Monday, December 31, 2018

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year from your friends at 90.9 WGUC. We’d love your feedback! What about Clef Notes did you especially enjoy this year? What didn’t we do that you’d like to see changed for 2019? We welcome your comments. Thanks!

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Happy Birthday Beethoven!

Looking for more Beethoven to fill your day as we celebrate his 248th birthday? Check out this playlist on Spotify!

Monday, December 10, 2018

A Conversation with Rachel Barton Pine

One of our new favorite albums in the WGUC music library this fall has been Rachel Barton Pine’s Blues Dialogues. It offers something so fresh, so interesting, so fun. We often get caught up with the “greats” in classical music – Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms – but fail to remember that there were countless others composing around them who have essentially slipped through the cracks of time. Rachel Barton Pine has committed the last 15 years of her life to researching music by black composers. Blues Dialogues explores just a sampling of this repertoire. WGUC had the pleasure of chatting with Rachel about this CD project. She told us the scoop on how the album came to be:


 Many of the works on this album are old favorites, but there are a few new discoveries too.


The first track on Blues Dialogues in one by David Baker. Rachel remembers her first impressions of this piece when she found it in a sheet music shop as a teenager.


Having a background playing the real blues helped her to better interpret the art music on this album.


 It’s hard for her to choose just one favorite piece from this album.


For more from Rachel Barton Pine, tune to 90.9 WGUC, listen online at, via our free mobile app, or your smart speaker.

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Holiday Programming on 90.9 WGUC

90.9 WGUC offers the perfect soundtrack to your holiday activities this season. Tune to 90.9 throughout the month for seasonal music for Hanukkah and Christmas. You can also listen online at, via your smart speaker, or on the go with our WGUC app. Here’s a listing of what you can expect:

Sunday, December 2, 8:00 PM
Candles Burning Brightly: Mindy Ratner hosts this 2017 encore celebration of Hanukkah, the Jewish Festival of Lights. “Candles Burning Brightly” explores the meaning and traditions of Hanukkah, including holiday foods and Sephardic and Ashkenazi music.

Tuesday, December 4, 6:30 PM
Music of Hanukkah: Our annual celebration with stories and music, hosted by Naomi Lewin.

Thursday, December 6, 7:00 PM
Hanukkah in Story and Song: A celebration by The Western Wind performing Ladino songs of Spanish Jews, Yiddish melodies of Eastern Europe and modern Israeli tunes.

Sunday, December 9, 8:00 PM
Itzhak Perlman’s Hanukkah Radio Party: Itzhak Perlman invites you to his Hanukkah Radio Party.  Join the superstar violinist as he tells the story of the Jewish festival of lights and shares his favorite recordings for the holiday – some serious, some silly.  This engaging one-hour special includes numbers from Itzhak Perlman’s radio-addicted childhood in Israel; evocative songs in Yiddish and Ladino; classical music that revolves around the Maccabee heroes of the story; and Hanukkah gems by American folk singers.  The master storyteller also regales you with jokes and memories, plus tales of three classic Hanukkah symbols: the menorah, the latke, and, of course, the dreidel.  A good time for the whole family, at Itzhak Perlman’s Hanukkah Radio Party!

Sunday, December 16, 8:00 PM
Welcome Christmas!: New for 2018, "Welcome Christmas!" is a perennial Christmas favorite from VocalEssence, one of the world’s premiere choral groups. John Birge hosts an hour of traditional carols and new discoveries, including the world premiere of two carols from the annual Christmas Carol Contest.

Sunday, December 16, 9:00 PM
A Baroque Christmas in the New World: In celebration of the holiday season, "A Baroque Christmas in the New World 2018" brings listeners music from 17th- and 18th-century Mexico, Peru and Bolivia, including a cantata and three free-standing works by Sumaya — most of which comes from the only surviving manuscript in full-score in Sumaya's own hand.

Monday, December 17, 7:00 PM
Christmas with the Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra: The world-renowned Tabernacle Choir continues its tradition of great artistry this holiday season, with touching arrangements of familiar carols, and lesser-known melodies that are fast becoming the new classics. Julie Amacher hosts this annual favorite.

Wednesday, December 19, 7:00 PM
All is Bright: Contemplative Music for Christmas: Lynne Warfel hosts an hour of gorgeous, contemplative choral music that tells the traditional Christmas story with songs about angels, the star and the manger scene. Featured artists include Cantus, Chanticleer, Cambridge Singers, Bryn Terfel, Emma Kirkby, Jessye Norman, and a variety of choirs.

Thursday, December 20, 6:00 PM
St. Olaf Christmas Festival: This service in song and word has become one of the nation's most cherished holiday celebrations. The festival includes hymns, carols, choral works, as well as orchestral selections celebrating the Nativity and featuring more than 500 student musicians in five choirs, and the St. Olaf Orchestra. Host Valerie Kahler shares the sights and sounds of this choral favorite.

Friday, December 21, 6:00 PM
Collegium Cincinnati: Handel’s Messiah

Saturday, December 22, 10:10 AM
A Classical Kids Christmas: Carols and poetry combine to tell the story of Christmas, just like the pageants of days gone by. Experience the traditions of Christmas around the around, meet Saint Nicholas, and follow the Wise Men.

Saturday, December 22, 11:00 AM
Hollywood Holiday: Lynne Warfel presents an hour-long musical retrospective of some of Hollywood's most cherished Christmas-themed movies.

Sunday, December 23, 8:00 PM
VAE Candlelit Christmas

Sunday, December 23, 11:00 PM
Chatham Baroque: A Jubilant Season 2018: Ring in the holiday season with Baroque music from internationally-renowned Chatham Baroque. Each year, the Pittsburgh-based ensemble presents dazzling historically-informed interpretations of 17th and 18th century music at Chatham University.

Monday, December 24, 10:00 AM
A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols: Pipedreams host Michael Barone presents this live service of spoken-word and music (choral and organ) broadcast from the chapel of King's College in Cambridge, England. The 30-voice King's College Choir performs the legendary Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols service of Biblical readings and music.

Monday, December 24, 5:00 PM
A Chanticleer Christmas: This unique, one-hour program of holiday music is presented live in concert by Chanticleer. Hear why this superb 12-man ensemble is known as "an orchestra of voices," as they perform holiday classics and new favorites, with choral commentary by host Brian Newhouse.

Tuesday, December 25, 5:00 PM
A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols: ENCORE

Tuesday, December 25, 7:00 PM
St. Olaf Christmas Festival: ENCORE

Monday, November 19, 2018

Happy Thanksgiving from 90.9 WGUC

Thanksgiving is this Thursday and WGUC is offering a few special programs filled with beautiful music to accompany the holiday. Turn your radios to 90.9 while cooking dinner or visiting with family and friends. You can also listen online at, via the WGUC app or your smart speaker. Here’s a list of what to expect:

Wednesday, November 21, 6:00 PM
Every Good Thing: This Thanksgiving, host Elena See and classical music fans from around the country take time to give thanks and celebrate one of life's most meaningful gifts: music. You will hear listeners from across the U.S. share stories about their favorite classical music pieces.

Thursday, November 22, 10:00 AM
Feast for the Ears: Traditional music and American composers take center stage as host Mark Perzel presents a warm, heartfelt celebration of the Thanksgiving holiday. It’s the perfect accompaniment for your Thanksgiving morning activities.

Thursday, November 22, 6:00 PM
Giving Thanks: John Birge hosts a special that offers a contemporary celebration of gratitude, with classical music and stories of Thanksgiving.

What’s your favorite music for this season? Do you prefer something folksy like Stephen Foster’s Old Folks at Home or perhaps a jubilant march like John Philip Sousa’s  Stars and Stripes Forever. Maybe you’re an Aaron Copland fan or perhaps Cole Porter or Duke Ellington. Whatever your taste, we hope you’ll join us in counting blessings and sharing in our country’s rich musical history.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

It's Opera Month on WGUC!

This month 90.9 WGUC presents the 2018 Cincinnati Opera broadcast series. Here’s a listing of what you can expect to hear the next few Sunday evenings at 8 p.m.:

November 11 (Performance Dates: June 21, 23, 26 & 28, July 1)
MONTEVERDI: The Coronation of Poppea
Sarah Shafer; Anthony Roth Costanzo; Sarah Mesko; Melissa Harvey; Aryeh Nussbaum Cohen; Alex Rosen

November 18 (Performance Dates: July 5 & 7)
WAGNER: The Flying Dutchman
Marcy Stonikas; Nathan Berg; Jay Hunter Morris; Arthur Woodley; Frederick Ballentine, Jr.

November 25 (Performance Dates: July 25, 27, 28, 29 & 30)
Amber Fasquelle; Matthew Worth

Cincinnati Opera was founded in 1920, making it the second oldest opera company in the United States. They celebrate their centennial in 2020 and are already gearing up for it with a special weekly radio feature for the 100 weeks leading up to their anniversary. During this segment on 90.9, Evans Mirageas, the Harry T. Wilks Artistic Director, spotlights some of his favorite operatic moments from the past 100 years. He includes recordings of many of the great artists who have sung with Cincinnati Opera over the years along with memories from both Music Hall performances and appearances at their first home – the Cincinnati Zoo. Tune to 90.9 or Friday evenings just after the 6 o’clock symphony for more!

Monday, November 5, 2018

François Couperin Turns 350!

François Couperin celebrates 350 years on November 10. Celebrate the life of this French Baroque composer by checking out this Couperin-themed playlist!

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween from 90.9 WGUC! Don’t forget to tune in tonight at 6:00 ET for Tunes from the Crypt with Mark Perzel. You can also listen online at, via our free mobile app, or your smart speaker! If you’re looking for a few additional pieces to enhance your eerie day, I’ve compiled a “Horrifying Music of Halloween” playlist for your reference. Enjoy!

Monday, October 15, 2018

Dies irae in Music

In light of Halloween coming up later this month, let’s talk about deathly sounds found within the classical music world. Coming up the week of Halloween, check back for  my “Horrifying Music of Halloween” playlist.

Have you heard of the Dies irae? This theme comes from the Mass of the Dead and has been used by composers for hundreds of years as an underlying message or symbol in their own work. Today, I want to share three famous examples of where this Dies irae can be heard in the music of Berlioz, Liszt, and Rachmaninoff. First, why not familiarize yourself with this theme with a clip taken from a film that chose to foreshadow death through its soundtrack, The Shining.

During the 19th century, composers were fascinated with anything macabre and sought to incorporate deathly sentiments in their music. One such example is the fifth movement of Berlioz’s Symphonie fantastique known as “Dream of a Witches’ Sabbath.” Berlioz uses what is known as the idee fixe or “fixed idea” throughout his composition. This fixed idea is a musical theme that comes back in each movement, changing each time it appears in order to match the story the composer seeks to convey through his music. 

During this finale movement, “Dream of a Witches’ Sabbath,” Berlioz distorts the idee fixe and combines it with the Dies irae theme in order to depict a dream of his beloved appearing at his own funeral as a witch. As you listen to the excerpt, listen for the distorted sounds of the idee fixe in the E-flat clarinet and the Dies irae theme that Berlioz weaves throughout.
Another example of the Dies irae can be found in Liszt’s Totentanz, a work for piano and orchestra. Many musicologists believe this work was inspired by a fresco Liszt saw while visiting Pisa. Created by Orcagna, the fresco was entitled The Triumph of Death.

Liszt begins this work with the Dies irae theme in the trombones. This theme, along with sudden shifts in dynamics and the use of low registers creates a creepy atmosphere for the listener. Listen here.

Lastly today, let’s listen to Rachmaninoff’s haunting Isle of the Dead. This piece is based off of the painting by Arnold Bocklin that Rachmaninoff first saw a reproduction of in Paris in 1907. The composer felt uneasy as he gazed at the boat holding a coffin as it approached the eerie island.

Reflecting on this as he composed, Rachmaninoff begins his piece with the sounds of oars in water using the dark sounds of low strings accompanied by timpani and harp. The music evokes a lack of direction and a sense of urgency as it progresses, the Dies irae appearing once the boat arrives at the island. This theme seems to win out over any sounds of joy in the piece. Can you hear the Dies irae? Listen here.

In the mood for Halloween yet? Be sure to tune to 90.9 on October 31 at 6pm for our annual Tunes from the Crypt

Monday, October 8, 2018

New Album from Kirill Gerstein

Allow me to introduce you to a new album that’s found its way onto the WGUC music library shelf. It’s the latest release from piano virtuoso Kirill Gerstein featuring some of the most-loved music by George Gershwin – his Rhapsody in Blue and Concerto in F. Most music lovers are familiar with these hits by the iconic American composer. Do not let the fear of it being “just another Gershwin album” tempt you to disregard this release. Gerstein takes this all-too-familiar music to the next level with his jazz and classical-fused flair, adding embellishments and even his own cadenza in the concerto. Also on the album – a few selections from piano legend Earl Wild. Kirill Gerstein talked to WGUC about his new album, including Wild’s “Virtuoso Etudes after Gershwin.”


Gerstein collaborates with vibraphonist Gary Burton on a piece by Oscar Levant. He told us about his longtime friendship with Burton.

Gerstein joins David Robertson and the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra for this live recording. Interested in hearing more from Gerstein? Make you way down to Cincinnati’s Music Hall January 4 and 5 when he will be performing alongside the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra.

Monday, October 1, 2018

History of the May Festival

This month, 90.9 WGUC presents the 2018 May Festival season Sunday evenings at 8pm. 2018 marked the May Festival’s return to Cincinnati’s historic Music Hall following an extensive renovation. It also celebrated the beginning of a new era for the May Festival, under the baton of newly-appointed Principal Conductor Juanjo Mena.

The Cincinnati May Festival was founded in 1873 and is one of the oldest and most prestigious choral festivals in the Western Hemisphere. Their annual festival consists of two weekends of outstanding concerts backed by the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and internationally-acclaimed guest artists. Highlights from this season include Eun Sun Kim’s May Festival debut leading Verdi’s powerful Requiem, a celebration of Leonard Bernstein’s centennial year with performances of Mass and Chichester Psalms, and a collaboration with a Cincinnati community choir in Handel’s iconic Messiah. See below for a complete broadcast schedule.

Did you know that in the mid-1800s, German immigrants who resided in Cincinnati’s Over-the-Rhine community had a deep appreciation for the arts? They ended up forming singing groups and invited similar choirs in nearby towns to join them in a song festival. This eventually grew to be an annual gathering that took place in various Midwest cities. In 1870 when it was Cincinnati’s turn to host, it was decided that Saenger Hall would be built as a temporary structure to house the festival. This building was constructed where Music Hall now stands but was not an ideal setting for the festival since it was built with a tin roof!

In 1873, renowned conductor Theodore Thomas happened to be traveling through Cincinnati on tour with his New York-based orchestra and noticed that the city’s residents had great musical potential. He decided to work with local arts-advocates Maria Longworth Nichols and George Ward Nichols to create a large music festival that wasn’t tied ethnically to the current “Saengerfest” held at Saenger Hall. This was the beginning of the May Festival. It started as a 108-piece orchestra and 800-person choir that came together biannually, and eventually sparked the building of Music Hall in place of Saenger Hall, in order to provide a better facility for the festival. The third May Festival was the first to take place inside the new Music Hall in 1878. At the time, it was the largest concert hall in America.

Since the May Festival’s conception, it has remained one of the nation’s most eminent choral festivals, attracting internationally-acclaimed artists to join them in their annual performances. Be sure to tune to 90.9 Sunday evenings at 8pm all month long to hear Cincinnati’s very own May Festival Chorus.
May Festival 2018 Broadcast Schedule

Sunday, October 7, 8:00 PM (Performance Date: May 18)
Eun Sun Kim, conductor; Michelle Bradley, soprano; Ekaterina Semenchuk, mezzo-soprano; Bryan Hymel, tenor; May Festival Chorus, Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra

VERDI: Requiem Mass

Sunday, October 14, 8:00 PM (Performance Date: May 19)
Robert Porco, conductor; Kevin Vortmann, celebrant; May Festival Chorus; Cincinnati Children’s Choir; Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra


Sunday, October 21, 8:00 PM (Performance Date: May 25)
Juanjo Mena, conductor; John Holiday, countertenor; May Festival Chorus; Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra

GABRIELI: Magnificat
BERNSTEIN: Chichester Psalms
RAVEL: Daphnis et Chloé [complete ballet]

Monday, September 24, 2018

Coming Up on Music Cincinnati

Coming up this weekend, it’s a new Music Cincinnati broadcast from 90.9 WGUC. Featuring the Hyde Park Community United Methodist Church Organ Concert Series, this special is sure to delight both aficionados and those new to the power contained within this age-old instrument.

The Opus 3671 organ at Hyde Park Community United Methodist in Cincinnati was built by Casavant Frères in 1990. It has nearly 5,000 pipes and was designed in the French tradition fulfilling the dual role of choir and main organ. The upcoming Music Cincinnati broadcast highlights this organ during the 2017–2018 concert season. This instrument draws talent from across this globe. The 2017–2018 season welcomed organists Jean-Baptiste Robin, Renée Anne Louprette, and Kola Owolabi.

What music can you expect to hear on this broadcast? A variety! You’ll enjoy everything from Baroque-era pieces by Handel, Vivaldi, and Bach, all the way to newer works – even one by one of the organists himself! The organists are some of the world’s best. Jean-Baptiste Robin is organist of the Royal Chapel at the Palace of Versailles and Professor of Organ at the National Conservatory in Versailles. He is considered one of the most accomplished French organists and composers today. Renée Anne Louprette is organist at Rutgers University. She’s also known as a conductor and teacher and is known internationally as a recitalist. Kola Owolabi is Associate Professor of Organ at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. He frequently tours North America as a recitalist and has been featured at conventions put on by the American Guild of Organists and the Organ Historical Society.

This Music Cincinnati is one not to be missed! Tune into 90.9 WGUC Sunday, September 20 at 8pm, or listen online at, via the WGUC app, or your smart speaker. Not available at 8pm this Sunday? Never fear! This program will be archived at the week following and you’ll be able to listen to it at your convenience! 

Monday, September 17, 2018

A New Album from Anne Akiko Meyers

Avie Records recently released a new album from violinist Anne Akiko Meyers. Mirror in Mirror is the 37th release from Meyers, who is considered one of today’s leading violinists. She is known for commissioning and performing new music, and her newest album reflects that. For it, Meyers collaborated with some of today’s leading composers to present music either composed or arranged for her. One of those arrangements is by Morten Lauridsen. Meyers told us in a recent interview that she had been asking the composer to write her a work for some time. Having limited time, he was resistant – until he heard her perform.


Jakub Ciupiński wrote his Wreck of the Umbria for her.


While Meyers obviously didn’t collaborate with Ravel for this recording of Tzigane, she decided to do something interesting by recreating Ravel’s original luthéal version. She explains just what exactly that is:


Meyers goes on to explain how her keyboardist accomplished the effect of the luthéal in her new recording.


The album’s title comes from Arvo Pärt’s Mirror in Mirror, which she has recorded before.


Meyers told us that her younger daughter, Andie, has claimed that piece as her own lullaby. A lullaby John Corigliano wrote for her older daughter, Natalie, is also featured on this album.

Mirror in Mirror from Anne Akiko Meyers offers a reflective, spiritual experience for the listener. It encapsulates the deep, pure nature of music and will move your soul. Myers’ performance is, as always, splendid, making this album one of 2018’s best. Interested in hearing this album? Tune to 90.9 WGUC for our Fall Fund Drive beginning September 20 when we will feature Mirror in Mirror. When you call 513-419-7155 or go to with your gift, you can request your own copy of this new gem from Anne Akiko Meyers.

Monday, September 10, 2018

Getting Ready for Autumn

Autumn is quickly approaching. To put us in the mood, I’ve created an Autumn-themed playlist. Check it out here.

Monday, September 3, 2018

John Williams: A Life in Music

Anyone who is a true Star Wars junkie knows that May 4 of each year is International Star Wars Day – “May the fourth be with you!” The London Symphony Orchestra celebrated Star Wars Day this year with the release of their new album, John Williams: A Life in Music. This release marked the LSO’s over forty-year collaboration with John Williams, which all began back in 1977 with the filming of Star Wars. Although this new album doesn’t offer any new works from Williams, it does include the world premiere recording of the Theme from Schindler’s List for solo cello (normally the solo part is played by the violin). The album also contains music from iconic Williams film scores including Star Wars, Hook, Saving Private Ryan, Jaws, Superman, Jurassic Park, Harry Potter, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and E.T.

Although it’s a bit disappointing that Mr. Williams is not the conductor on John Williams: A Life in Music (Gavin Greenaway performs that role), this album does offer the John Williams enthusiast all of the best from this legendary American composer. An added bonus is the beautiful packaging – each page of the liner notes contains commentary from members of the LSO.

Interested in hearing this album? Tune in during the WGUC September Fund Drive when you will not only hear it but can request your own copy! It’s our way of saying “thank you” for supporting the classical music on 90.9.

Monday, August 20, 2018

Music Cincinnati: Music in the Museum

90.9 WGUC looks forward to presenting the next broadcast in its Music Cincinnati series, this month spotlighting the Music in the Museum Organ Concert Series, which is held inside the Cincinnati Museum Center at Union Terminal. You can tune into 90.9 on August 26 at 8pm for this special, listen online at, via the WGUC app, or your smart speaker.

Union Terminal opened in 1933 and is considered an icon in the transportation industry, being one of the last great train stations ever built. It is designed in the beautiful art deco style and decorated with mosaics that depict various aspects of the industrial age. Union Terminal currently houses the Cincinnati Museum Center and was home to the famous 1929 E.M. Skinner Concert Organ prior to an extensive renovation, which began in 2016. This magnificent instrument contains nearly 5,000 pipes and draws many of the world’s leading organists. The organ series will return to the museum’s rotunda in 2019 after the completion of extensive renovations and repairs.

WGUC’s next Music Cincinnati program features highlights from this organ series’ 2014 and 2015 seasons, including performances by Isabelle Demers, Thomas Murray, Benjamin Sheen, and Jean-Baptiste Robin. They perform works ranging from J.S. Bach’s Passacaglia in C minor, all the way to the music from John Williams’ famous Harry Potter score. If you are an organist, enjoy the sounds of this king of all instruments, or are simply interested in learning more about this powerful instrument, be sure to tune to 90.9 on August 26 at 8pm. If you aren’t available then, you can also access WGUC’s Music Cincinnati series archived at

Monday, August 13, 2018

A Tribute to Ralph Vaughan Williams

August 26, 2018 marks the 60th anniversary of Ralph Vaughan Williams’ death. To celebrate his life and work, let’s take a look at some of his lesser-known compositions including his Serenade to Music, Flos Campi, and Five Tudor Portraits. This post was written by WGUC intern, Connor Annable.

Did you know that Vaughan Williams wrote his Serenade to Music for sixteen of the most well-known British singers of his era? He wrote is as a tribute to English conductor Henry Wood, who at the time was celebrating the 50th anniversary of his conducting debut. Serenade to Music uses text from Act V of William Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice, which evokes the power of music and the music of the spheres.

Flos Campi was composed a little over 15 years before Serenade to Music. It is a work that is sometimes described as a celebration of love (Flos Campi is translated most often in the context of the Hebrew Bible as “Flower of the Field,” evoking the Rose of Sharon as described in the Song of Solomon). Premiered on October 10, 1925, it is cast in six interconnected sections, each using a Latin quote from the Song of Solomon. It is dedicated to the eminent English violist Lionel Tertis. This dedication seems fitting, since the viola has a prominent solo part against a backdrop of wordless chorus and small orchestra. As a result, it could be considered a choral-orchestral work, but the chorus and orchestra are not necessarily on equal footing.

A work that marks a complete contrast from pure Romanticism for Vaughan Williams is the ‘choral suite’ Five Tudor Portraits, composed in 1935 and premiered at the Norwich Festival on September 25, 1936. Scored for solo alto (or mezzo-soprano), baritone, chorus and orchestra, it sets five poems by the 15th-16th century poet John Skelton, who served as tutor to the young Henry VIII and poet laureate for Oxford and Cambridge Universities.

It is interesting to examine lesser-known music by Ralph Vaughan Williams in order to more fully appreciate him as a composer. He seems to maintain a feeling of immense pride for his home country by incorporating musical and textual sources which are unmistakably English. Because of this and other factors, Ralph Vaughan Williams may be regarded as an undisputed master of English choral-orchestral writing, writing which demands as much attention now as it did when these works premiered over 80-90 years ago.

Serenade to Music:
Toronto Symphony Orchestra/Peter Oundjian, conductor; Elmer Iseler Singers
 Chandos CHSA5201

London Philharmonic Orchestra/Sir Adrian Boult, conductor; vocal soloists 
EMI Classics 007777640253

Flos Campi:
Toronto Symphony Orchestra/Peter Oundjian, conductor; Teng Li, solo viola; Elmer Iseler Singers  
Chandos CHSA5201

Bournemouth Sinfonietta & Choir/Norman Del Mar, conductor; Frederick Rittle, viola  
Chandos CHAN8374

Five Tudor Portraits:
London Symphony Orchestra & Chorus/Richard Hickox, conductor; Jean Rigby, alto; John Shirley-Quirk, baritone
Chandos CHAN9593

Friday, August 3, 2018

Happy Birthday, Lenny!

It’s finally here – Leonard Bernstein’s birthday month! August 25th marks this legendary musician’s centennial and WGUC has been counting down since May with a daily spotlight on a performance he either composed, conducted, or performed. We have some special things in store this month and I don’t want you to miss a thing so below, there’s a listing of what’s to come in the next few weeks. Also, check out this Spotify playlist whenever you want a little extra Bernstein in your day.

August 5, 8pm
CSO in Concert Encore (Concert Date: February 23–24)
Juraj Valčuha, conductor; Simone Lamsma, violin
R. STRAUSS: Till Eulenspiegel’s Merry Pranks
BERNSTEIN: Serenade, after Plato’s Symposium
KORNGOLD: Suite from Much Ado About Nothing
STRAUSS: Suite from Der Rosenkavalier

August 12, 8pm
CSO in Concert Encore (Concert Date: April 20–21)
Cristian Măcelaru, conductor; Jean-Yves Thibaudet, piano
BERNSTEIN: Three Dance Episodes from On the Town
GERSHWIN: Piano Concerto
IVES: Three Places in New England
BERNSTEIN: Divertimento

August 19, 8pm
Leonard Bernstein: A Legacy
90.9 WGUC presents a special broadcast celebrating the centennial of one of America’s greatest musicians. Interviews with musicians who knew Bernstein including Dick Waller, Mark Gibson, and Carmon DeLeone, along with commentary from historians such as Dr. bruce mcclung, Mark Horowitz, and Rick Pender – plus a variety of music including works Bernstein composed, conducted, and performed at the piano. Hosted by Brian O’Donnell.

August 24, 7pm
Leonard Bernstein: America’s Music Teacher: Celebrate Leonard Bernstein's centennial with an exploration of his teaching style. Hosted by Andrea Blain, this new, music-filled two-hour special celebrates Bernstein's devotion to music education, through his Young Person's Concerts with the New York Philharmonic, his Harvard lectures, his CBS Omnibus Television specials, and his many writings about music.    

Monday, July 23, 2018

Leonard Bernstein's Jewish Heritage

We’re celebrating Leonard Bernstein’s centennial year this summer on Clef Notes. Bernstein is remembered for his work as a composer, conductor, pianist, educator, and so much more. Today, let’s focus our attention on Bernstein as a composer – specifically how his heritage impacted many of his works. This post was written by WGUC intern, Connor Annable. 

Leonard Bernstein was born in 1918 to Jewish immigrants from Ukraine. This heritage would later impact his compositions. We first see an example this in his Symphony #1, written not long after Bernstein graduated from Harvard. He called it “Jeremiah” because it drew from a Hebrew setting of the Lamentations of Jeremiah in the Bible, which is sung in the symphony’s final movement by a solo mezzo-soprano. What do you think of this work? Bernstein began work on this piece in the late 1930s, during a time when tensions were rising in Europe under Hitler. Do you think these tensions are reflected in this piece?

It was not until 1965 that Bernstein allowed his Jewish heritage to fully come through in his music. In that year, he composed the Chichester Psalms on a commission from Walter Hussey for performance at that year’s Southern Cathedrals Festival in Chichester, England. The work is a setting of selected texts from the Psalms in Hebrew. Bernstein’s musical structures are firmly rooted in tonality while also being rhythmically adventurous.  Interestingly enough, Bernstein’s melodic roots in Chichester Psalms appear to be centered in American popular music, since most of its themes are based on recycled material from West Side Story.

At roughly the same time, Bernstein had completed his Symphony No. 3 “Kaddish,” composed to honor the memory of John F. Kennedy, who had been assassinated in 1963. This work sets the traditional Kaddish prayer for the dead, juxtaposed against an English text written by Bernstein himself and read by a solo speaker. Bernstein manages to retain some of his distinctly American flare by writing mainly tonal harmonies with frequent use of mixed meters.

One of Bernstein’s lesser-known works is a “nocturne” for flute and orchestra titled Halil. This work is a prominent example from the later part of Bernstein’s career showing his Jewish heritage. Bernstein dedicated Halil to the memory of an Israeli flute student named Yadin Tannenbaum who was killed fighting in the 1973 Arab-Israeli War.

Because 2018 marks the 100th anniversary of Leonard Bernstein’s birth, it is important to understand how much of an impact his music has had on audiences today, while never underestimating the importance of religious themes or overtones.


Symphony No. 1:
Israel Philharmonic/Leonard Bernstein, conductor; Christa Ludwig, mezzo-soprano Deutsche Grammophon 00028945775722

Baltimore Symphony Orchestra/Marin Alsop, conductor; Jennifer Johnson Cano, mezzo-soprano 
Naxos  8.559790

Chichester Psalms:
Israel Philharmonic/Leonard Bernstein, conductor; Wiener Jeunesse Chor; Soloist from Wiener Sängerknaben 
Deutsche Grammophon  00028945775722

Symphony No. 3:
New York Philharmonic/Leonard Bernstein, conductor; Jennie Tourel, soprano; Felicia Montealegre, narrator; Camerata Singers; Columbus Boychoir 
Sony Classical  074646059524

Israel Philharmonic/Leonard Bernstein, conductor; Montserrat Caballé, soprano; Michael Wager, narrator; Wiener Jeunesse Chor; Wiener Sängerknaben
Deutsche Grammophon 00028944795424 or 00028946982921

Baltimore Symphony Orchestra/Marin Alsop, conductor; Kelly Nassief, soprano; Claire Bloom, narrator; Washington Chorus; Maryland State Boychoir 
Naxos  8.559742
Sao Paolo Symphony Orchestra/John Neschling, conductor; Sharon Bezaly, flute
BIS  BIS-CD-1650

Israel Philharmonic/Leonard Bernstein, conductor; Jean-Pierre Rampal, flute
Deutsche Grammophon 00028946982921

Monday, July 16, 2018

What's coming up on Music Cincinnati?

Coming up this Sunday, July 22 at 8pm, 90.9 WGUC presents its Music Cincinnati series, this month spotlighting Cincinnati’s Vocal Arts Ensemble. Just what exactly is the VAE and what can listeners expect to hear on this special from 90.9?

Since they were founded in 1979, the Vocal Arts Ensemble has sought to present passionate performances for diverse audiences. The chamber choir is currently led by Grammy Award-winning conductor Craig Hella Johnson, who is recognized as one of the nation’s leading choral conductors. Through a variety of innovative performances, the VAE seeks to increase the public’s appreciation of choral music. They often collaborate with other local ensembles in repertoire ranging from the classics to world premieres.

What can you expect to hear this Sunday? The Music Cincinnati broadcast will feature the VAE performing alongside the Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra and the Cincinnati Children’s Choir. The concert was recorded November 12, 2017 inside Memorial Hall in Cincinnati’s Over-the-Rhine community. This concert celebrated the VAE making the newly-restored Memorial Hall their new home. Three works appear on the program – two classics and one world premiere written specifically for this concert. Craig Hella Johnson commissioned Dominick Di’Orio’s A World Aglow for the occasion. The piece takes its text from Amy Lowell’s The Congressional Library and revolves around themes of inclusivity and equality. Haven’t heard of Dominick Di’Orio? He is an award-winning young composer and conductor whose music is widely performed and recorded. At the age of 31, he became the youngest-ever tenured conducting professor at Indiana University.

What else is on the program? For those who love the classics, you’ll be happy to know that both J.S. Bach and Mozart appear on the program. Bach’s Ascension Oratorio rounds out the first half with Mozart’s Requiem following a brief intermission.

Like what you hear? This program is available on air, online at, and through our free mobile app July 22nd at 8pm! If you aren’t available when it airs, you can also access WGUC’s Music Cincinnati series archived at