Beethoven: The Complete Piano Concertos (CD review)

Stewart Goodyear, piano; Andrew Constantine, BBC National Orchestra of Wales. Orchid Classics ORC100127.

If you have been a regular reader of Classical Candor, you may have heard me say this before, but it bears repeating: When approaching the purchase of a complete cycle of concertos, symphonies, sonatas, what-have-you, it's always best to find individual recordings by individual artists rather than try to find a single set that serves all needs. This certainly applies to Beethoven's five piano concertos, where even if a person did want a single set of all five pieces, that person would face the dilemma that practically every great pianist of the stereo age has already done one. These artists include Andsnes, Arrau, Ashkenazy, Ax, Barenboim, Brendel, De Larrocha, Fleisher, Giles, Guida, Katchen, Kempff, Kissin, Kovacevich, Perahia, Pollini, Rubinstein, Schiff, Serkin, Tan, Uchida, Weissenberg, Zacharias, Zimerman, and others I can't even remember. It's heady competition.

Nevertheless, nothing will stop musicians young and old from attempting to do everything; it's sort of a rite of passage or something. Nor does it mean there will be anything wrong with any of these sets, and that applies to this new set from Canadian pianist Stewart Goodyear, accompanied by Andrew Constantine and the BBC National Orchestra of Wales. Goodyear is a fine musician, and the set does display some impressive things.

Piano Concertos Nos. 1 and 2 are Beethoven light, so to speak, still showing the earmarks of Mozart and Haydn in their style and execution. They sound more blithe, more carefree, than the composer's later concertos. Beethoven wrote the Piano Concerto No. 1 in C major, Op. 15, in 1795, premiered it with himself as soloist, and then revised it slightly in 1800. He published the Piano Concerto No. 2 in B-flat major, Op. 19 in 1795 as well, but he had been working on it since around 1787.

Anyway, Goodyear handles these early works with his usual dexterity, employed with an exceptionally gentle yet sprightly touch. You'll find more forceful presentation elsewhere, though. Goodyear can exhibit all the virtuosity of the best pianists, but he never puts it on display for its own sake. In other words, he doesn't show off, choosing instead always to place the music above himself. Moreover, under Goodyear the sweetness of the slow movements is matchless. Interestingly, Goodyear tells us in a booklet note that Beethoven's piano concertos are "pursuits of unbridled joy." I say "interestingly" because while I found his performances joyful certainly, I wouldn't exactly call it an "unbridled joy." He seems a little too reserved for that. To me, his readings sound more like a sweetly restrained joy.

Stewart Goodyear
Piano Concerto No. 3 is a kind of transitional concerto, not quite in the league of Nos. 4 and 5 but clearly on a road away from Mozart and Haydn. Beethoven premiered it in 1803 along with his Second Symphony, with himself again as the concerto's soloist. Here, we get into the more dramatic, more Romantic Beethoven that we all know and love. The piano enters after a rather long-winded introduction, so it needs to be strong and energetic. Goodyear accomplishes this, if in a fairly straightforward way. The thing about Goodyear is that his playing is never fussy; everything is there for a purpose, with no frills. This works especially well in the slow, introspective Largo, where Goodyear equals anyone in his nuance and subtlety.

Piano Concertos Nos. 4 and 5 are not only the most mature of Beethoven's piano concertos, they are also the most popular, with No. 5 "Emperor" taking its place among the most epic and important concertos in the genre. Beethoven finished the Fourth in 1806 and premiered it in 1807 during a private concert along with his Fourth Symphony. Its first public concert came the next year in a monumental concert along with the Fifth and Sixth Symphonies and the Choral Fantasy. It would also be Beethoven's last public appearance as a soloist. The piano enters immediately, Goodyear taking the entrance with his accustomed reticence and gradually building an intimate rapport with the orchestra until they become almost as one. The delicacy of this progressive, unhurried union is quite the best feature of the performance.

Beethoven wrote the Piano Concerto No. 5 in E-flat major, Op. 73 between 1809-1810 and published it in 1811. The opening of the concerto should have a grand and imposing presence, which Maestro Constantine pulls off moderately well, yet when Goodyear's piano enters the pianist still seems a touch too reluctant to let loose. Nonetheless, he maintains a reasonably noble demeanor, and his virtuosity is never in question. The playing just seems a little too reserved for my taste, too plain to shake my allegiance to other performers in this work. The slow movement, though, is beautifully done, hushed, tranquil, and transcendent in the manner of a Chopin to come; and the finale is appropriately joyous.

Bottom line: Goodyear's set is a sturdy, unmannered choice, particularly if you already like Goodyear's style and playing or if you simply want to sample everything out there. Regardless, if you're looking for the best all-around set, performance and sound, I'd continue to recommend Stephen Kovacevich with Sir Colin Davis on Philips. It's almost in a world of its own.

Producer Andrew Keener and engineer Simon Eadon recorded the concertos at Hoddinott Hall, Cardiff, Wales in September, 2018. The sound is much the same as previous recordings in Hoddinott Hall, meaning it appears in a realistic setting, with a mild ambient bloom and more of an emphasis on realistic concert hall reproduction than on absolute clarity and transparency. The piano sound is a bit wide, but the overall result is pleasurable from the classical-music listener's point of view, even if it might not be material you'd want to use to show off your brand-new stereo system to an audiophile friend.

JJP

To listen to a brief excerpt from this album, click below:

Classical Music News of the Week, May 23, 2020

Heartbeat Opera Announces On-Line Extension of Lady M

Heartbeat Opera "is leading the charge in online opera" (Parterre, 5/12/20) and extends its Lady M soirées on Zoom after selling out the first eighteen. Fourteen more have been added from May 27-June 6.

Lady M is an online fantasia of Verdi's Macbeth through the eyes of Lady Macbeth, opera's, most thrilling anti-heroine. Watch the trailer here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fwpYvHtPGVc

New dates:
Wednesday, May 27 at 2pm & 8pm
Thursday, May 28 at 7pm & 9pm
Friday, May 29 at 2pm & 8pm
Saturday, May 30 at 8pm
Wednesday, June 3 at 2pm & 8pm
Thursday, June 4 at 7pm & 9pm
Friday, June 5 at 2pm & 8pm
Saturday, June 6 at 8pm

Each intimate 60-minute soirée includes a welcome toast, live performances by two cast members (on a rotating schedule), screenings of a new behind-the-scenes documentary, a music video of Lady M's Sleepwalking Scene, and Q&A.

Tickets:
$30 per household; $10 for students
Comps for those experiencing financial hardship during this crisis

For complete information, visit heartbeatopera.org/lady-m

--Aleba Gartner, Aleba & Co.

Ling Ling Huang Plays Bach
This week features Ling Ling Huang playing a beautiful version of Bach's Sonata No. 3 in C Major on a rooftop in Brooklyn. We hope you enjoy: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WhX_Fc1zLXg&feature=youtu.be

In the coming weeks, we will be sharing "Meditations" by more than a dozen other EXO musicians. This allows us to do our own small part to keep musicians employed during this time of no live performances. And we want to invite you to help us create beauty for the world around us.  If you are interested in helping us commission music from these great performers, please visit our donate page. Partial underwriting for these recordings and video projects begins at $75.

If you can renew your support of EXO at your annual giving level for these and future projects, that will be very welcome: https://experientialorchestra.com/donate

--James Blachly, Music Director, Experiential Orchestra

Spotlight on British Composer Richard Blackford
As part of her COVID-19 Solo Sessions, the saxophonist Amy Dickson speaks to composer Richard Blackford and performs his new work, "A Season of Stillness," which reflects his feelings during lockdown and the global crisis. In a short interview before this premier performance, Richard reflects how some people have found the silence and stillness extraordinarily beautiful while others have found it lonely, threatening and unnerving.

"The first thing I noticed was when the planes stopped flying, the birds were singing in a different way and much louder. It has given us a new awareness of the natural world that we never normally hear. It has brought us a new awareness and an extraordinary stillness."

Nimbus hopes to publish and release a recording of A Season of Stillness later this year. Until we can get back in the studio you can enjoy this wonderful performance at YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sGAK0WluaTQ

--Nimbus Records

Saratoga Performing Arts Center Announces the Cancellation of 2020 Classical Season
Saratoga Performing Arts Center (SPAC) have announced the cancellation of its 2020 season, for the first time in its 53 year history. This includes SPAC's summer resident companies New York City Ballet, The Philadelphia Orchestra and Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, as well as "Not Our First Goat Rodeo" featuring Yo-Yo Ma, and "SPAC on Stage." SPAC along with its board of directors made the decision to suspend its programming this summer in recognition of the continued threat to health and safety caused by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Looking to the future, SPAC also announces an initiative to donate 2021 performance tickets to first responders and health care workers for every ticketholder that converts a minimum of $25 of their 2020 ticket cost to a tax-deductible donation.

Visit https://www.livenationentertainment.com/ticketrefund/

--Rebecca Davis Public Relations

Sharon Isbin to Perform with the Santa Rosa Symphony on KRCB Radio
Multiple Grammy-Award winner Sharon Isbin will be featured performing Villa Lobos's Guitar Concerto with the Santa Rosa Symphony on KRCB Radio Sunday, May 24 at 3 pm.

The November 2018 broadcast will also feature Kodály's Dances of Galánta, Liszt's Mephisto Waltz No. 1, and Bernstein's Symphonic Dances from West Side Story. Show host Steve Mencher will discuss the program with Isbin and Music Director Francesco Lecce-Chong.  Tune in to KRCB FM Radio 91, on their mobile app, and streaming via their website: https://norcalpublicmedia.org/

The music will be archived for a full month.

--Genevieve Spielberg Artists

David Hyde Pierce, Jamie Barton, and Anthony Roth Costanzo Headline "Opera Jukebox" Benefit
Audience will vote for their favorite selections to be streamed Saturday, May 30, at 7pm ET.

"The great mezzo-soprano Frederica Von Stade once observed that music is 'the art form closest to prayer,'" said Emmy and Tony Award-winning actor David Hyde Pierce. "Our world could use some good prayers right now and the Artist Relief Tree is helping ensure that those prayers keep getting sung."

On Saturday, May 30, Pierce will emcee an Artist Relief Tree (ART) benefit, joined by seven world-class opera singers for Opera Jukebox, an innovative and interactive concert streaming on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/artistrelieftree/
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCGhMD5-JRzx06eJd940Nx7w
And the ART website: https://artistrelieftree.com/

--Beth Stewart, Verismo Communications

Pianist Orli Shaham's MidWeek Mozart
Each Wednesday, Ms. Shaham brings you an exclusive: music from her forthcoming recording of Mozart sonatas. This week: Mozart's Sonata No. 16, K. 545, 1st movement.

Visit Orli Shaham's MidWeek Mozart here: https://orlishahammozart.com/

--Gail Wein, Classical Music Communications

Naumburg Orchestral Concerts Honors Commitment to Summer 2020
Today, the Naumburg Orchestral Concerts announced that it would honor its financial commitments to all musicians scheduled to perform during the 2020 season, whether or not the concerts are canceled due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. The series is the oldest continuous, free, outdoor, Western classical music concert series in the world and has been held in New York's Central Park every summer since 1905.

"Our series is based on a foundation of deep respect and admiration for the skill and talent of professional musicians," said Christopher W. London, President of the Naumburg Orchestral Concerts. "At a time when the country's performing artists are experiencing unprecedented financial hardship, and thousands upon thousands of public performances have been canceled, our board felt strongly that we needed to show our genuine support for the musical community."

For further information, visit www.naumburgconcerts.org

--Amanda Sweet, Bucklesweet

Bang on a Can Marathon, June 14 - Live Online from 3pm-9pm ET
Bang on a Can will present its second Bang on a Can Marathon – Live Online – on Sunday, June 14, 2020 from 3-9pm ET. The first six-hour online Marathon on May 3, 2020 featured 25 live performances and was viewed by over 22,000 people around the world. The upcoming June 14 Marathon will expand the geography and include 25 live performances with musicians connecting from around the USA, Canada, Czech Republic, Switzerland, Scotland, Italy, Ireland, and Japan, plus ten world premieres of newly commissioned works. Bang on a Can plans to continue these Marathons periodically, streaming online at marathon2020.bangonacan.org, until live performances can resume.

The concert begins with a performance by Rhiannon Giddens at 3pm, live from Ireland, and concludes with a performance by Terry Riley, live from Japan. Additional highlights include performances by Roscoe Mitchell, Nico Muhly, Conrad Tao, Pamela Z, and many more. Guest composers and performers will join for conversations in between performances with Bang on a Can Co-Founders and Artistic Directors Michael Gordon, David Lang, and Julia Wolfe.

For complete information, visit www.bangonacan.org.

--Maggie Stapleton, Jensen Artists

What's Streaming: Classical (Week of May 25-31)
Monday, May 25 as of 12:00 p.m. ET:
Pop Up Pipa with Wu Man: Episode 4: Andrea Piccioni
https://www.facebook.com/WuManPipa/

Monday, May 25 at 2:00 p.m. CT:
Tulsa Opera's "Staying Alive" series continues with soprano Keely Futterer singing Richard Strauss's "Zueignung"
https://tulsaopera.com/stayingalive/

Tuesday, May 26 as of 1:00 p.m. PT:
James Conlon discusses Beaumarchais and The Ghosts of Versailles on LA Opera James Conlon at Home podcast
https://soundcloud.com/laopera

Wednesday, May 27 as of 12:00 p.m. ET:
Pop Up Pipa with Wu Man: Episode 5: Xuefei Yang
https://www.facebook.com/WuManPipa/

Wednesday, May 27 at 2:00 p.m. CT:
Tulsa Opera presents tenor Humberto Borboa performing Dvorák's "Als die alte Mutter sang"
https://tulsaopera.com/stayingalive/

Friday, May 29 at 12:00 p.m. ET:
Pop Up Pipa with Wu Man: Episode 6: Wu Wei
https://www.facebook.com/WuManPipa/

Friday, May 29 at 2:00 p.m. CT:
Tulsa Opera concludes its week with mezzo-soprano Kristee Haney in a selection from Sondheim's Anyone Can Whistle
https://tulsaopera.com/stayingalive/

Friday, May 29 at 7:00 p.m. ET:
New World Symphony's NWS Fellows: Live from our Living Room
https://www.facebook.com/NewWorldSymphony/

Saturday, May 30 at 7:00 p.m. ET:
Jennifer Koh's Alone Together series continues with new works by Du Yun, Shayna Dunkelman, George Lewis, and Lester St Louis
https://www.facebook.com/jenniferkohviolin/

Minnesota Orchestra at Home
https://minnesotaorchestra.org/community-education/lifelong-learning/minnesota-orchestra-at-home

--Shuman Associates

Music Institute Launches "Indoor Voices"
In a salute to the legacy of Nichols Concert Hall (NCH), its highly regarded concert venue, the Music Institute of Chicago presents "Indoor Voices," a free series of weekly musical visits with musicians who have performed at NCH, including guest artists, faculty, and alumni.

Each "Indoor Voices" episode, hosted by the Music Institute's Director of Performance Activities Fiona Queen, will debut on Friday evening at 7:30 p.m. and last about 30 minutes.

June 5: internationally acclaimed pianist Sergei Babayan, a Deutsche Grammophon exclusive artist who has performed at prestigious venues with the world's leading orchestras.
June 12: jazz vocalist and Music Institute Artist-in-Residence Tammy McCann and jazz vibraphonist, composer, and bandleader Joe Locke.
June 19: award-winning violist and Music Institute Academy alumnus Matthew Lipman.
June 26: pianist and Music Institute faculty member Abraham Stokman.

For more information, visit musicinst.org

--Jill Chukerman, JAC Communications

Los Angeles Master Chorale's High School Choir Festival Goes Virtual
For over 30 years, the Los Angeles Master Chorale has created a mega choir of 1,000 high school singers who, after a year of preparation, came together to perform at Walt Disney Concert Hall for its annual High School Choir Festival, one of the longest running continuous educations programs in Southern California. In the absence of being able to gather in person due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Master Chorale has created a special virtual version of the festival, to be held online on Wednesday, June 3, 2020, at 1 p.m. at https://lamasterchorale.org/high-school-choir-festival.

The Virtual High School Choir Festival (VHSCF) will feature favorite moments of recent festivals, curated by Grant Gershon, Kiki & David Gindler Artistic Director, Associate Conductor Jenny Wong and Director of Education Lesili Beard. Highlights will include the "Purple Rain" tribute to Prince that blew the roof off Disney Hall in 2016; Bill Withers's "Lean on Me" from 2019; student interviews; testimonials of gratitude from high school seniors and shout outs from former festival guest conductors. The festival will culminate in a virtual performance of participants singing "The Promise of Light," by Georgia Stitt, lyrics by Len Schiff. Hundreds of voice and video recordings were submitted by festival participants to create a powerful moment of celebration that encourages hope amidst an environment of isolation and uncertainty.

For more information, visit https://lamasterchorale.org/high-school-choir-festival

--Lisa Bellamore, Los Angeles Master Chorale

West Edge Festival: Postponed until 2021
General Director Mark Streshinsky and Music Director Jonathan Khuner have announced that West Edge Opera will postpone its annual summer festival until the 2021 season. Their productions of Katya Kabanova, Eliogabalo, and Elizabeth Cree, originally scheduled for July 25th through August 9th, 2020, will instead be presented starting July 24th of 2021.

"We are disappointed, but not devastated" reports Streshinsky. "New research has shown that it is nearly impossible to rehearse an opera with the level of safety and confidence we would need to feel comfortable. We had been holding out hope for a sharp reduction in cases or a medical breakthrough, but none of that seems to be happening in time."

For more information and a full statement issued to the public, visit the West Edge Website at:
http://www.westedgeopera.org/articles/2020/5/20/statement2020

--West Edge Opera

Cyrillus Kreek: The Suspended Harp of Babel (CD Review)

Jaan-Eik Tulve, Vox Clamantis; Instrumental preludes and interludes by Marco and Angela Ambrosini (nyckelharpa) and Anna-Lüsa Eller (kennel).  ECM New Series ECM 2620.

By Karl W. Nehring

There are times when I sit down at the keyboard to write a review and feel simply inadequate. It is not that I undervalue my writing skill (although I do not claim to be a particularly great writer, t have been doing it reasonably well for what now seems to be an unreasonably long time) or that the subject of my review seems especially difficult to address (I have plenty of notes on this recording from which to draw upon). No, I simply feel inadequate. I just do not feel as if I can adequately -- much less fully -- express how beautiful this recording is. But in the noble spirit of that stirring admonition, "Duty, Honor, Classical Candor," I will do my bumbling best.

First, though, a bit of background on composer Cyrillus Kreek (1889-1962) was an Estonian composer whose original given name was Karl Ustav Kreek, but for some reason unfathomable to me he changed his name to Cyrillus Kreek. Because Estonia was at the time part of the Russian Empire, Kreek pursued his study of music at 'the St. Petersburg Conservatory, where he started studying trombone but switched to composition, After graduating in 1918, he began teaching music while continuing his quest to capture the folk music of his native Estonia. According to the liner notes, by the time he died in 1962, he had notated nearly 1,300 songs, both sacred and secular, and made choral arrangements for about 75% of them, providing a rich inventory of music for Estonian choirs, including the country's foremost small vocal ensemble, Vox Clamantis.

The liner notes go on to explain that "this recording includes four of the self-standing psalms Kreek set over the years between 1914 and 1944, including three from 1923 (104 and121 as well as the opening 121) and one from 1938 (1370. These are also the four that, together with two other sacred pieces, he arranged for orchestra as Musica sacra in 1943 -- a year in which he produced several such orchestrations of music based on folk material, to be broadcast to an Estonia occupied by Nazi forces." The remaining selections on this recording include some other folk hymns by Kreek as well as some short fantasias composed by Marco Ambrosini based on musical ideas from Kreek's arrangements. Indeed, the striking instrumental accompaniment and interludes provided by the nyckelharpa and kannel (more explanation below of these unfamiliar instruments) are vital elements contributing to the sublime beauty of this recording.

Jaan-Eik Tulve
Although as with just about any good music this recording can bring pleasure when heard semi-seriously or even casually, to gain full measure of its beauty it really needs to be listened to seriously, in a setting free of distractions both audible and visual, paying some reasonable measure of attention to loudspeaker placement and such. And, please, I am not advocating audiophile-grade levels of fussiness, just some more than casual but less than fanatical attention to the listening environment conducive to rewarding sonic satisfaction and musical appreciation for what Kreek, the performers, and the engineers have wrought.

The opening measures of the opening cut, "The Sun Shall Not Smite Thee," clearly and immediately establish the musical and sonic beauty of this recording. The soaring women's voices fill a clearly defined acoustic space, a space soon to be filled by men's voices that provide an echo from a more earthly plane. As the program proceeds, the instrumentalists provide both interludes as well as occasional accompaniment to the choir. The nyckelharpas are usually bowed but sometimes plucked, while the kannel shows its versatility by sometimes sounding much like a harp, at other times something like a harpsichord.

The music on this recording often sounds devotional in nature, but a good portion is firmly based on folk themes, as in the third track, "Jacob's  Dream / Proemial Psalm" (from 'Orthodox Vespers'), which begins with a solo female voice accompanied by the kannel, then undergirded by a male voice in recitation, with the whole chorus finally taking over for the closing minutes. Tracks 6 ("Awake, My Heart") and 7 ("Praise the Name of the Lord (from 'Orthodox Vespers')" also manifest a variety of sonic textures and musical styles, the former beginning with a brief nyckelharpa introduction, then some solo female voice, then some folk-based instrumental passages, some singing by the whole chorus, more instrumental passages, the return of the solo female vocal, then the whole chorus, the nyckelharpa, and then the program transitions to a more devotional tone taken up by the chorus in the latter track.

The play of different textures and styles continues as the program proceeds, but the collection does not sound like a random grab bag. Kreek's music seems to have a perspective based on what I would take to be a reverence for both heavenly and earthly realms. His devotional music is rooted in the actual devotion of real people, resulting in music meant to be sung by an earthly chorus rather than by a choir of angels, while his folk-based music elevates these tunes by creating musical lines that sound comfortably at home when performed in sanctified spaces.

As the album continues on towards its close, that sense of music filling a sanctified space is gloriously evoked in  track 11, "By the Rivers of Babylon," performed by male chorus. The music produced by these singers sounds pure and holy from the highest voices down to the bass, their "alleluias" seeming capable of touching the souls of believers and nonbelievers alike, whether perceived as praises to the divine or musical manifestations of the sublime. Following this intense experience, the next track, "The Last Dance," is performed by the Ambrosinis on their two nyckelharpas, weaving simple melodies that offer listeners a chance to unwind a bit from the intensity off the previous track before moving on to the album's final track, "O Jesus, Thy Pain / Dame, Vostre Doulz Viaire," which combines music by Kreek with music from the 14th-century French composer Guillaume de Machaut (c. 1300-1377). The track begins with a woman singing a folk hymn ("O Jesus…") arranged by Kreek, followed by the kannel playing the melody of Machaut's "Dame…" The nyckelharpas then enter, first joining the kannel in the Machaut, then providing instrumental underpinning as the music shifts back to the solo female voice singing the hymn. The three instruments then take the spotlight again as they return to the Machaut, this time in an arrangement by Marco Ambrosini. The music of Kreek returns, first with female voices, then joined by male voices as Kreek works in polyphony that the liner notes point out stem from an old German chorale that Bach had used in his St. Matthew Passion. Although this summary might seem to describe quite a musical mishmash, the music hangs together and provides a memorable finish to the album.

Concerning the unusual instruments that add an extra measure of color to the sound, the kannel is essentially an Estonian zither, with metal strings that are plucked with both hands. The basic design is thought to go back more than a thousand years, with more strings being added over time, the modern version able to cover nearly four octaves. As to the nyckelharpa, it is a Scandinavian instrument that is essentially a keyed fiddle. It has bowed strings and resonant strings, producing a rich sound. Crazily enough, just across the creek on the other side of the farm field across the road from my home lives a genial gentleman who actually makes nyckelharpas. For more information about this fascinating instrument, you can navigate to www.cloudninemusical.com.

As I said at the outset, the net effect of the music, the performance, and the recorded sound combine to make The Suspended Harp of Babel an indescribably beautiful release. The informative liner notes and lyrics translated into English add to the overall quality of the production.

KWN

To listen to a brief excerpt from this album, click on the forward arrow:

Meet the Staff

Meet the Staff
John J. Puccio, Editor, Publisher, Reviewer

Understand, I'm just an everyday guy reacting to something I love. And I've been doing it for a very long time, my appreciation for classical music starting with the musical excerpts on The Big John and Sparkie radio show in the early Fifties and the purchase of my first 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 use a pair of bi-amped VMPS RM40s loudspeakers for my listening. In addition to writing the Classical Candor blog, I served as the Movie Review Editor for the Web site Movie Metropolis (formerly DVDTown) from 1997-2013. Music and movies. Life couldn't be better.
Karl W. Nehring, Contributing Reviewer

For more than 20 years I was the editor of The $ensible Sound magazine and a regular contributor to its classical review pages. I would not presume to present myself as some sort of expert on music, but I have a deep love for and appreciation of many types of music, "classical" especially, and have listened to thousands of recordings over the years, many of which still line the walls of my listening room (and occasionally spill onto the furniture and floor, much to the chagrin of my long-suffering wife). I have always taken the approach as a reviewer that what I am trying to do is simply to point out to readers that I have come across a recording that I have found of interest, a recording that I think they might appreciate my having pointed out to them. I suppose that sounds a bit simple-minded, but I know I appreciate reading reviews by others that do the same for me -- point out recordings that I think I might enjoy.

For readers who might be wondering about what kind of system I am using to do my listening, I should probably point out that I do a LOT of music listening and employ a variety of means to do so in a variety of environments, as I would imagine many music lovers also do. Starting at the more grandiose end of the scale, the system in which I do my most serious listening comprises an Onkyo C-7030 CD player, Legacy Audio StreamLine preamplifier, Legacy Audio PowerBloc2 amplifier, and a pair of Legacy Audio Focus SE speakers augmented by a Legacy Point One subwoofer. I also do a lot of listening while driving in my 2016 Acura RDX with its nice-sounding ELS Studio sound system through which I play CDs (the ones I especially like I rip to the Acura's hard drive so that I can listen to them whenever I want) or stream music through the system using my LG G7 ThinQ cell phone, which features surprisingly sophisticated audio circuitry. For more casual listening at home when I am not in my listening room, I often stream music through the phone into a Vizio soundbar system that has remarkably nice sound for such a diminutive physical presence. And finally, at the least grandiose end of the scale, I have an Ultimate Ears Wonderboom Bluetooth speaker for those occasions where I am somewhere by myself without a sound system but in desperate need of a musical fix. I just can't imagine life without music and I am humbly grateful for the technology that enables us to enjoy it in so many wonderful ways.
Bryan Geyer, Technical Analyst

I initially embraced classical music in 1954 when I mistuned my car radio and heard the Heifetz recording of Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto. That inspired me to board the new "hi-fi" DIY bandwagon. In 1957 I joined one of the pioneer semiconductor makers and spent the next 32 years marketing transistors and microcircuits to military contractors. Home audio DIY projects remained a personal passion until 1989 when we created our own new photography equipment company. I later (2012) revived my interest in two channel audio when we "downsized" our life and determined that mini-monitors + paired subwoofers were a great way to mate fine music with the space constraints of condo living.

Visitors that view my technical papers on this site may wonder why they appear here, rather than on a site that features audio equipment reviews. My reason is that I tried the latter, and prefer to publish for people who actually want to listen to music; not to equipment. My focus is in describing what's technically beneficial to assure that the sound of the system will accurately replicate the source input signal (i. e. exhibit high accuracy) without inordinate cost and complexity. Conversely, most of the audiophiles of today strive to achieve sound that's euphonic, i.e. be personally satisfying. In essence, audiophiles seek sound that's consistent with their desire; the music is simply a test signal.

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. --John J. Puccio

Contact Information

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

Readers with impolite, discourteous, bitchy, whining, complaining, nasty, mean-spirited, unhelpful letters may send them to classicalcandor@recycle.bin.

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa