Classical Music News of the Week, May 6, 2012

National Philharmonic Singers Present Spring Concert

The National Philharmonic Singers, under the direction of conductors Stan Engebretson and Victoria Gau, will present a free spring concert on Saturday, May 12, 2012, at 8 p.m. at Christ Episcopal Church, 107 South Washington Street, Rockville, Maryland. Special guests will include the Chamber Singers of Landon School under the direction of Tad Cavuoti.

The concert will feature music from the British Isles and the Continent and will include Ralph Vaughan Williams' cantata "In Windsor Forest," and a collection of choruses from his thrilling opera, "Sir John in Love."

Music for the church includes the antiphonal "Lobe den Herrn" by Heinrich Schuetz, and English church anthems "God is Gone Up" by Gerald Finzi and Charles Villiers Stanford's "Beati quorum via."

The Chamber Singers of Landon School continue the British theme with English madrigals and Britten's "Ballad of Little Musgrave" while the National Philharmonic Singers perform new music - Norwegian Ola Gjeilo's "The Spheres" and "The Ground," from Sunrise Mass, and a Washington premiere of British composer Tarik O'Regan's intricate spiritual arrangement of "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot."

The National Philharmonic Singers, led by Stan Engebretson and Victoria Gau, is a chamber choir and one of several performing ensembles of the National Philharmonic. The group promotes works suited for smaller ensembles, whether with accompaniment or a cappella. Its repertoire ranges from 15th to 21st centuries, and it often premieres new compositions by local composers.

The May 12 spring concert at the Christ Episcopal Church in Rockville is free, but donations in support of the Community Ministries of Rockville will be gratefully accepted. Christ Episcopal Church is located at 107 South Washington Street in Rockville, MD. Directions to the church may be found at http://www.christchurchrockville.org/directions.htm#Platinum or by calling the church at 301-762-2191, ext. 3. For more information, please visit www.nationalphilharmonic.org, e-mail victoria@nationalphilharmonic.org or call 301-493-9283, ext. 116.

--Deborah Birnbaum, National Philharmonic

The City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra 2012-13 Season
The CBSO with Andris Nelsons to perform the complete Beethoven symphonies in Birmingham.
Inspirational guest appearances by Mitsuko Uchida, Ian Bostridge, Lars Vogt and Simon Trpceski, as well as debuts by Diego Matheuz and Nicholas Collon.
Celebrating 100 years since the birth of Benjamin Britten with the War Requiem and A Spring Symphony.
Andris Nelsons continues his passionate exploration into Wagner's music with the romantic opera The Flying Dutchman.
CBSO 20:20. The countdown goes on to the Orchestra's centenary; experience music from 1912 and 1913.

The 2012-13 season of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra will once again give audiences the chance to experience a host of world-class musicians, performers and new talent celebrating and developing great music in Birmingham. From Beethoven to Lutoslawski, Burt Bacharach to a Mad Hatter's Tea Party, there are performances to suit all tastes and, rest assured, whatever the programme, music sounds better in Birmingham.

A Fresh Look at Beethoven
One of the highlights of the 2012-13 season is undoubtedly music director Andris Nelsons' complete cycle of Beethoven Symphonies – the first time in 15 years that the CBSO has performed a full cycle. With each concert focused solely on Beethoven's music, and Andris' reputation for fresh performances that provide new experiences for the listener, the Birmingham Beethoven Cycle is set to be a remarkable musical journey into the works of this great composer. Following on from the success of the Mahler Cycle in 2010/11, audiences will not only be able to enjoy all of Beethoven's symphonies but also all of his concertos, performed throughout the season by world-class musicians including visiting artists in the Birmingham International Concert Series.

The CBSO Family
At the heart of the CBSO is a family of outstanding musicians, conductors and choral leaders. Their passionate performances draw audiences from far and wide and, this year, Andris sets the tone for another spectacular season with the opening concert, Mahler's epic Resurrection Symphony. He'll also return to the music of Wagner, for which he's drawn much acclaim, with the romantic opera The Flying Dutchman, a fitting tribute in the year of the composer's bicentenary.

Principal guest conductor Edward Gardner's second season includes music by composers that he loves: Bartók, Dvorák, Brahms, Elgar, Lutoslawski and Sibelius. Associate Conductor Michael Seal's performance of Elgar's Enigma Variations (as part of the Tuned In Concerts) is also not one to be missed. Other family members including orchestra leader Laurence Jackson, principal oboe, Rainer Gibbons and principal trumpet, Alan Thomas will be in the spotlight as soloists this season. Watch out too for the CBSO's highly successful Centre Stage concerts, an intimate lunchtime chamber music experience created and performed by the players themselves, which will extend from the CBSO Centre to other venues this year.

The CBSO's exceptional choruses will be busy performing throughout the season, both in Birmingham and internationally, under the leadership of renowned chorus director Simon Halsey. Meanwhile, some of the CBSO's most talented young musicians, the Youth Orchestra and Children's Chorus are combining for a special performance of Tchaikovsky's The Nutcracker, with former music director of the Bolshoi, Alexander Vedernikov, conducting.

World-class Musicians in Birmingham
The CBSO continues to attract the very best musicians to Birmingham, both those with global reputations and others that are fast catching them up. Pianist Francesco Piemontesi will appear in October and Kazushi Ono is joined by Young Musician of the Year winner (2004) Nicola Benedetti in November. Pianist sensation Simon Trpceski will join the Orchestra in January and, in February, the Labèque sisters will perform. The outstanding tenor Ian Bostridge will join the Orchestra in March and, in May, incomparable pianist Mitsuko Uchida makes her long-awaited return to the CBSO. Andrés Orozco-Estrada was a real hit with musicians and audiences alike when he made his UK orchestral debut with the CBSO in 2012 and he will be back in February in a programme of Mozart and Mahler. Another firm CBSO and audience favourite is the talented John Wilson who returns in February and April for three concerts.

Birmingham debuts this season include Nicholas Collon, the inspiration behind the award-winning Aurora Orchestra, and pianist Daniil Trifonov, winner of last year's Tchaikovsky competition. Diego Matheuz, one of El Sistema's most brilliant graduates, is set to enthral audiences and so too are the Australian conductor Simone Young and violinist Yossif Ivanov. Also making their debuts are Valery Sokolov, violin, as well as the stunning voices of Allan Clayton, Anna Leese, Klara Ek and Jennifer Wilson.

Celebrating Britten – A Boy Was Born
The whole CBSO family will be helping to celebrate a centenary since the birth of Benjamin Britten in A Boy Was Born, a Birmingham wide celebration of his music in conjunction with Town Hall Symphony Hall and Ex Cathedra. The programme of music will, in January, include a rare performance of A Spring Symphony, conducted by Edward Gardner and featuring an all-star cast and massed CBSO chorus. In March, Michael Seal will conduct Britten's sensuous, glittering song-cycle, Les Illuminations, featuring Ian Bostridge and, in May, Andris Nelsons is joined by a stellar cast of singers plus choruses for a performance of War Requiem. IIan Volkov will also join the CBSO in February with Steven Osborne for Britten's Piano Concerto.

A Universe of Sound
The CBSO offers an unrivalled diversity of programme. The world premiere of John Oswald's B9 part 1 is a remix of the first five of Beethoven's symphonies and the European premiere of an astonishing new showpiece by the Mexican composer Enrico Chapela features electric cello. The CBSO's 20:20 centenary countdown includes ground-breaking works by Schoenberg, Debussy, Sibelius, Prokofiev, Elgar and Webern, all artists who had a major influence on the music of their time but still sound as exciting and revolutionary today.

The Orchestra will also perform works by two major European figures of the 20th Century who celebrate anniversaries this season: Poulenc (50 years since his death) and Lutoslawski (100 years since his birth).

And finally the season also features artists who have shaped popular music including Andrew Lloyd Webber and Burt Bacharach, along with one of the masters of silent cinema - Harold Lloyd. For younger audiences, the CBSO's concerts of families and pre-school children bring to life the stories and characters we know and love, like the Mad Hatter and The Incredibles, inspiring a whole new generation of music lovers. Alan Titchmarsh will once again be part of the traditional Christmas Concerts and, throughout the season, the CBSO will entertain with glorious tunes and ever-popular works such as Dvorak's New World Symphony, Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 5 and Grieg's Piano Concerto.

--Ruth Green, CBSO

Turtle Island Quartet Revitalizes Group with Two New Members
After years of great performances and Grammy award-winning music Mads Tolling and Jeremy Kittel will be leaving Turtle Island Quartet. Both having spent several fruitful years in TIQ, are ready and wanting to move on to pursue their solo careers. David Balakrishnan and Mark Summer wish them the best and are excited to introduce their two new members into the group.

"No doubt about it, it's a big challenge to go through membership change in Turtle Island," said TIQ founder David Balakrishnan. "The premise of the group requires string players with professional level ability in both jazz and classical music traditions. The quartet is powerful enough to encapsulate these periodic changes, grow and evolve." Time and again, Turtle Island has discovered new and exciting talent and they began to see an unexpected benefit to this change, new players would invariably "bring with them a heady breath of fresh cross genre air," that in hindsight has proven absolutely vital to keeping the quartet vibrant and alive, again due to the manifold implications contained in the defining premise of the group--four string musicians all equally adept in both classical and jazz.

In this exciting new light, Turtle Island Quartet announces the addition of Polish violinist Mateusz Smoczynski and German violist Benjamin von Gutzeit who will both be joining the group full time in the Fall of 2012. The change in personnel will allow for cross-fertilization of new ideas, sounds and emotion. The group continues to reach new heights and with the new members plan to achieve even more.

Future projects include Poets & Prayers with jazz vocalist Tierney Sutton and Louisiana Story with renowned Cajun fiddler Michael Doucet.

Mateusz Smoczynski (violin) is a graduate of the Frederic Chopin Academy of Music in Warsaw, Poland. A student of Andrzej Gebski, he made his jazz debut in 1999 in Jazz Camping Kalatowki with the Jacek Namyslowski Quintet.

Benjamin von Gutzeit (viola) was born into a musical family. His father is the director of the Mozarteum in Salzburg, Austria, and one of his sisters recently became the principal cellist of the Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra. Benjamin began playing the viola at the age of 4. In 2010 he was awarded a full scholarship to attend the Manhattan School of Music, where he has pursued his Masters degree with a graduation date of May 2012.

--Amanda Sweet, Bucklesweet Media

Classical Music By the Sea Announces Premiere Benefit Concert
Classical Music By the Sea is pleased to announce its premiere benefit, "An Afternoon With The Muir String Quartet," to be held on Sunday, June 10, 2012 in North Hampton, NH.

The benefit is a fundraiser for two non-profits, Classics For Kids Foundation (CFKF) and Rain for the Sahel and Sahara (RAIN). CFKF, co-founded by the Muir's cellist Michael Reynolds and former Secretary of State Dr. Condoleezza Rice, provides matching grants to school programs throughout the United States to acquire new, high-quality string instruments. RAIN assists women and needy children in the arid regions of Niger through education, water security, agriculture, and income-producing activities.

The GRAMMY Award-winning Muir String Quartet's performance will be preceded by a champagne reception for sponsors and patrons, followed by a catered garden party for all attendees. "Classics for Kids fills a void for schools - the ability to provide children with high-quality instruments to aid in their instruction and enjoyment of music," says Dr. Rice. "The study of music is not, to my mind, an 'extracurricular activity.' It is at the core of educating our children broadly, giving them the confidence to take on difficult challenges and meet them, and the opportunity to gain a talent that can be with them for a lifetime. Classics for Kids is a great partner for the schools in this important work."

Earlier in the afternoon, the Muir will host an Open Rehearsal exclusively for students, parents, and teachers at the Winnacunnet High School Auditorium in Hampton, NH. Several local student string ensembles and the winner of the Portsmouth Symphony Orchestra Concerto Competition will also perform.

"The goal of Classical Music By the Sea is to inspire today's students to become tomorrow's classical musicians, and supporting musical and cultural missions is a crucial and integral part of our work," says event Co-Chairs Joanne Lamprey, hostess, and Bob Lord, CEO of PARMA Recordings. "The funds raised will have a lasting impact on scholastic music programs and the women and children of Niger." For more information please visit www.cmbythesea.com.

Event Details:
"An Afternoon With The Muir String Quartet"
Sunday, June 10, 2012 from 4:30 to 8:30 p.m. at a private home in North Hampton NH
An Open Rehearsal for students and parents at Winnacunnet High School Auditorium at 3:30 p.m. in Hampton, NH.

--Press, Parma Recordings

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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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