Classical Music News of the Week, April 15, 2012

Composer John Williams Celebrates 100th Anniversary of Fenway Park with Newly Composed "Fanfare for Fenway"

Williams led musicians from the Boston Pops Orchestra in a recording of tribute at Symphony Hall on Saturday, March 24.

In celebration of the 100th Anniversary of Fenway Park, legendary composer and conductor John Williams has composed "Fanfare for Fenway," the maestro's special tribute to America's Most Beloved Ballpark during its centennial.

The piece, just over three minutes long, was recorded Saturday, March 24, at Boston's Symphony Hall, and performed by musicians from the Boston Pops Orchestra with Williams conducting.

Maestro Williams is a loyal and passionate fan of the Red Sox and Fenway Park, and his music has had a long-time connection to the team and ballpark. A portion of the 2005 Opening Day Ring Ceremony, celebrating the first Red Sox Championship in 86 years, was set to a John Williams medley that featured the "Main Theme" from Star Wars, "Raiders March" from Indiana Jones, and the "Theme" from Jurassic Park, performed by musicians from the Boston Pops. Williams' music was also featured prominently during the 2008 Opening Day Ceremony as players received their World Series Rings and the second World Championship banner in four years was hoisted to the composers "A Hymn To New England," performed by the Boston Pops Brass Ensemble. That opening ceremony also featured the "Main Theme" to Superman, "Throne and End Title" from Star Wars: Episode IV, and "Raiders March" from Indiana Jones.

The Boston Pops and the Boston Red Sox have had a storied history of working together in recent years. In 2009, the Boston Pops Orchestra released The Red Sox Album, produced in conjunction with the Boston Red Sox and Major League Baseball, on opening day of the Red Sox 2009 season.  In celebration of the release, Keith Lockhart and members of the Boston Pops were featured in a performance during the Red Sox opening day festivities. Boston Pops Laureate Conductor John Williams, Boston Pops conductor Keith Lockhart, and Boston Symphony Music Director Laureate Seiji Ozawa have also had the honor of throwing out the ceremonial first pitch at a Red Sox game.

Additionally, various members of the Red Sox, both past and present, have appeared in performances at Symphony Hall including Manager Terry Francona and 1967 Cy Young Award winner Jim Lonborg. Various Pops ensembles have also performed at Fenway Park during some of the Red Sox' most memorable moments. On July 4, 2007, right in the middle of what would become a World Series-winning season for the Red Sox, Keith Lockhart led members of the Boston Pops in the "The Star-Spangled Banner." Later that fall, for Game One of the 2007 World Series, the ensemble returned to Fenway Park for another performance of the National Anthem, this time under the direction of John Williams.

For more information about Fenway Park's 100th Anniversary, visit fenwaypark100.com.  For information about the Boston Pops, visit bostonpops.org.

--Bernadette Horgan, Boston Symphony Orchestra

Richard Tognetti and the Australian Chamber Orchestra to Tour North America in April 2012, with Final Stop at New York's Carnegie Hall on April 30
Ensemble joined by soprano Dawn Upshaw and baritone Teddy Tahu Rhodes

This April, the Australian Chamber Orchestra, under the direction of Artistic Director and Lead Violin Richard Tognetti, will travel to North America for a 10-stop tour. The ensemble will hit major cities in the US and Canada with the final date of the tour culminating at New York's Carnegie Hall. Joining them will be world-renowned soprano (and recent Ojai collaborator) Dawn Upshaw and baritone Teddy Tahu Rhodes.

The program for the tour features the works of modern masters, contemporary composers, arrangements of chamber works for string orchestra and small orchestral pieces. Mahler's "Adagietto" from Symphony No. 5, a veritable song without words, opens the tour with its haunting beauty and serenity. A featured piece on the tour is Grammy-winning composer Maria Schneider's "Winter Morning Walks," composed for Upshaw and the ACO. The work saw its U.S. premiere last summer at the Ojai Festival and will be recorded for ArtistShare in New York at the close of the tour. It is inspired by poetry by poet laureate and Pulitzer Prize-winner Ted Kooser, whose walks in the winter mornings during his cancer treatments led to a series of postcards to a friend in which he transforms common things and daily events into well-timed and expertly sculpted poems.

The ACO also presents the innovative interweaving of four movements of George Crumb's "Black Angels" with Anton Webern's "Five Pieces for Orchestra," a juxtaposition described by the Los Angeles Times as "American angst stood its own against Viennese angst." String quartets find themselves in string-orchestra form as the orchestra performs Ravel's String Quartet in F Major in a transcription by Tognetti and Grieg's String Quartet in G minor. The Grieg is also featured on the ACO's new BIS recording being released on March 27th in time for the tour. Baritone Teddy Tahu Rhodes is the featured artist on Richard Rodney Bennett's "Songs for Sleep," a work consisting of six poems, all taken from the Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes. At concerts with Dawn Upshaw, the soprano will perform lieder by Schubert and Schumann.The ensemble also presents works by Elgar, Saxton, an early piece by Shostakovich and Schoenberg's monumental Transfigured Night.

--Rebecca Davis Public Relations

National Philharmonic's Debussy 150th Anniversary Festival at the Music Center & Mansion at Strathmore
The National Philharmonic celebrates the music of Claude Debussy in a May festival at the Music Center, with companion Strathmore-presented events in the Mansion, marking the 150th anniversary of the birth of one of the most important French composers. The festival includes performances of Debussy's most popular orchestral, chamber and keyboard works as well as a Washington-area premiere of his magnificent large choral work, The Martyrdom of St. Sebastian. Debussy's works, like those of Impressionist painters, emphasize light and color and display the influence of the Symbolist poets' visionary images.

Festival Events at the Music Center at Strathmore:
ALL DEBUSSY
Saturday, May 5, 8 p.m.
Pre-concert lecture at 6:45 pm in the Concert Hall.
Brian Ganz, piano
Richard Stoltzman, clarinet
Piotr Gajewski, conductor
Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun
Fantaisie for Piano and Orchestra
Rhapsody for Clarinet and Orchestra
La Mer

DEBUSSY'S MARTYRDOM OF ST. SEBASTIAN
Saturday, May 19, 8 p.m.
Pre-concert lecture at 6:45 pm in the Concert Hall.
Audrey Luna, soprano                      
Rosa Lamoreaux, soprano                          
Linda Maguire, mezzo-soprano
Eliot Pfanstiehl, narrator
National Philharmonic Chorale
Stan Engebretson, conductor

At the Mansion at Strathmore:
DEBUSSY PIANO RECITAL
Thursday, May 10, 7:30 p.m.
Free pre-concert lecture with WETA's David Ginder at 6:30PM.
This performance is presented by Strathmore as part of its Music in the Mansion series.
Katie Mahan, piano
Deux Arabesques
Estampes
L'isle joyeuse
Préludes Livre II

DEBUSSY CHAMBER MUSIC
Thursday, May 17, 7:30 p.m.
Free pre-concert lecture with WETA's David Ginder at 6:30 pm.
This performance is presented by Strathmore as part of its Music in the Mansion series.
Members of the National Philharmonic and Friends
Piano Trio in G Major
Cello Sonata in D minor
Violin Sonata in G minor
String Quartet in G minor

About Strathmore:
Strathmore is an arts presenter and cultural destination that nurtures art, artists and community through creative and diverse programming of the highest quality. The Mansion at Strathmore is located at 10701 Rockville Pike, North Bethesda, MD, one half-mile north of the Capital Beltway and immediately adjacent to the Grosvenor-Strathmore station on Metro's Red Line. For further information or tickets, call (301) 581-5100 or visit www.strathmore.org .

About the National Philharmonic:
Led by dynamic Music Director and Conductor Piotr Gajewski, the National Philharmonic is known for performances that are "powerful," impeccable" and "thrilling" (The Washington Post). The National Philharmonic boasts a long-standing tradition of reasonably priced tickets and free admission to all young people age 7-17, assuring its place as an accessible and enriching component in Montgomery County and the greater Washington, D.C. area.

As the Music Center at Strathmore's ensemble-in-residence, the National Philharmonic showcases world-renowned guest artists in time-honored symphonic masterpieces conducted by Maestro Gajewski and monumental choral masterworks under National Philharmonic Chorale Artistic Director Stan Engebretson.

Free pre-concert lectures will be offered at 6:45 pm on Saturday, May 5 and on Saturday, May 19 in the Concert Hall at the Music Center at Strathmore. To purchase tickets to the May 5 All Debussy and May 19 Martyrdom of St. Sebastian concerts, please visit www.nationalphilharmonic.org or call the Strathmore box office at (301) 581-5100. Tickets to the National Philharmonic concerts are $28-$81; kids 7-17 are FREE through the ALL KIDS, ALL FREE, ALL THE TIME program (sponsored by The Gazette).  ALL KIDS tickets must be purchased in person or by phone.

Tickets to Strathmore's Music in the Mansion concerts are $30. To purchase tickets to the Debussy Piano Recital on Thursday, May 10 and the Debussy Chamber Music concert on Thursday, May 17, please visit www.strathmore.org or call 301-581-5100.

--Deborah Birnbaum, National Philharmonic

Twenty-nine Artists from Eight Countries to Participate in Twelve-Week Intensive Merola Opera Program
Conductors Nicholas McGegan, Guiseppe Finzi, Mark Morash and Gary Wedow lead performances this summer including Merola Grand Finale, Schwabacher Summer Concert, Mozart's La Finta Giardiniera and Dominick Argento's Postcard from Morocco.

Twenty-three singers, five apprentice coaches and one apprentice stage director, representing eight different countries, will participate in the 55th season of the Merola Opera Program from May 28 to August 18, 2012. Almost 900 artists—a record number of applicants—vied for the 29 coveted spots in the 2012 summer program, which is offered free of charge for all participants. Selected through an extensive audition and application process, this season's artists come from eight countries: United States, Bulgaria, Canada, China, Italy, New Zealand, South Korea and Russia.

The 2012 summer marks the Merola Opera Program's return to a full 12-week training program for the apprentice coaches and apprentice stage director (11 weeks for the singers) and a return to 29 artists. It will also be the first time in several years that the program will present two staged operas rather than one opera with two casts. Dominick Argento's Postcard from Morocco, directed by Peter Kazaras and conducted by Mark Morash, will be presented Thursday, July 19 at 8:00 p.m. and Saturday, July 21 at 2:00 p.m. at the Cowell Theatre at Fort Mason Center. W.A. Mozart's La finta giardiniera, directed by Nic Muni and conducted by Gary Wedow, will be presented Thursday, August 2 at 8:00 p.m. and Saturday, August 4 at 2:00 p.m. at the Cowell Theatre at Fort Mason Center.

Performance is a key element of the program throughout the summer.Conducted by San Francisco Opera Resident Conductor Giuseppe Finzi and directed by Roy Rallo, the Schwabacher Summer Concert will feature extended scenes from diverse repertoire that spans classic Italian bel canto, French romanticism and a 20th century masterwork. The concert will be presented on Thursday, July 5 at 7:30 p.m. at the Herbst Theatre and on Saturday, July 7 at 2:00 p.m. in a free outdoor concert at Yerba Buena Gardens. The season concludes with the annual Merola Grand Finale, conducted by Nicholas McGegan, on the main stage in the magnificent War Memorial Opera House on Saturday, August 18 at 7:30 p.m.

Merola artists participate in master classes with opera luminaries such as Stephen Blier, Warren Jones, Martin Katz and Carol Vaness (Merola '76) along with SF Opera Center Director of Musical Studies Mark Morash ('87).Guest teachers such as Alessandra Cattani, John Churchwell ('96), Susanne Mentzer, Robin Guarino, Peter Grunberg, and Patricia Kristof-Moy provide training in voice, foreign languages, operatic repertory, diction, acting and stage movement.

One of the world's most prestigious young artist training programs, the Merola Opera Program was founded in 1957 and has since served as a proving ground for thousands of artists, including six internationally acclaimed singers appearing with the San Francisco Opera this summer: Quinn Kelsey ('02), Hye Jung Lee ('10), Simon O'Neill ('02), Nathaniel Peake ('08, '09), Alek Shrader ('07) and Chen-Ye Yuan ('98).

"It should be a very exciting summer," said Opera Center General Director Sheri Greenawald. "We have an extremely talented and versatile group of artists this summer and we are thrilled to be able to showcase them in two really special operas and our very popular Schwabacher Summer Concert. We have some incoming tenors who specialize in high C's and some possible Helden singers, both of which should be exciting for Merola audiences."

"We are thrilled that Merola continues to be such an international program, and that we consistently attract artists from all around the world," said Merola Opera Program Executive Director Jean Kellogg. "It is a testament to the quality of the program that each year even more artists, from the United States and beyond, want to be a part of the Merola Opera Program, and for the second year in a row we are very pleased to have received a record number of applications."

For more information about Merola, please visit www.merola.org or phone (415) 551-6299. Tickets go on sale to Merola members March 15th. Tickets go on sale to the general public March 29th.
A season discount of 10% applies through June 1 if tickets for the Schwabacher Summer Concert, Postcard from Morocco, La finta giardiniera and the Merola Grand Finale are purchased together. Tickets for all performances may be purchased by calling San Francisco Opera Box Office at (415) 864-3330: Monday 10:00 AM-5:00 PM and Tuesday through Friday 10:00 AM-6:00 PM.

Led artistically by San Francisco Opera Center Director and internationally acclaimed soprano Sheri Greenawald, the Merola Opera Program is an independent nonprofit organization which operates in collaboration with the San Francisco Opera. Founded in 1957 and named for San Francisco Opera's founder, Gaetano Merola, the Program is recognized as one of the most prestigious operatic training programs in the world. The Merola Opera Program typically receives more than 800 applications for approximately 30 positions. Throughout the summer, the Merola artists participate in master classes and private coachings with opera luminaries. Participants – who include singers, apprentice coaches and an apprentice stage director--also receive training in operatic repertory, foreign languages, diction, acting and stage movement.

--Karen Ames Communications

Woodstock Mozart Festival Announces 26th Season July 28-August 12
All-Mozart opener followed by programs of Bach, Grieg, Mahler, Schubert, and more.

The Woodstock Mozart Festival presents a season featuring Grammy Award-winning artists and three diverse concert programs July 28–August 12, 2012 at the Woodstock Opera House. Single tickets go on sale April 16.

The program lineup is as follows:
July 28 and 29: Popular Chicago keyboard artist David Schrader plays and conducts from his instrument an all-Mozart opening program including Symphony No. 29, K. 201; Piano Concerto No. 8, K. 246 Lützow; and Piano Concerto No. 9, K. 271 Jeunehomme. Using a "Concert with Conversation" format, Schrader will speak to the audience between selections.

August 4 and 5: Violinists Igor Gruppman (who also conducts) and Vesna Gruppman perform Bach's Concerto for Two Violins, BMV 1043; Grieg's Holberg Suite; Mahler's Adagietto for Strings and Harp; and Arnold's Concerto for Two Violins, Op. 77—the latter earning them a Grammy Award. A world-renowned artistic team, the Gruppmans live in Rotterdam, Holland, where he is concertmaster of the Rotterdam Philharmonic.

August 11 and 12: Popular Dutch conductor Arthur Arnold returns to lead a program, featuring former Chicago Symphony principal oboist Alex Klein, including Pleyel's Symphony No. 1, Op. 3; Mozart's Oboe Concerto, K. 314 (285d); Schubert's Symphony No. 5, D. 485; and Choro no Capricho, a choro version of Paganini's 24th Caprice, arranged for oboe by Alex Klein.

The 2012 Woodstock Mozart Festival takes place July 28–August 12, Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m. at the Woodstock Opera House, 121 Van Buren Street, Woodstock. Pre-concert introductions take place one hour before each of the performances August 4, 5, 11 and 12. Tickets are $30–52, $25 for students, per program. Single tickets go on sale April 16 through the Woodstock Opera House Box Office at 815-338-5300 or at woodstockoperahouse.com. For more information about the Festival, visit mozartfest.org.

About the Woodstock Mozart Festival:
The Woodstock Mozart Festival's first performances took place in 1987 at the restored 1880s Woodstock Opera House in an environment reminiscent of Mozart's day. From the beginning, the Festival showcased internationally recognized guest artists and conductors during its three weekends of concerts in late July and early August. The Festival's goal is to maintain a superb orchestra that delivers extraordinary performances to inspire and educate audiences of all ages under the banner "Mozart…and More!". The Woodstock Mozart Festival is a member of the League of American Orchestras and the Illinois Arts Alliance. Funding is provided by the Illinois Arts Council, the Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation, the Arts Work Fund for Organizational Development, the MacArthur Fund for Arts and Culture, the AptarGroup Charitable Foundation and private and corporate contributions.

--Jill Chukerman, JAC Communications

Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg and the New Century Chamber Orchestra Present World Premiere by Featured Composer Ellen Taaffe Zwilich May 10-13
Music Director Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg and the New Century Chamber Orchestra mark the end of their 20th Anniversary Season May 10-13 with the world premiere of Commedia dell'Arte by Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Ellen Taaffe Zwilich.  A bravura violin concerto, Commedia dell'Arte is written specially for Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg as part of the Featured Composer program established in her first year as Music Director.  Inspired by the Italian tradition that began in the sixteenth century, Commedia dell'Arte features four movements that are based on characters from the Italian comedy – "Arlecchinno", a movement that is childlike and amorous meant to represent the comic servant; "Columbina", a work that is clever and complicated representing the flirtatious mistress; and "Capitano", a bold swaggering movement meant to portray the showy and cowardly Captain – with a "Cadenza and Finale" that brings them all together.

The program also includes Schoenberg's Verklärte Nacht, a string sextet inspired by Richard Dehmel's love poem as well as Schoenberg's own feelings upon meeting his wife, and Grieg's Holberg Suite, a suite of five movements based on eighteenth century dance forms.  Heidrich's Happy Birthday Variations – a suite of variations on the well-known Mildred J. Hill tune of Happy Birthday based on the composing styles of Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, Wagner and more – completes the program. Each of the four performances will be followed by a Q&A with Ellen Zwilich and Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg.

New Century will give four Bay Area performances of the program on Thursday, May 10 at 8pm, First Congregational Church, Berkeley; Friday, May 11 at 8 p.m., Menlo-Atherton Center for Performing Arts, Atherton; Saturday, May 12 at 8 p.m., Herbst Theater, San Francisco; and Sunday, May 13 at 8 p.m., Osher Marin Jewish Community Center, San Rafael.  New Century also offers an Open Rehearsal at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, May 9 in Herbst Theater for a price of only $8.00. The Saturday, May 12 program at Herbst Theater will feature a special tribute to outgoing Board President Paula Gambs, who has lead the organization since its inception twenty years ago.

Ellen Zwilich is the featured composer for the 20th Anniversary Season, a program established by Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg in her first season as music director to commission new works for the chamber ensemble.  "I have long been an admirer of Nadja's musically insightful and dramatically fiery performances," Zwilich explains. "So it was a great pleasure to craft this work for her.  I also took advantage of the spirit of the New Century Chamber Orchestra by calling for some of the string players to play percussion instruments traditionally associated with the characters." Ellen Taaffe Zwilich's Featured Composer Residency is made possible by the Clarence E. Heller Charitable Foundation.

Ellen Zwilich emerged in the last two decades of the twentieth century as one of the most recognized and sought after composers in the classical music world.  A prolific composer in virtually all media, Zwilich's works have been commissioned and premiered by many of the leading American orchestras and by major ensembles abroad including the New York Philharmonic, Boston Symphony, San Francisco Symphony and Chicago Symphony, to name a few.  As The New York Times warmly noted, "She writes in idiosyncratic style that, without ostentation or gimmickry, is always recognizably hers."

Born in Miami, Florida, Ellen Zwilich studied violin at Florida State University and later at The Julliard School where she was the first female to receive a doctoral degree in composition. A recipient of numerous prestigious awards, Ellen Zwilich was the first female recipient of the Pulitzer Prize in Music, named the first Composer's Chair in the history of Carnegie Hall, and designated Musical America's Composer of the Year for 1999.  Along with her numerous orchestral commissions and awards, Zwilich's work has been featured in two PBS television shows and issued on many recordings.  Some of Zwilich's recent works include: a Septet for Piano Trio and String Quartet commissioned for the Kalichstein-Laredo-Robinson Trio and the Miami String Quartet; a Quintet for Violin, Viola, Cello, Contrabass and Piano commissioned for the KLR Trio and friends; and an international consortium commission titled Shadows for Piano and Orchestra.

--Karen Ames Communications

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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.

Contact Information

Readers with polite, courteous, helpful letters may send them to pucciojj@gmail.com.

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