Mission: To seek and share inspiration


If It Sounds Good, It Is Good! | January 2018


Happy 2018 everyone! There’s no better way to get the New Year off to a great start than reveling with the Pops at Music Hall. This month’s all-orchestral concerts are at the core of the legacy of our beloved Orchestra. The “Pops,” after all, gets its name from “popular classics”—everyone’s favorite symphonic works that have found their way onto film and TV soundtracks, animated shorts and advertisements of all kinds. When Erich Kunzel created and conducted the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra’s first “8 O’Clock Pops” concerts back in the 1960s, these were the hits that first made their way onto the programs. Our first recordings, and explosive international success, as the Cincinnati Pops were built from this repertoire.

Much of the “popular classics” repertoire comes from shorter symphonic works, like operatic overtures, ballet scores and tone poems, with melodies that never end, clothed in brilliant orchestration. Tchaikovsky has always ranked at the top of the Pops, though composers like Ravel, Debussy, Stravinsky and Respighi, who two generations ago were thought of as “modern” composers, have much broader appeal today than they did a hundred years ago. You may not know the titles of these pieces, but you’ll recognize the MUSIC, which shows off all the virtuosic splendor of our musicians. Each work on the program puts our Orchestra front and center, and we’ll get a chance to show off the sumptuous acoustics in Springer Auditorium—from the explosive power of the 1812 Overture to the most delicate nuances of Clair de Lune.

My favorite part of these programs will be the orchestral equivalent to “surround sound.” In Respighi’s Pines of the Appian Way and the 1812 Overture, there will be brass players in the back of the hall giving you a sonic experience that will literally wrap you in the music. Years ago when my wife, Thea, was pregnant, she felt our son’s first kick when the CSO trombones in Music Hall intoned their first grand note in “Appian Way” (he’s been a big music fan ever since!). This is music that some might consider a guilty pleasure, but I say “bring it on!” There is nothing that is more fun than rolling out everyone’s favorites from what I consider the best “seat” in the house. It inspires me to share music that is beloved by multiple generations all over the earth, especially when channeling the exceptional musicianship of our ensemble.

I hope you’ll have as much fun at these performances as I will!


John Morris Russell