Classical Music News of the Week, Febuary 19, 2012

Music Institute of Chicago Presents Pianist Meng-Chieh March 18

Acclaimed pianist and Music Institute of Chicago faculty member Meng-Chieh Liu performs a concert program March 18 at Nichols Concert Hall, 1490 Chicago Avenue, Evanston, IL.

Liu's program includes Robert Schumann's Waldszenen Op. 82; Isaac Albéniz's Iberia Book III; a selection of Nocturnes by Fauré, Chopin, and Liebermann; and Paul Pabst's Paraphrase on Themes from Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin.

About Meng-Chieh Liu:
Meng-Chieh Liu has received the 2002 Avery Fisher Career Grant, the 2002 Philadelphia Musical Fund Society Career Advancement Award, and first prizes in the Stravinsky, Asia Pacific Piano, and Mieczyslaw Munz competitions. In addition to the Music Institute, he is on faculty at The Curtis Institute of Music and Roosevelt University.

Meng-Chieh Liu performs Sunday, March 18 at 3 p.m. at Nichols Concert Hall, 1490 Chicago Avenue, Evanston. Tickets are $25 for adults, $15 for seniors and $10 for students, available online or 847.905.1500 ext. 108.

--Jill Chukerman, JAC Communications

Eric Owens Completes the Ring Cycle in Götterdämmerung, Tours Nationally
2012 Tour Schedule, in addition to Metropolitan Opera performances:

February 15 - Recital presented by Friends of Chamber Music Denver; Newman Center; Denver, CO
February 21 - Recital; Carnegie Hall; New York, NY
February 23-25 - Beethoven's Missa solemnis; Boston Symphony Orchestra; Symphony Hall; Boston, MA
February 28 - Recital presented by Philadelphia Chamber Music Society; Kimmel Center; Philadelphia, PA
March 6 - Beethoven's Missa solemnis, Op. 123; Boston Symphony Orchestra; Carnegie Hall; New York, NY
May 19, 26 - Salome (Jochanaan) with the Cleveland Orchestra; Severance Hall; Cleveland, OH
May 24- Salome (Jochanaan) with The Cleveland Orchestra; Carnegie Hall; New York, NY
May 30, 31 - Verdi Requiem presented by National Arts Centre Orchestra; NAC Southam Hall; Ottawa, Canada
June 7, 9 - John Adams's A Flowering Tree (The Storyteller); Atlanta Symphony Orchestra; Atlanta Symphony Hall; Atlanta, GA
July/August - Artist-in-Residence at Glimmerglass Festival 2012

Eric Owens's work as Alberich in the Metropolitan Opera production of Das Rheingold last season was met with universal acclaim: The Philadelphia Inquirer lauded, "Owens alone is worth the ticket"; the New York Times noted his voice was filled with "stentorian vigor"; Manuela Hoelterhoff of Bloomberg cheered, "Eric Owens, now one of the greatest bass-baritones in the world, was sublime as crazy Alberich"; and Alex Ross of The New Yorker proclaimed, "Owens's portrayal is so richly layered that it may become part of the history of the work." It was not without excitement, then, that audiences anticipated Owens's appearance in the next chapter of The Met's first full cycle. The bass-baritone also continues a busy recital tour of his own this season, and appears in concert with the Cleveland Orchestra and the Boston and Atlanta symphony orchestras.

The Metropolitan Opera's production of Götterdämmerung opened on January 27, 2012, and will be performed on February 3, 7, and 11. Fans worldwide can witness the conclusion of the Ring Cycle via The Met: Live HD broadcast series. The performance will screened in movie theaters around the globe--1600 movie theaters in 54 countries--on February 11, 2012, 12 pm ET. The first complete cycles will take place in spring 2012. Owens will sing the role of Alberich in two complete cycles: Das Rheingold on April 7 and 26; Siegfried on April 21 and 30; and Götterdämmerung on April 24 and May 3.

Owens has begun his first-ever recital tour with pianists Robert Spano and Craig Rutenberg. With engagements in Washington, D.C., Berkeley, Portland and Philadelphia, Owens will notably perform February 21 at Carnegie Hall's Zankel Hall. Owens sings Beethoven's Missa solemnis with the Boston Symphony Orchestra in Boston and at Carnegie Hall: one of three appearances at the New York cultural institution in 2011-2012. Appearing as Jochanaan in Strauss' Salome with the Cleveland Orchestra, Owens assumes the role in both Cleveland and at Carnegie Hall in May. Summer 2012 begins with Owens reprising the role of The Storyteller in A Flowering Tree by John Adams with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. Owens will continue his summer at Glimmerglass Festival 2012 as the Artist-in-Residence. There, he will appear in Aida and Lost in the Stars, and will perform a cabaret evening.

Eric Owens's recital program is as follows:
Wolf: Drei Lieder nach Gedichten von Michelangelo
Schumann: "Mein Herz ist schwer," Op. 25, No. 15  
Schumann: "Muttertraum," Op. 40, No. 2  
Schumann: "Der Schatzgräber," Op. 45, No. 1  
Schumann: "Melancholie," Op. 74, No. 6  
Schubert: "Prometheus," D. 674  
Schubert: "Fahrt zum Hades," D.526  
Schubert: "Gruppe aus dem Tartarus," D.583  
Debussy: "Beau soir"  
Debussy: "Fleur des blés"  
Debussy: Romance
Ravel: Don Quichotte à Dulcinée  
Wagner: "Les deux grenadiers"

Acclaimed for his commanding stage presence and inventive artistry, Eric Owens has carved a unique place in the opera world as both a champion of new music and a powerful interpreter of classic works. Called "consistently charismatic, theatrically and vocally" by New York Magazine and "absolutely remarkable" by the Philadelphia Inquirer, Owens is equally at home in concert, recital and opera performances, bringing his powerful poise, expansive voice and instinctive acting faculties to stages around the globe. Owens received great critical acclaim for portraying the title role in the world premiere of Elliot Goldenthal's Grendel with the Los Angeles Opera, and again at the Lincoln Center Festival, in a production directed and designed by Julie Taymor. Owens also enjoys a close association with John Adams, and was featured on the September 2008 Nonesuch Records release of Adams's A Flowering Tree. He also originated the role of Leslie Groves in Adams's Doctor Atomic.

--Amanda Ameer, First Chair Promotions

Piatigorsky International Cello Festival
Friday, March 9 - Sunday, March 18, 2012
Ralph Kirshbaum, Artistic Director

Opening Concert March 9 to Feature
American premiere of Thomas Demenga's Double Concerto for Two Cellos to be performed by the composer and cellist Sayaka Selina

Ten-Day Celebration Concludes March 18 with 100 Cellists on Stage of Walt Disney Concert Hall

Gregor Piatigorsky Inducted into American Classical Music Hall of Fame

Presented by the USC Thornton School of Music and the LA Phil, in partnership with The Colburn School and the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra (LACO), the inaugural Piatigorsky International Cello Festival, taking place March 9-18, 2012, will feature two American premieres and two West Coast premieres during the course of this outstanding 10-day event honoring the legacy of cellist Gregor Piatigorsky. The opening concert features the American premiere of Thomas Demenga's Double Concerto, Relations for two cellos, percussion and prepared piano, performed by the composer and his student Sayaka Selina with the Festival Orchestra, conducted by Hugh Wolff and made up of members of the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra and young artists from the USC Thornton School of Music and The Colburn School. In addition, the Festival's March 14th master recital will present the American premiere of Miklós Perényi's Introduzione e Scherzo, continuing the tradition of great cellist/composers exemplified by Piatigorsky, and the March 16th recital with Thornton cellists will include the West Coast premiere of Brett Dean's Twelve Angry Men.

Other Festival highlights include the unique opportunity to hear the six solo suites of Bach performed together by six different cellists, and an evening of film and discussion celebrating the life and career of Gregor Piatigorsky enlivened by a panel that includes his grandson, Evan Drachman, and six of Piatigorsky's esteemed former students. Master Recital programs highlight an exciting diversity of works ranging from contemporary compositions to seldom performed masterpieces. Three of the Festival's concluding concerts, an LA Phil subscription series conducted by Neeme Järvi, showcase renowned soloists Ralph Kirshbaum, Mischa Maisky and Alisa Weilerstein performing Dvorák, Shostakovich and Tchaikovsky. The Festival's finale features over 100 cellists on the stage of Walt Disney Concert Hall for the West Coast premiere of Rapturedux by Christopher Rouse as well as a performance of Bach's Air on a G String.

As the Festival aims to honor one of the last century's greatest champions of the cello, the American Classical Music Hall of Fame has announced the induction of Gregor Piatigorsky to its class of 2011 in the "Performer" category. Honoring Piatigorsky as an outstanding performer, pedagogue and advocator of classical music, this acknowledgment expresses the very sentiment of the Piatigorsky International Cello Festival. Piatigorsky brought his expertise to the world's most renowned stages, latterly accepting a teaching position at the University of Southern California after settling in Los Angeles, where he remained until his death. In recognition of his long and vibrant career, Gregor Piatigorsky receives this award posthumously and in the most serendipitous of circumstances as the inaugural Piatigorsky International Cello Festival reaches out to broaden the scope of the cello.

The world's most recognized and accomplished cellists will converge on Los Angeles to collaborate, perform and educate through a series of master classes, concerts and talks. 2011 Tchaikovsky Competition-winner Narek Hakhnazaryan will perform the Saint-Saëns Concerto No. 1 in the Festival's opening concert, and Shostakovich's Sonata in D minor and Tchaikovsky's Pezzo Capriccioso in the Festival's March 10th Prelude Series in collaboration with pianist Rina Dokshitsky, who is on faculty at The Colburn School. International stars such as Mischa Maisky (the only student to have studied with Rostropovich and Piatigorsky), Steven Isserlis, Jean-Guihen Queyras, Jian Wang, Frans Helmerson and Antonio Lysy also take the helm of numerous events to perform and offer each artist's unique instruction and approach to musicianship to the 45 master class students who come to the Festival from some of the finest conservatories and music schools in the world.

Bringing together four prestigious Los Angeles musical organizations, the Piatigorsky International Cello Festival aims to highlight and bring awareness to the cello against the backdrop of one of the most culturally vibrant metropolitan areas in the United States.

Cellists:
Thomas Demenga , Evan Drachman, Narek Hakhnazaryan, Frans Helmerson, Gary Hoffman, Steven Isserlis, Terry King, Ralph Kirshbaum, Ronald Leonard, Laurence Lesser, Antonio Lysy, Mischa Maisky, Miklós Perényi, Jean-Guihen Queyras, Nathaniel Rosen, Sayaka Selina, Andrew Shulman, Jeffrey Solow, Peter Stumpf, Raphael Wallfisch, Jian Wang, Alisa Weilerstein, Members of the L.A. Cello Society (Victor Sazer, president).

Pianists:
Ayke Agus, Bernadene Blaha, Rina Dokshitsky, Kevin Fitz-Gerald, Jeffrey Kahane, Antoinette Perry, Connie Shih, Robert Thies

Speakers:
John Rubinstein, Narrator
Tim Page, Music Critic

Conductors:
Neeme Järvi, Courtney Lewis, Hugh Wolff

--Kirschbaum Demler & Associates

Music Institute Academy Student Wins National Composition Competition
Highland Park student musician Jonas Tarm, who studies with the Music Institute of Chicago's prestigious Academy for gifted pre-college musicians, has won first place in a distinguished, 50-state classical music composition competition, the 24,000-member Music Teachers National Association (MTNA) announced this week.

Tarm, an 18-year-old senior at Highland Park High School, travels next month to New York City, where his winning entry, a Latin-tinged chamber work called "Las Ruinas Circulares," will be performed at MTNA's annual convention. For winning MTNA's senior-division composition contest, Tarm receives $2,000. Composers Jeff Smith in New York, Wynn-Anne Rossi in Minnesota and former Chicago Symphony Orchestra Mead Composer-in-Residence Augusta Read Thomas served as judges.

Tarm's piece for violin, piano, cello and flute is a musical interpretation of Argentinean writer Jorge Luis Borges' story "The Circular Ruins," about a man who sets out to dream another human being into existence—only to realize that he himself is a figment of someone's dream.

Also this year, the Estonian-born Tarm, who has lived in the Chicago area since he was 10, won the Music Institute's Generation Next Young Composer's Competition and the Illinois Music Educators Association's composition competition. His compositions and violin playing have also been featured on classical music station WMFT's program Introductions. Tarm's winning piece can be heard on WFMT's Web site.

Approximately 50 young musicians participate in all aspects of the curriculum, including private lessons with Academy artist faculty, a rigorous chamber music component, a stimulating chamber orchestra, and accelerated music theory classes. Pianists additionally study keyboard literature and skills in an intimate group setting. A hallmark of the Academy is the weekly master classes with some of the world's most celebrated artists and educators. The Academy introduces students to a vast music community of peer musicians, pedagogical styles, and the rigors of conservatory training. The nation's most elite college and university music conservatories, including The Juilliard School, the Curtis Institute of Music, the Eastman School of Music, and the New England Conservatory, actively pursue graduates of the four-year program.

--Jill Chukerman, JAC Communications

Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra March Performances Feature English Cello Virtuoso Steven Isserlis, March 9-13
Music Director Nicholas McGegan and Philharmonia Baroque welcome the return of English cellist Steven Isserlis in four Bay Area concerts March 9 through 13. The concerts showcase repertoire from the 19th century featuring Schuman's Cello Concerto in A Minor in addition to works by Brahms and Mendelssohn.

The San Francisco Examiner praised Isserlis' September 2009 performance of Haydn's Cello Concerto in C Major with Philharmonia Baroque, exclaiming "the most remarkable feature of Isserlis's performance must have been his tone. It is the warmest cello sound I have ever heard. Isserlis seduces his audience from the very first note, vibrating sparingly so as not to obscure the simple beauty of his sound." Acclaimed for his technique and musicianship, Isserlis is known throughout the world as a soloist, chamber musician and educator.

The program opens with Felix Mendelssohn's The Fair Melusine, an ode composed in 1833 about a mythical maiden who was condemned to live one day each week as a mermaid in the Rhine.  Robert Schumann composed his cello concerto in 1850, but there were no public performances during his lifetime – it was first performed at a posthumous celebration of his 50th birthday in 1860.

Johannes Brahms was the famous protégée of Robert and Clara Schumann.  His Serenade No. 2, composed in 1859, interestingly features an orchestra without violins so it is essentially a wind serenade with accompanying strings.  Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra performed Brahms' Serenade No. 1 in February 2010 with the San Francisco Chronicle praising the "verve and robustness" of this "splendid performance," adding that "McGegan [gave] a fiercely engaged performance. Avoiding the sleek, sometimes impersonal quality that can often seep into modern renditions, he embraced every opportunity to give the music a musky physicality…"

Isserlis' 2009 performance of Haydn's Cello Concerto in C Major can be heard on KDFC-FM on Sunday, March 11 at 8 PM during the monthly program "Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra Live in Concert."  KDFC is the radio home of Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra.

Who:
Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra, Nicholas McGegan, conductor
Steven Isserlis, violoncello

What:
Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847): The Fair Melusine, Op. 32
Robert Schumann (1810-1856): Concerto for Violoncello in A minor, Op. 129
Johannes Brahms (1833-1897): Serenade No. 2 in A major, Op. 16

When/Where:
Friday, March 9 at 8 P.M.: San Francisco, Herbst Theatre (401 Van Ness Avenue)      
Saturday, March 10 at 8 P.M.: Berkeley, First Congregational Church (2345 Channing Way)
Sunday, March 11 at 7:30 P.M.: Berkeley, First Congregational Church (2345 Channing Way)
Tuesday, March 13 at 8 P.M.: Palo Alto, First United Methodist Church (625 Hamilton Avenue)

Tickets:    
Tickets are priced at $25 to $95 and are available through City Box Office at (415) 392-4400 or online at www.cityboxoffice.com. If available, Student Rush tickets are $10 and go on sale one hour before the start of the concerts.

To learn more about Philharmonia Baroque's concerts, visit the Orchestra's Web site at www.philharmonia.org or call (415) 252-1288.

--Karen Ames, Philharmonia Baroque

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John J. Puccio

John J. Puccio

About the Author

I've been listening to classical music most of my life, starting with the classical excerpts on The Big John and Sparkie radio show in the early Fifties and the purchase of my first classical recording, The 101 Strings Play the Classics, around 1956. In the late Sixties I began teaching high school English and Film Studies as well as becoming interested in hi-fi, my audio ambitions graduating me from a pair of AR-3 speakers to the Fulton J's recommended by The Stereophile's J. Gordon Holt. In the early Seventies, I began writing for a number of audio magazines, including Audio Excellence, Audio Forum, The Boston Audio Society Speaker, The American Record Guide, and from 1976 until 2008, The $ensible Sound, for which I served as Classical Music Editor. Today, I'm retired from teaching and using a pair of VMPS RM40s. In addition to writing the Classical Candor blog, I served as the Movie Review Editor for the Web site Movie Metropolis (moviemet.com, formerly DVDTOWN) from 1997-2013. Music and movies. Life couldn't be better.

Mission Statement

It is the goal of Classical Candor to promote the enjoyment of classical music. Other forms of music come and go--minuets, waltzes, ragtime, blues, jazz, bebop, country-western, rock-'n'-roll, heavy metal, rap, and the rest--but classical music has been around for hundreds of years and will continue to be around for hundreds more. It's no accident that every major city in the world has one or more symphony orchestras.

When I was young, I heard it said that only intellectuals could appreciate classical music, that it required dedicated concentration to appreciate. Nonsense. I'm no intellectual, and I've always loved classical music. Anyone who's ever seen and enjoyed Disney's Fantasia or a Looney Tunes cartoon playing Rossini's William Tell Overture or Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 can attest to the power and joy of classical music, and that's just about everybody.

So, if Classical Candor can expand one's awareness of classical music and bring more joy to one's life, more power to it. It's done its job.

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