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Cincinnati Enquirer

August 26, 1997



PBS show spotlights 4-star CSO





The Cincinnati Enquirer


     Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra music director Jesus Lopez-Cobos and guest pianist Alicia de Larrocha give a four-star performance in the CSO’s national television debut, airing Wednesday on PBS. 

      The two-hour broadcast, Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra: Jesus Lopez-Cobos Conducts Ravel and Dvorak was taped in March at historic Music Hall and showcases the orchestra as the Cincinnati treasure it is.  This is a professional production, from basically the same team that put Cincinnati Pops on the air.

      The program – Ravel’s Rapsodie espagnole and G Major Piano Concerto, Dvorak’s New World Symphony, and Falla’s “Spanish Dance” from La Vida Breve – is a good mix for a national TV audience.  It is expertly filmed and edited by Brandenburg Productions’ executive producer Phillip Byrd in conjunction with WCET-TV Channel 48.  This crew has figured out how to make a classical concert entertaining with creative views of the orchestra taken from every possible angle.

     When the photography goes inside the orchestra, it captures close-ups of Mr. Lopez-Cobos’ facial expressions, the fingering of a violist or a clarinetist, or the harpist through her strings.  Close-ups of Miss de Larrocha’s hands are wonderful as she navigates Ravel with a youthful vigor and impeccable touch that belies her age (then 73). 

      It’s also a last look at outgoing concertmaster Alexander Kerr and English hornist William Harrod, who retired after 38 years.

     Music Hall’s stage is enhanced by beautiful lighting (by William Greenfield) and the orchestral sound (by John McClure) is excellent.

     WGUC-FM announcer Gary Barton serves as skilled host and narrator.  Each work is preceded by an interesting program note and musical excerpts, presented by CSO associate conductor John Morris Russell.  There are also cameos with maestro Lopez-Cobos, such as a rehearsal with Miss de Larrocha.

      After intermission, viewers are treated to a bit of illustrious CSO history, including reminiscences by bassoonist Martin James and retired trumpeter Marie Speziale about the CSO’s 1966 world tour. 

      This project is part of an ongoing Regional Arts Initiative by PBS to spotlight “some of America’s greatest cultural assets, that happen not to be in New York or Boston,” Mr. Byrd says.  Orchestras presented in the series so far include the Dallas, St. Louis and Atlanta symphonies. 

      WCET-TV (Channel 48) is producing the telecast with Brandenburg Productions, with funding from the Corbett Foundation, PBS, Public Television Stations, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.