Classical Music News of the Week, September 22, 2018

American Bach Soloists Gala: Sparkle 2018 "Versailles"

Artistic Director Jeffrey Thomas, Executive Director Don Scott Carpenter, and the Musicians, Board, and Staff of American Bach Soloists invite you to join them for an illuminating San Francisco evening: The 16th Annual Gala Auction, Concert, & Dinner.

Celebrating the Court of Louis XIV and the Music of France and Honoring the First Three Decades of Jeffrey Thomas's Artistic Leadership.

Saturday, September 29, 2018, 5:00pm
James Leary Flood Mansion, San Francisco, CA

Enjoy an exclusive and superlative performance in the Flood Mansion's Chapel (rarely accessible to the public). Bid on exciting auction items while enjoying superb cuisine and excellent wines and cocktails. All proceeds will benefit the ABS Academy.

Auction highlights:
A trip to Versailles, ABS exclusive events in private homes, concert tickets, wine, art, jewelry, and much more.

Order of events:
5:00 p.m., arrival and check-in
Cocktails, Baroque dancing by San Francisco Renaissance Dancers & Dance Through Time

5:30 p.m.
Concert by American Bach Soloists, featuring Elizabeth Blumenstock, Sandra Miller, Nola Richardson, Steven Lehning, and Corey Jamason; Jeffrey Thomas, conductor.

Musical program:
Jacques Aubert le Vieux (1689-1753)
Concert de Simphonies
Suite No. 2 in D Major, Op. 9

François Couperin (1668-1733)
Deuxième Concert Royaux in D Major

Jean-Philippe Rameau (1683-1764)
L'impatience

Jean-Féry Rebel (1666–1747)
Les Caractères de la Danse

6:30 p.m.
Silent Auction with Cocktails & Hors d'oeuvres served
Optional Baroque Dancing lessons

7:30 p.m.
Dinner and live auction

For complete information, visit https://americanbach.ejoinme.org/MyEvents/Sparkle2018Versailles/tabid/912069/Default.aspx

For tickets, call 800-595-4849 or visit https://americanbach.tix.com/Schedule.aspx?OrgNum=2641

--American Bach Soloists

PBO 2018/19 Season Opener: "Mozart Magnified"
With the full force of the Philharmonia Baroque Chorale, and the Orchestra's vibrant range on period instruments, PBO's authenticity shines brightest in simple and dramatic moments of Mozart's most glorious vocal works. Join PBO with exquisite Puerto Rican soprano Camille Ortiz and a star-studded cast as we celebrate Mozart--an ordinary man with extraordinary talents.

Mozart: Litaniae Lauretanae, BMV in D Major, K. 195
Mozart: Exsultate, jubilate, K. 165
Mozart: Mass No. 15 in C major, "Coronation"

Performance schedule:
Wednesday, October 3 @ 7:30 pm: Bing Concert Hall, Stanford, CA
Friday, October 5 @ 8 pm: Herbst Theatre, San Francisco, CA
Saturday, October 6 @ 8 pm: First Congregational Church, Berkeley, CA
Sunday, October 7 @ 4 pm: First Congregational Church, Berkeley, CA

For complete information, visit https://philharmonia.org/2018-2019-season/mozart-magnified/

--Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra and Chorale

Don't miss the YPC Big Sing This Saturday
Saturday, September 22 at 3:00 p.m.
Peter Norton Symphony Space
2537 Broadway, New York, NY 10025

Join Young People's Chorus of New York City's Artistic Director Francisco J. Núñez, Associate Artistic Director Elizabeth Núñez, and special guests Rollo Dilworth, Mark Shapiro, and Sesame Street's Bob McGrath, in the first-ever YPC Big Sing!

For more information, visit https://ypc.org/event/big-sing/

--Young People's Chorus of New York City

Noteworthy News from Festival Mozaic
Music Director Scott Yoo just wrapped a week of recording in Glasgow with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra. Joining them was cello soloist Bion Tsang. (Hot tip: you can see Bion in San Luis Obispo in February.)

Yoo's next stop? Italy, then England, filming episode four of "Now Hear This," Scott's television program which is slated to hit the airwaves on PBS as part of Great Performances in Spring 2019. Then he's back to Mexico to conduct the Mexico City Philharmonic, where he is Artistic Director and Chief Conductor. We'll look forward to welcoming him back to California in October for our first WinterMezzo weekend!

Marcie Hawthorne, the creator of Festival Mozaic's 2018 original artwork Music Without Borders, will be opening her show "Gifts of the Muses: Music and Nature" at SLO Provisions on Friday, October 5 as part of Art After Dark. The show will feature all new works by Hawthorne, who is generously splitting the proceeds from any art sales with Festival Mozaic. Please come join us to support art, music, and fine food.

Festival bassist Susan Cahill will present a free master class for local musicians and students, in collaboration with the Cal Poly Music Department and San Luis Obispo Youth Symphony. Join Susan on Tuesday, October 23 at 7:30pm at the Cal Poly Davidson Music Center as she provides instruction, suggestions, and constructive feedback to musicians in our community. All of the Festival master classes are free to attend and for students to participate in.

For more information, visit http://www.festivalmozaic.com/

--Festival Mosaic

Princeton University Concerts Launches Single-Work "Up Close" Series
Princeton University Concerts has been committed to changing how audiences experience classical music concerts. Its "Performances Up Close" series, created three years ago in anticipation of the 2018-19 125th anniversary season, has been at the forefront of this mission.

On Wednesday, October 17, 2018 at 6PM and 9PM, the first of this three-concert series invites audience members to sit on stage at Richardson Auditorium, "up-close" with the Takács Quartet and cellist David Requiro to experience an hour-long, single-work program featuring one of music's most transcendent pieces: Franz Schubert's Cello Quintet in C Major, D. 956, the last chamber work that the composer ever wrote. By offering this remarkable piece of music a chance to breathe and stand on its own, this forward-thinking series goes straight to the spiritual and communal core of chamber music. Every detail of this concert, from stage lighting to seating configuration, is specially curated to foster as direct an experience of the musical work as possible, including readings by Broadway actor and director Michael Dean Morgan and concert design by Michael Dean Morgan and Wesley Cornwell.

Tickets for both performances are already sold out. Any returned tickets will be released for purchase an hour prior to each performance at Richardson Auditorium, Alexander Hall.

For more information, visit princetonuniversityconcerts.org

--Dasha Koltunyuk, Princeton University Concerts

Encompass New Opera Theatre Presents World Premiere of Anna Christie
Encompass New Opera Theatre will present the World Premiere of Anna Christie with music by Edward Thomas, set to a libretto by Joseph Masteroff, with 12 performances beginning on Thursday, October 4, 2018 at 8pm and running through Sunday, October 21, 2018, at the Baruch Performing Arts Center (at 55 Lexington Avenue, entrance on 25th Street, between Lexington and Third Avenues) in Manhattan.

Nancy Rhodes is stage director and Julian Wachner conducts the Ionisation New Music Ensemble. The cast includes Frank Basile (Chris Christopherson, Anna Christie's father), Jonathan Estabrooks (Mat Burke), Melanie Long (Anna Christie), Joy Hermalyn (Marthy Owen), and Mike Pirozzi (Larry the Bartender).

For complete information, visit https://www.encompasstheatre.org/anna-christie/

--Jeffrey James Arts Consulting

Countertenor Aryeh Nussbaum Cohen Named ABS 2019 Jeffrey Thomas Award Recipient
American countertenor Aryeh Nussbaum Cohen has quickly been identified as one of classical music's most promising rising stars.

A standout among the superb young artists who have attended the ABS Academy, countertenor Aryeh Nussbaum Cohen has received tremendous accolades since he first worked with us. ABS audiences have already had two opportunities to hear his extraordinary singing. Thousands of holiday concertgoers heard his ravishing delivery of "He was despised" and other arias in our 2017 performances of Handel's Messiah in Grace Cathedral, and Aryeh offered an "ABS Exclusive" concert last December, performing works by Bach, Handel, and Vivaldi.

The Jeffrey Thomas Award is granted annually at the Artistic Director's discretion to honor, recognize, and encourage exceptionally gifted emerging professionals in the field of early music who show extraordinary promise and accomplishment. Inaugurated in 2013, the Jeffrey Thomas Award was created by the American Bach Soloists in celebration of their first 25 years of presenting performances in Northern California, across the United States, and around the world, and ABS Artistic & Music Director Jeffrey Thomas's tenure of inspired leadership.

For more information, visit americanbach.org

--American Bach Soloists

Bridge: The Sea (CD review)

Also, Enter Spring; Summer; Cherry Ripe; Lament. Sir Charles Groves, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra. EMI CDM 7243-5-66855-2.

The English composer, violist, and conductor Frank Bridge (1879-1941) was one of England's principal pastoral composers in the years just preceding and just following World War I. Although Bridge was to become more modernist as time went on, his music nevertheless remained largely harmonic and impressionistic.

Bridge's early tone poems, represented here, are excellent examples of early twentieth-century English pastoral writing. Yes, his work would become increasingly more complex and troubled over the years, yet Bridge wrote these pieces, as we see by their descriptive titles alone, to reflect a serene, natural beauty.

Sir Charles Groves
The Sea, from 1910, is probably his most famous and most-popular work, a composition clearly influenced by Debussy's La Mer of a few years earlier. Likewise, in Summer, Cherry Ripe, and Lament, from 1914-1916, one can hear echoes of contemporary English composers Arnold Bax and Frederick Delius. Enter Spring, from 1927, the latest composition date on the disc, is the most mature work included, not just in its year of completion but in its level of development. It is still pastoral in style and relatively tranquil, but it shows a marked increase in orchestral color, contrast, and elaboration. 

Although I have not heard every recording of these works ever committed to disc, I cannot imagine there being any finer renditions, interpretively or sonically, than these from Sir Charles Groves and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic. Sir Charles delivers performances of the utmost care and affection, and the Liverpool players perform them with supreme confidence.

Producer John Willan and balance engineer John Kurlander recorded the music at Philharmonic Hall, Liverpool in July 1975. They provide sound that is full, refined, well balanced, and wholly convincing. It sets off a most-pleasing collection.

JJP

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


Ecosse Maestro MA2 Interconnect Cables (Cable review)

Ecosse Reference Cables. The Stables@The Countryhouse, Kilmarnock, Scotland KA3 6EX (http://www.ecossecables.co.uk/)

What? I hear you say: Why is Puccio reviewing a piece of hardware? And a controversial part of the hardware chain at that, a pair of interconnect cables. I thought he was a music-only man. Reasonable enough. But it is the hardware that allows us to hear the recording, so the equipment seems fair game. Besides, I decided it was time for a change, and what better a change than a pair of audio interconnect cables.

Again, I hear you asking: Why audio cables? I mean, everybody already knows that cables either (1) make all the difference in the world in the sound of a hi-fi system or (2) make no difference whatsoever. No, there aren't many people in the hi-fi or audiophile world who hold a neutral position on the topic. You're either in the cable camp or you're not; you either believe or you don't.

Let me tell you a brief story that may explain where I stand on the subject. A long time ago, maybe thirty years or more, an audiophile friend of mine decided to do a cable shoot-out at his house. He invited about a dozen of his audiophile buddies and me (I was never an audiophile; I couldn't afford it) to bring their favorite audio cables to a comparison test using his Sound Lab electrostatic speakers. He asked me to bring the cheapest pair of cables I could find so we'd have a solid contrast. I went to the nearest Radio Shack and bought a pair of their least expensive models, while the other guests brought some quite fancy (and quite expensive) stuff, including several people who owned their own cable companies, making and selling their own exotic products.

We spent the evening doing blind tests, writing notes, and not discussing anything until we had heard all the cables. Then we each rank ordered our picks, and my friend added up the scores. Remarkably, all of us at the event picked the same three cables as best; not in the same order, mind you, but the top three cables appeared on all of our lists as numbers one, two, or three. Just as remarkably, three more, different cables appeared at the bottom of everyone's list, one of the bottom three being the Radio Shack pair I had brought. It was also interesting that among the top three cables was a pair that a man had built himself by picking out a Belden cable on specs alone from a catalogue of about a million Belden cables. He fastened on two pair of gold ends that must have cost him ten times the price of the cable, and the result sounded so good that afterwards I made up a pair for myself and used them for years. (Later, moving my equipment to another cabinet necessitated longer cables, and by then I couldn't remember the Belden cable number or the name of the guy who built them, so I went with a good, popular cable brand of the day.)

Whatever, here's the thing: Some years after that, I wrote up the story of the shoot-out for a magazine I worked for at the time, telling the story pretty much as I explained it above. In the next issue, a colleague took me to task. The fellow writer said, basically, that all of us at the shoot-out were wrong, that we must have all been hallucinating, that there were absolutely no differences in the sound of one cable and another, that a cable was a cable, and that we were all hearing things. Yes, people get awfully worked up about interconnect cables, taking sides as though hi-fi were politics or religion. Or something really important like Star Wars movies.

Still, I heard what I heard that night, and so did twelve or so other people. As a result, I have tried to keep an open mind about the subject ever since. And, thus, we come to the present comparison, started more out of curiosity than anything else.

I decided after all these years to try out new connecting cables between my main CD player and my preamp. I wasn't about to attempt a full-blown cable shoot-out (which I would never have been able to do anyway, the logistics being darned near impossible). I just wanted to see if a modern interconnect of good repute would sound better than the good (and best-selling brand) I had used for years. I also realized there were hundreds of companies making "audiophile" cables, with each company making a host of different models. No shoot-out could possibly be comprehensive. So, I started by researching what other people knowledgeable on the subject had said, and found the Ecosse company of Scotland showing up strongly in various on-line comparison tests, as well as winning some major hi-fi awards. Since I had never heard of Ecosse before, I figured I would have no preconceptions about them. I contacted Elliot Davis, founder of Ecosse Cables, and he graciously agreed to send out a pair of his Maestro MA2's for listening.

Next, how to test them. The longer and best way to test any piece of new hardware is to install in your system and live with it for a week or two. Then take it back out and listen to your old component again. The quicker way, however, is to arrange an A-B test against your old equipment for instant comparison. I decided to do both.

Fortuitously, my main CD player, a Sony XA20ES, has two identical outputs. By connecting them to two different inputs on my preamp, I was able to use the preamp as a switch box for easy comparisons. Of course, I first had to make certain that both CD outputs were, indeed, identical. So, before connecting the Ecosse cables, I connected the second CD output to the preamp with a cable (that I had stored in the garage) exactly the same as the old one. Then I put on several recordings (including one of pink noise) and alternated between the two identical older cables, using a sound meter to be sure they were outputting the same volume and listening to be sure they sounded alike. Having satisfied myself that the two CD outputs were the same, I connected the new Ecosse cables next to my old ones and started the comparison. After an evening of A-B comparing using a variety of discs (and utilizing the talents of a very patient and understanding wife clicking back and forth at the preamp), I prepared for the long haul of listening to the Ecosse product by itself for a week or more.

Elliot Davis
Some of the discs I used during the testing included the classical: Debussy: Orchestral Music (Haitink, Concertgebouw Orchestra. Philips); Handel: Messiah (Ohrwall, Members of the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra. FIM/Proprius); Haydn: Baryton Divertimenti (The Esterhazy Machine. Smithsonian. FoM); Holst: The Planets (Previn, London Symphony Orchestra. Hi-Q Records/EMI); Mozart: Three Divertimenti for Strings (Marriner, Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields. FIM/Philips); Mozart: Violin Concertos Nos. 1, 2 & 4 (Mutter, LPO. JVC XRCD/DG); Rachmaninov: Symphonic Dances (Oue, Minnesota Orchestra. Reference Recordings); and Stravinsky: L'Histoire du Soldat (Ars Nova. HDTT/Westminster). Plus, an assortment of pop discs: Basie Jam (Analogue Productions gold/Pablo); Creedence Clearwater Chronicle (Fantasy gold); Jazz (Ry Cooder. Warner Bros.); Jazz at the Pawnshop (Arne Domnerus. FIM/Proprius); River Road (Eric Bibb and Bert Deivert, Opus 3); Slowhand (Eric Clapton. Mobile Fidelity gold/Polydor); Tango Tango (Viveza. Master Music XRCD); and Touch (John Klemmer. Mobile Fidelity gold/ABC/MCA).

Finally, to the point, how did the Ecosse cables sound compared to my old (and very popular) cables? In a word, better.

But I know what you want me to say, what you probably expect me to say: that it was an open-and-shut case, a matter of night and day. It wasn't. It was more like a matter of twilight and day. The differences were there for one to hear, but they were often subtle. Remember, I was comparing the Ecosse cables to a pair of very good cables; I wouldn't have lived with the old ones for as long as I did if they weren't pretty good.

With the Ecosse cables the width of the sound stage seemed about the same, yet there was a slightly greater sense of air around the instruments that made the recording hall or studio ambience all the more pronounced. Highs appeared a bit more extended with the Ecosse product, too, clearer and cleaner, with better sheen. Bass seemed almost the same, if a degree tauter, better defined, with the Ecosse product.

Midrange transparency was where I found differences most noticeable. Voices, for instance, sounded a degree better focused with the Ecosse cables, and all-around transparency was a tad more pleasing. The effect in listening to the old cables was something akin to putting one's hands lightly over one's ears. The differences were not dramatic, but they were discernible under almost all conditions and with almost every disc I put on. The battle for overall detail and clarity kept favoring the Ecosse product, my old cables sounding somewhat duller and more veiled by comparison. Differences in transient response and impact were harder to detect, though. Here, the slender variations I heard could have been the result of the Ecosse's better clarity. Who knows.

In all, the Ecosse Maestro MA2's seemed to do a better job than my old cables, producing a touch fuller, smoother, more lucid sound. Yet, as I say, it wasn't night-and-day for me, and without the benefit of the initial period of A-B testing, I'm not entirely sure I would have noticed the differences at all. Nor am I sure everyone would benefit from upgrading to Ecosse or any other new cables, depending on one's equipment, one's hearing, and one's interest in the whole subject.

Nevertheless, if you are still using the cheap cables that came with your system when you bought it, or if you're just of a mind to experiment, I doubt you could do any better than to try out one of Ecosse's full line of cables. Their prices start at the more-affordable level (under $100 a pair) and go up to over $2,000 a pair; you have a full slate to choose from. (The Maestros I sampled were a little over $200 a pair at the dealers I checked.)

Anyway, maybe Ecosse's Web site would provide better answers than I can give, and the site can also show you the differences among their various products: http://www.ecossecables.co.uk/

Happy listening.

JJP

John J. Puccio

John J. Puccio

About the Author

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.

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.

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

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa