Sunday, April 08, 2001

CCO conductor branches out next season

By Janelle Gelfand
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        First-rate soloists, provocative programming, new venues and a CD project with French hornist David Jolley will figure in the Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra season next year.

        As Mischa Santora gets to know his new orchestra, he is putting his personal stamp on his second season as music director.

        Artists who will be appearing with the young maestro in 2001-02 include the distinguished pianist Gary Graffman, who will open the season on Sept. 23 in Corbett Auditorium. Mr. Graffman, who will be soloist in Prokofiev's Piano Concerto No. 4 for the left hand is a prolific recording artist and director of the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia.

        “He's a fantastic pianist,” says Mr. Santora, a graduate of the Curtis Institute. “Due to a hand injury, he is playing with his left hand only these days. When I came to Curtis, he is the person who was most helpful and supportive when I had a problem with my hands.”

        Mr. Santora, who is also a violinist, switched to conducting after experiencing hand problems.

        Clarinetist David Shifrin, artistic director and artist member of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, will perform the Copland Clarinet Concerto in April.

        French hornist David Jolley will return in March for a concert with the renowned tenor John Aler. The program will include Benjamin Britten's Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings, Op. 31, to be recorded on an album of British horn music for Arabesque.

        Violinist Axel Strauss, winner of the 1998 Naumburg Award, is the soloist in Schumann's Violin Concerto in D Minor in October. And Mr. Santora's brother, Beni, will make his debut in November. The rising star cellist, who is 26 and a winner of several international prizes, will perform Tchaikovsky's Variations on a Rococo Theme.

        The orchestra will divide its concerts between Memorial Hall — where it will perform four Sunday afternoon concerts — and Corbett Auditorium, where it will play twice.

        The Monday night series, which has been in the northern suburbs, will go south to Greaves Concert Hall on the Northern Kentucky University campus for four concerts.

        The musicians “have been frustrated by the difficult acoustics, going from Memorial Hall, which is overly reverberating, to something like the Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy, which is incredibly dry. That's tough,” Mr. Santora says.

        “Next year, with at least two concerts at Corbett, and the Monday series four times at Greaves Hall, which is a very good hall, that's a huge improvement.”

        Mr. Santora, who will conduct five of the six programs, has balanced old with new — something that just happened, he says.

        “The idea for next year is to have a particular piece on every program from a particular geographic area. They just happen to be 20th-century,” he says.

        Fans will get to know music by Mexican composer Silvestre Revueltas, whose 8 x Radio (Ocho por radio)will be played for the first time by the CCO in January. The program includes Rossini's Barber of Seville Overture arranged for winds and Schubert's Symphony No. 3.

        Mr. Santora will also give CCO premieres of Estonian composer Arvo Part's Summa on Oct. 21, and Hungarian composer Gyorgy Kurtag's Four Capriccios for Soprano and Chamber Orchestra in November. (The soprano will be announced at a later date.)

        The season will include audience favorites, such as Mendelssohn's Symphony No. 3, Scottish, Beethoven's Symphony No. 8, J.S. Bach's Suite No. 4 in D Major and Mozart's Symphony No. 38, Prague.

        “I feel confident that if people are open enough, they'll enjoy it if I give them a few challenges,” Mr. Santora says, talking about his commitment to new music. His experiment last month with a piece by Ligeti worked; audience feedback was mostly positive.

        “I had about two people who hated it, and about 30 who said they loved it,” he says. “That's a pretty good approval rating, that any politician can only dream of.”

        Among his other plans, Mr. Santora hopes to step up the orchestra's regional touring. On Oct. 22, the CCO will open the 25th anniversary season of the Chillicothe Artist Series in Chillicothe, Ohio, a series that grew out of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra's now defunct Area Artist Series. On Nov. 26, a special concert is tentatively planned at Xavier University.

        The CCO's guest conductor for the April concert will be announced at a later date.

        Sunday concerts are at 3 p.m. in Memorial Hall and Corbett Auditorium; Monday concerts are at 7:30 p.m. in Greaves Concert Hall, NKU.
       Subscription renewals ($20-$105) will be mailed Tuesday. For information call 723-1182.


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