Sunday, June 1, 2003

Symphony season made history

By Janelle Gelfand
The Cincinnati Enquirer

This season, 2002-03, was an eventful year for the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. Just before their season-opening concert, musicians voted to accept a historic two-year contract, which called for a wage freeze the first year - a nod to the nation's uncertain economic climate.

In March, on the eve of his first U.S. tour with the CSO, Paavo Jarvi signed a four-year contract that will keep him in Cincinnati until 2009.

The most thrilling part of Jarvi's East Coast tour, March 30-April 5, was seeing enthusiastic audiences cheering on the CSO in prestigious venues: New York's Carnegie Hall (where a who's who of the music world turned out), Boston's Symphony Hall and Washington's Kennedy Center. The CSO also played in smaller halls: Long Island's Tilles Center and Mechanics Hall, Worcester, Mass.

The CSO is one of the few orchestras that still records. In a stroke of marketing savvy, J”rvi's newest album for the Grammy-winning Telarc label, a Stravinsky disc with Petrouchka and The Firebird, was timed for release just before the tour. The widely praised album generated just the kind of buzz Jarvi had hoped for. In May, Gramophone magazine tapped it as an "Editor's Choice."

And in January, for the first time in 108 years, the CSO board of trustees adopted a new Diversity and Inclusion Policy for its entire operation, one of the first orchestras in the country to do so.

Here are my own "heavenly seven":

53: Concerts in Music Hall
99: CSO musicians
30,149: Single tickets sold for CSO concerts
149: Subscribed to the MAC (Multicultural Awareness Committee) Open Door Series, aimed at a diverse audience.
11: Subscribed to Open Door two years ago
143: Percentage increase of online CSO and Pops sales
2,912: Bought $5 tickets to attend two CSO concerts (Feb. 14 and April 27)
938: College students attended four "College Nights" and a free "Freshmen Night"
$3.7 million: Ticket revenue for CSO and Pops concerts
$31 million: The CSO's annual operating budget
1,899: Average CSO attendance
2,798: Average Pops attendance
8,273: Concertgoers went to Los Romeros, Jesus Lopez-Cobos conducting, the best-attended weekend 5,368: Bought tickets to opening night with Paavo J”rvi and the Eroica Trio (two nights)
3,403: Standing room only for Three Mo' Tenors at the Pops
9,421: attended Erich Kunzel's holiday show at the Pops (three nights)
Source: Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra
1. In September, Carl Nielsen's Symphony No. 5 was a powerful summation to a mostly Nordic evening that included Estonian composer Lepo Sumera's Symphony No. 6.

2. One of the hidden gems this year was Jarvi's reading of Mozart's Overture to The Magic Flute, not played by the CSO since 1965. In the same program, few soloists today could match the split-second precision and controlled energy of violinist Christian Tetzlaff, who joined Jarvi for a searing Shostakovich Concerto No. 1 in September.

3. In October, American conductor Robert Spano visited with a program of Sibelius, Elgar and Rachmaninoff. The CSO played wonderfully for him, and Steven Isserlis gave an extraordinarily intimate performance of the Elgar Cello Concerto.

4. In January, William Eddins was guest conductor for an all-American program, including Copland's Symphony No. 3. When his soloist, pianist John Browning, became ill and canceled (he eventually died), Eddins stepped in and played an exhilarating Rhapsody in Blue, in the original 1924 Paul Whiteman Orchestra version.

5. Jarvi's earth-shattering performance of Mahler's Sixth in January was something that those of us who slogged through snow to hear will never forget.

6. In February, it was the dead of winter, but Jarvi turned on the heat in the most intense performance of Ravel's steamy Bolero heard in memory.

7. In March, Jarvi's high-voltage tour program - Sibelius, Erkki-Sven Tuur and Shostakovich's Tenth - was a powerful prelude to the CSO's well-received tour.

Subscriptions are on sale to the 2003-04 season. For a brochure, call 381-3300 or visit


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