The Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra’s Summer Music Festival is back to liven up the dog days of August with a packed schedule of events. Following an aborted 2020 season and a reduced outdoor season in 2021, CCO Music Director Eckart Preu shares the desire of all artistic directors to return to normal.
“I wanted a great return to our indoor season,” says Preu CityBeat, speaking from his home in New York. “Some of the planned pieces are well-known, arranged for chamber orchestra or completely reinterpreted. And we’re also working on exciting new venues for our Afternoon Series and Pub Crawls.”
Beyond classical works by Gustav Mahler, Hector Berlioz, Claude Debussy and Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, Preu has selected music by women, Asian, Latin American and black composers over four weekends. With one exception, every track is a CCO premiere.
The season is a sampler of world music ranging from sensual tango, water percussion and bossa nova to a clash of bands. Each weekend series includes a full orchestral concert at the School for Creative and Performing Arts, a Sunday afternoon concert and nightly pub crawls, with many events already sold out.
The sounds of Argentina and Peru open the season on August 6 with Grammy Award-winning musician and composer Héctor del Curto performing Astor Piazzolo’s vibrant Concerto for Bandoneon, Aconcagua. Tony winner Fernanda Ghi and her partner Silvio Grand take the stage and dance to three tangos by Piazzola. On August 7th, Del Curto, Ghi and Grand will meet with a quintet of CCO musicians at Mount Notre Dame Academy in Park Hills, Kentucky for a more intimate tango.
The harpist Ina Zdorovetchi leads a music weekend on August 13th and 14th, which lifts the harp and the orchestra from the heavenly spheres. She plays Arturo Marquez Concerto for Harp (Mascaras) and Gyorgy Liegeti Concert Romanesque.
“This is no ordinary harp concert,” says Preu. “mascara is very difficult and requires a virtuoso, which is Ina. The audience is amazed at what the harp and this harpist can achieve.”
This may not be the only music to astound audiences. The CCO will perform Berlioz’s classic drug dream Symphony Fantastique which Preu calls a funky reinterpretation arranged by French composer Arthur Lavandier on August 13. The show takes place at the School for Creative & Performing Arts’ Corbett Theater downtown.
“With a smaller orchestra, the sound world opens up and you hear more of the orchestral textures,” explains Preu. “Lavandier includes a synthesizer, an electric guitar, an amateur brass band that joins the orchestra on stage, and an alphorn.”
“The electric guitar solo fits in beautifully, as does the synthesizer. We bring in [University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music] Alum who lives in Chicago to play the alphorn solo. It’s complicated, but it’s a lot of fun,” he adds.
The harp magic continues in the A Little Afternoon Music series with selections inspired by works in the CAM Collection.
The power of the muse, performing at the School for Creative & Performing Arts’ Corbett Theater on August 20, explores music written and inspired by women. “There are such powerful stories associated with the muses that we feature, and it’s important to share those stories,” says Preu.
“Lili Boulanger is one of music’s great losses – she died at the age of 24 with so much music inside her. Clara Schumann has had an amazing career as a pianist and her music is finally being heard,” he continues. “Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel is also considered an outstanding interpreter and composer. And Alma Mahler is probably music’s most famous muse.”
Clara Schumanns piano concert in A minor is performed by celebrated pianist Vijay Venkatesh. The soprano Victoria Okafor is the soloist in a chamber arrangement by Mahler Symphony No. 4. Both soloists appear for an August 21 performance at Pleasant Ridge Presbyterian Church.
A screening and discussion of the 2000 film will take place ahead of the Muse weekend chocolate which includes a critically acclaimed score by Rachel Portman. The lively discussion will take place at the Esquire Theater in Clifton on August 18th.
Water is the theme of the last weekend. Ostrich The Blue Danube and Debussys la mer are accompanied by Chinese-American composer Tan Dun water concert and drummer Yuri Yamashita.
Yamashita also sings bossa nova, a style of samba developed in Brazil. She is leading the final pub crawl at Redmoor on August 26th. The popular series is venturing into new venues including the Newport Aquarium, New Riff Distilling and Fretboard Brewing Company. At press time, the Aquarium and New Riff shows are sold out; check availability
Preu is confident that CCO’s musicians will be on hand as they return to a packed month of performances. Aside from the high level of professionalism, there’s an atmosphere of a welcome family reunion, he says.
Preu admits last year’s outdoor experiences lacked the connection he desires for the orchestra, the audience and himself
“We haven’t quite gotten back to normal, not yet, but the feeling of togetherness is one of the great things about this orchestra. I’m really looking forward to it,” says Preu.
CCO’s Summer Music Festival will be held August 6-27 at various locations in the greater Cincinnati area. Full schedule and ticket information: www.ccocincinnati.org.
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