Sunday, December 28, 2003

Best of 2003: Classical music

By Janelle Gelfand
The Cincinnati Enquirer

The classical year 2003 included great performances and triumphant tours.

In notable milestones, Music Hall, whose stage has brought the world to Cincinnati, turned 125.

Here's a classical countdown of the year's best moments:

1. Triumphant homecoming: In January, a capacity crowd braved snow to hear Boston Pops maestro and former Cincinnatian Keith Lockhart conduct the Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra in Memorial Hall, in first visit back to the Queen City since 1999.

2. Rising star maestra: In February, in a sold-out The Marriage of Figaro at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, it was no fluke that the largest applause went to Xian Zhang, a CCM conductor whose career has ascended since winning the Maazel/Vilar Conductors' Competition last year.

3. Acoustical gem: In March, the Dayton Philharmonic, led by Neal Gittleman, christened Mead Theatre in Dayton's $121 million Benjamin & Marian Schuster Performing Arts Center. By the end of the evening it was clear: This is one of the most stunning acoustical spaces in Ohio - perhaps in the nation.

4. High-voltage buzz: During the second week of war with Iraq, Paavo J”rvi took the Cincinnati Symphony on his first tour as music director to America's most important halls. A Who's Who of the musical world was in Carnegie Hall on March 31 for his first concert there with the orchestra, and the hall was buzzing. Small wonder; the high-voltage program of Erkki-Sven Tuur, Sibelius and Shostakovich was electrifying.

5. Hypnotic Glass: In April, minimalist composer Philip Glass was in the audience for the regional premiere of his Symphony No. 5 by more than 200 CCM performers in Corbett Auditorium. It was so hypnotic and emotionally charged, one barely noticed 100 minutes had elapsed at its conclusion.

6. A visionary combo: The Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra, Vocal Arts Ensemble of Cincinnati and CCM soloists, led by conductor Mischa Santora, gave a rare performance of J.S. Bach's St. John Passion in April at St. Peter in Chains Cathedral - a unique, visionary coming together.

7. Herculean Elijah: In May, bass-baritone James Morris' Herculean account of the title role of Mendelssohn's Elijah - one night after singing Verdi's Requiem - will be remembered as one of the great performances heard on Music Hall's stage.

8. One-woman show: In June, Catherine Malfitano was a one-woman phenomenon in Cincinnati Opera's Triple Bill - a knockout production by artistic director Nicholas Muni.

9. Explosive beginning: In September, it wasn't so much the sheer visceral thrill of Shostakovich's Fifth at the Cincinnati Symphony's season-opening concert, but the feeling that one had heard something truly extraordinary. J”rvi made you listen to every note, and the result was deeply involving and ultimately, thrilling.

10. Hopelessly in love: In November, J”rvi led the symphony on its first international tour together to Japan. The Greater Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce held seminars in Japan in tandem with symphony concerts, to boost Japanese business in the Tristate. The tour was an over-the-top triumph, with up to four encores nightly and J”rvi stretching his musicians to a new level.

Said J”rvi: "After this tour, I have hopelessly fallen in love again."


Best of 2003: Classical music
Best of 2003: Film
Best of 2003: Theater
Best of 2003: Dance
Best of 2003: Pop music
Best of 2003: Visual art

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