Miss Zun had the experience of a lifetime when she and 53 members of the Walnut Hills High School Orchestra performed on Carnegie Hall's historic stage on April 22. The ensemble, conducted by Ken Welsh, was among six high schools from around the country — and the only one from Ohio — selected to perform at Carnegie Hall's first National Orchestra Festival.

        Miss Zun was one of several musicians who stepped in front to perform solos. Other soloists were Breana Bauman, Andrew Coil, Madigan Fichter, Sarah Michael, Sean Owens, Alphonse Romero and Matt Ryan.

        “I think we played well,” says Miss Zun, who performed Sarasate's showy Introduction and Tarantella. “It was nice to see my friends, who aren't necessarily into music, get all excited about playing.”

        The judges got excited, too, in written critiques (no winner was chosen). “This is excellent music education!” concluded Frank Battisti, conductor emeritus of the New England Conservatory Wind Ensemble. “Bravo on an exceptional performance,” wrote University of Colorado professor Allan McMurray. “All soloists were truly remarkable for their professional presentation,” wrote John Whitney, a conductor/composer.

        “You can't imagine until you walk out on that stage and it hits you, where you are,” says Mr. Welsh, who likened the experience to “a mixture of marching to the gallows and entering Valhalla at the same time.”

        “The kids were really focused, played wonderfully, and the audience was very appreciative,” he says. Later, they were greeted at the stage door by an admiring crowd of parents and friends, bearing flowers with tears of pride in their eyes.

        The result? The orchestra has already received an invitation to perform in London's St. Martin-in-the-Fields church next spring.

        Two operas at CCM: The University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music has announced two operas for its 2000-2001 Mainstage Season.

        Benjamin Britten's first chamber opera, The Rape of Lucretia, will be staged Feb. 8-11, 2001 in Patricia Corbett Theater. CCM's season will conclude with Dvorak's Rusalka, May 10-13 in Corbett Auditorium.

        Mark Gibson, director of orchestral studies, will conduct Rusalka. The other conductor and opera directors will be announced at a later date.

        CCM will also present an intriguing series of opera workshop productions throughout the academic year. They are: Pietro Mascagni's L'Amico Fritz (Nov. 11-12, Studio Theater); Virgil Thomson's The Mother of Us All (Jan. 12-13, Patricia Corbett Theater); Rossini's Il Cambiale di Matrimonio (March 1-3, Nippert Studio); and Mozart's La Finta Semplice (May 24-26, Nippert Studio).

        CCM's Mainstage Season (already announced) includes John Guare's Six Degrees of Separation (Oct. 25-29); George and Ira Gershwin's My One and Only (Nov. 16-19); Luther Davis' Grand Hotel: The Musical (Feb. 22-March 4); and Timberlake Wertenbaker's Our Country's Good (April 18-22).

        Subscriptions for all six productions on the CCM Mainstage Season: $110. Two-show miniseries (opera, musical theater or drama): $40.

        Workshop productions are free (except for The Mother of Us All, which will have a small admission charge). To receive a brochure call: 556-4183.

        A thousand words: The poster advertising Cincinnati Opera's Salome (June 22 and 24) has been covered with several strategically-placed veils (no, not seven), to make her PG-rated for Cincinnati audiences.

        The racy original picture by Rafal Olbinski caused a tempest last year, when it was distributed inside 700,000 season brochures for Opera Company of Philadelphia. When indignant opera-goers threatened to cancel subscriptions, the company's costume designer stapled red chiffon veils over the offending private parts.

        Apparently, Cincinnati Opera management is taking no chances. It is using the retouched lass.

        Suzuki convention: Teachers, parents and youthful string players will converge on downtown Cincinnati's Omni-Netherland Hotel and the Convention Center for the Ninth Conference of the Suzuki Association of the Americas, Friday through May 29.

        The public is invited to sample Suzuki conference activities next Sunday, including master classes, Suzuki education discussions, concerts and lectures. Conference registration is on the second floor of the Convention Center ($45; $25 children and students).

        There will be special activities Saturday for Suzuki parents.

        Exhibits, with the latest in music technology and sheet music, are open in the Exhibit Hall, 5-8 p.m. Friday; 11 a.m.-2 p.m. and 4-8 p.m. Saturday; and 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Sunday ($10; $5 children and students).

        Performances include the Cavani String Quartet, quartet-in-residence at the Cleveland Institute of Music, 8 p.m. Saturday ($15; $8 children and students).

        At 4:45 p.m. next Sunday, Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra associate conductor John Morris Russell will lead the Suzuki Youth Orchestra of the Americas, made up of 60 children under age 11 from the United States and Canada (free).

        At 6:30 p.m. next Sunday, a Suzuki Ensembles Concert will feature outstanding student performance groups ($5).

        Samuel Johnson, 14-year-old Suzuki-trained cellist from Seattle, will perform for the opening ceremony. He is winner of the Sphinx competition for African-American and Latino students. Aaron Dworkin, the competition's founder, will speak.

        Tickets to exhibits and concerts may be purchased on the second floor of the Convention Center. For information, call (303) 444-0984 or e-mail Web site:

        Prize to "Blackbird': Cincinnati's hippest classical ensemble, eighth blackbird, has won the distinguished 2000 Naumburg Chamber Music Award. The contest, sponsored by the Walter W. Naumburg Foundation, was held Tuesday in New York. They shared the prize with the Miro String Quartet from Ohio's Oberlin College. Each group won a recital in Lincoln Center's Alice Tully Hall, and a work to be commissioned for them.

        The group takes its name, eighth blackbird (in lower case), from a poem “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird” by Wallace Stevens.

        The players — flutist Molly Barth, clarinetist Michael Maccaferri, violinist Matthew Albert, cellist Nicholas Photinos, percussionist Matthew Duvall and pianist Lisa Kaplan — will perform their final recital for the Artist Diploma degree at CCM, 8:30 p.m. today, 21Robert J. Werner Recital Hall (free). 556-4183.

        Severance Hall on TV: If you didn't get to Cleveland for the gala reopening of the beautifully renovated Severance Hall in January, you can have a front row seat when “The Cleveland Orchestra In Performance” airs at 8:30 p.m. June 14 nationally on PBS (locally on Channel 48).

        The one-hour show taped live on Jan. 8 at the Cleveland Orchestra concert follows the completion of a two-year, $36 million restoration and expansion. Music director Christoph von Dohnanyi conducts the program, including Vaughan Williams' The Lark Ascending with concertmaster William Preucil, Wagner's Prelude to Die Meistersinger, Ravel's Suite No. 2 from Daphnis et Chloe and Ligeti's Atmospheres.

        Kudos: J. Michael Priester, 16, a junior at Wyoming High School, was the only musician in Ohio selected to perform in the 2000 National High School Honors Orchestra, which performed March 11 at the DAR Constitution Hall, Washington, D.C.

        Janelle Gelfand is Enquirer classical music critic. Write her at Cincinnati Enquirer, 312 Elm St., Cincinnati 45202; fax, 768-8330.


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