Sunday, March 18, 2001

CSO fans will pay more next season

        It's going to cost more to hear the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra next season — especially for some subscribers.

        Just as the price of a movie ticket keeps inching up — you can pay up to $8.25 to see a movie in Greater Cincinnati — classical music fans have noticed the price of a symphony ticket is going up, too.

        Subscriptions to next year's “Bring Your Emotions” season — the kickoff of the Paavo Jarvi era — range from 4 percent to 20 percent more than this year. And the new Sunday series announced last month may be the first step toward phasing out the CSO's Friday night concerts, which haven't drawn well for for the past decade.

        The biggest price hike is one Classic Choice package. Classic Choice subscribers redeem coupons for concerts of their choice. This year, a seat in the gallery (third floor) for 10 concerts cost $175. Next year, will be $210, up 20 percent. Other Classic Choice offerings will go up 5 to 8 percent.

        The symphony says it is trimming the amount of discount off the single ticket price to subscribers who buy Classic Choice coupons, as well as to those who opt for shorter series of four and five concerts. Next year, the CSO will offer packages of four to 24 concerts.

        “It's kind of a strategy we're using,” says Dianne Cooper, CSO marketing director. “You get less of a discount when you have more convenience and flexibility.”

        Subscribers to all 24 concerts get the most discount: 30 percent.

        The popular Thursday night series of five concerts (which includes a free buffet) is going up, too. Folks will pay $2 per ticket more for subscriptions in the B and C seats; $3 per ticket more in the A seats. (That's 7 percent to 8 percent higher.)

        Other subscriptions and single tickets will go up 4 percent to 5 percent, the typical amount the CSO raises prices each season. The cheapest seats in the house will remain $12. The symphony offers a variety of single ticket discounts, including the new “extreme” seats in the first four rows for $8.

        It has to do with “the overall revenue management of the orchestra,” Ms. Cooper says.

        Pricing strategy varies across the country. The St. Louis Symphony, which gives subscribers a 17 percent discount off the single ticket price, will drop ticket prices next year — in some cases, 30 percent (the result of eliminating a series giving patrons free appetizers). Pops series prices will also go down, publicity manager Karen Moody says.

        In Philadelphia, where the Philadelphia Orchestra is planning to move into the new Kimmel Center in December, subscribers face a complete price restructuring. Some subscribers will have no price increases; others will have a 17 percent hike. But one advantage to the new hall: The cheapest seat, formerly $17, will be $10, says Judith Kurnick, director of public relations.

        Part of the CSO's strategy in offering Sunday afternoon concerts is to target a new audience: families with children and older music lovers who dislike going out at night. Parking is easier on Sundays, too, Ms. Cooper says.

        Now that concertgoers have more choices — Thursdays, Friday mornings and evenings, Saturdays or Sunday afternoons — the CSO will be watching to see which decisions they make. And if Friday continues to be a low-attendance night, it could disappear.

        “In this market, that is a night that isn't doing so well,” Ms. Cooper says.

        Has any of the excitement of a new music director rubbed off on next season's subscription sales?

        It's too soon to tell, Ms. Cooper says. So far, people are taking their time filling out the forms.

        Subscribers should note that this year the symphony is performing for 22 weeks at home because of its two-week European tour. For the 2001-02 season, the CSO will perform its usual 24-week season.

        To receive a brochure or to order tickets, call 381-3300 or visit

        Musical treats: Cincinnati abounds with music this time of year. Two concerts I heard recently were interesting and inspiring.

        It's rare to hear Bartok's Sonata for Two Pianos and Percussion, if only for the unique performing forces needed. Still rarer is to hear it in its Concerto version, with orchestra.

        The University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music has all those resources built in: The Philharmonia Orchestra, the Pridonoff Duo and Percussion Group Cincinnati.

Eugene and Elizabeth Pridonoff
        Conductor Mark Gibson led the performance of Bartok's Concerto for Two Pianos and Percussion in Corbett Auditorium March 7. Pianists Eugene and Elizabeth Pridonoff were centered on the stage, with percussionists Russell Burge, James Culley and Allen Otte behind them.

        It was an exhilarating performance, and the instrumentalists felt every note together. There were many exceptional moments: the driving octave passages in the two pianos; the propulsive fugue for pianos and snare drum in the first movement; the ethereal color of the Lento movement, with its sustained strings and touches of glockenspiel; the powerful rhythmic energy and wit of the finale.

        The orchestra, composed of CCM students, performed like pros. Mr. Gibson led them precisely and with a good sense of balance.

        • On Tuesday, Matinee Musicale continued its 90th anniversary season with a recital by New York-born soprano Theresa Santiago. In her second visit to the series held in the Scottish Rite Auditorium, downtown, Ms. Santiago vividly communicated a range of emotions in songs by Schoenberg, Joaquin Turina and Manhattan composer Richard Hundley.

        Her voice is not large but it has an attractive richness. Most of all, she has a winning way with words.

        She opened with a set of Mr. Hundley's songs. His style is reminiscent of 1950s America, sort of a blend of musical theater and Samuel Barber. “Postcard from Spain” was a bright opener, with brilliant vocal flourishes. “Strings in the Earth and Air,” to a text by James Joyce, was a haunting ballad with soaring melodies.

        She balanced humor and poignancy in “Seashore Girls”; its charming character was echoed by pianist Michael Balke.

        Schoenberg's Four Songs, Op. 2, are not that far removed from Brahms, written to texts by Richard Dehmel and Johannes Schlaf. Ms. Santiago sang these love songs with exquisite feeling and projected a sense of drama and joy. At times I wished the pianist had supported with more lushness. Nevertheless, Mr. Balke, a CCM student, never overpowered the singer, even though the piano lid was all the way up.

        He summoned beautiful color in the piano piece that opened Turina's Poema en Forma Canciones. The third of these five Spanish gems opened with an improvisatory vocal cadenza, which Ms. Santiago sang with flair and ease, and ended with a yelp.

        But it was her two Puccini encores that were the most moving, sung with warmth and charm: ""Chi'il bel sogno'' (Doretta's Dream) from La Rondine and “Donde lieta usci'' (Mimi's Farewell) from La Boheme.

        Matinee Musicale presents violinist Jennifer Koh on April 17. Information: 961-0622.

        Dayton's new artistic director: Thomas Bankston has been named artistic director of Dayton Opera. Mr. Bankston, who has worked for Cincinnati Opera for 18 years, has been dividing time between the two companies since March 1996. He will leave Cincinnati Opera after this summer season and devote himself full time to Dayton in August.

        Dayton Opera is on the rebound. After posting deficits for six out of eight seasons, the company formed an alliance with the Victoria Theatre Association and its management in 1998. The team approach actually began in 1996, when Dayton Opera began a shared management relationship with Cincinnati Opera, and Mr. Bankston was part of the team.

        Today, the company has recovered from its financial crisis. Its future includes moving to a new, state-of-the-art home, the Benjamin and Marian Schuster Performing Arts center, opening in 2002.

        On the road: CCM's Chamber Choir and Chamber Orchestra performed Friday and Saturday under the baton of Earl Rivers at the national convention of the American Choral Directors Association in San Antonio. The ensembles gave three performances of Handel's Dixit Dominus for more than 6,000 national and international attendees.

        All-Ohio talent: The Ohio State Fair is looking for about 400 talented high schoolers. Ohio students, grades 9-11, are invited to apply for the 2001 All-Ohio State Fair Band and Youth Choir, featured attractions at the Ohio State Fair (Aug. 3-19).

        Ask your local band and choir directors for an application, or write to: Donald F. Santa Emma, director, All-Ohio State Fair Band, 2676 Country Club Blvd., Cleveland, OH 44116; or Chuck Snyder, director, All-Ohio State Fair Youth Choir, 550 Cambridge Road, Coshocton, OH 43812. Deadline: March 31.

        Contact Janelle Gelfand at 768-8382; fax: 768-8330; e-mail: keyword: Gelfand.


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