Leo Sowerby: The Paul Whiteman Commissions (CD review)

Andy Baker Orchestra; Avalon String Quartet. Cedille CDR 90000 205.

By John J. Puccio

Jazz bandleader Paul Whiteman’s greatest contributions to music were probably his commissions, like George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue and Ferde Grofe’s Grand Canyon Suite, which he premiered with his band. However, these were not the only works he requested, and on the present disc we get two scores he commissioned from American composer Leo Sowerby (1895-1968), as well as three other Sowerby pieces, which are here rendered as closely as possible to their original versions by the Andy Baker Orchestra and by the Avalon String Quartet.

First up on the program is Synconata, a work Whiteman debuted in 1924. In offering the commission to Sowerby, Whiteman requested something that would incorporate the typical American idioms of jazz, gospel, and folk in an orchestral setting and fit into what the bandleader called his “Revolutionary Concerts.” Because Sowerby never published a definitive edition of this work and several of the others, the disc rightfully calls the present arrangements world-premiere recordings.

There’s a good deal of jazz in Synconata, probably more so than we find in Gershwin, yet it all works in fine, high fashion. There is nothing gaudy, tacky, or showy about the music; it’s just a good combination of classical jazz and jazzy classical, with a profoundly rhythmic forward pulse. The band plays it with zeal and provides it with all the color it deserves.

The other Whiteman commission is Symphony for Jazz Orchestra (“Monotony”), which followed Synconata in 1925. It’s subtitled “A Symphony for Metronome and Jazz Orchestra,” a description that pretty well describes its four movements. As befitting the symmetry of the album, it closes the show. This one is more symphonic in structure than Synconato and appears to borrow a tad more from Gershwin. Moreover, this time out Sowerby is more whimsical than before, as well as more melodious. The ragtime element isn’t quite as prominent but the 1920s’ jazz element is. While the piece may be a little too long for its material, it is certainly fun stuff and infectious. It’s almost impossible not to smile and enjoy it.

In between the Whiteman commissions on the disc there are three Sowerby chamber works. The first is the Serenade in G Major for String Quartet from 1917, one of the composer’s first important pieces. It is here ably performed by the Avalon String Quartet. One can see why Whiteman a little later wanted Sowerby to write something specifically for him. The Serenade is not a serenade in the strictest sense, but it does impart a strong classical sense, along with a snappy vigor.

After that we hear the String Quartet in D minor (1923) with the Avalon Quartet and Tramping Tune for Piano and Strings (1917) with pianist Winston Choi, double-bassist Alexander Hanna, and the Avalon players. The D minor Quartet is a bit more serious than the earlier Serenade and considerably longer, placing it more strongly in the traditional classical genre. However, as it goes along, it opens up to a fluent, springy gait and a generally warm, affable cheerfulness. The little Tramping Tune is obviously a nod to World War I and marches along in hearty fashion.

Producer James Ginsburg and engineer Bill Maylone recorded the music at Kennedy-King College, Chicago, Illinois in January 2020 and at Boutell Memorial Concert Hall, Northern Illinois University, DeKalb, Illinois in January 2021. Cedille’s crackerjack team produces a sound that is the cat’s meow. It’s a snazzy combination of transparency, dynamics, ambience, air, wide frequency response, and naturalness. In other words, it’s a doozy and could hardly be better. Zowie!


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

Classical Music News of the Week, September 25, 2021

New York Festival of Song Presents 2021 NYFOS Next Festival

New York Festival of Song (NYFOS), led by Artistic Director Steven Blier, is presenting the 2021 NYFOS Next Festival with two concerts held at the Ann Goodman Recital Hall at Kaufman Music Center.

On Friday, October 22, 2021 at 7:00pm, the festival kicks off with 9 UNDER 34: Composers Younger Than NYFOS, co-curated by baritone Gregory Feldmann. The evening will feature works by composers born after NYFOS’s first program was presented, performed by baritone Gregory Feldmann and mezzo-soprano and 2021 Naumberg Award winner Erin Wagner, together with pianists Nathaniel LaNasa and Shawn Chang and cellist Thapelo Masita. Works include songs by Jake Landau, Sato Matsui, Shawn Chang, Iván Enrique Rodríguez, David Clay Mettens, Emily Cooley, Tariq al-Sabir, Curtis Stewart, and Molly Joyce.

Co-curator Feldmann says about the 9 UNDER 34 program, “In building this program, I hoped to present composers from a wide array of backgrounds and demographics that were writing songs about what mattered to them. The final result has had several themes emerge that, while not unique to our generation, are absolutely core conversations of today: Identity, the shifting social and environmental landscape, and our ability to communicate and connect within these new landscapes. The songs feature texts ranging from 19th century Scotland, to the lesser known words of Francis Scott Key, to nonverbal individuals with autism in Chicago, to personal reflections.”

For complete details, visit http://nyfos.org/21-22season/#next

--Katlyn Morahan, Morahan Arts and Media

Sphinx Virtuosi to Perform “Tracing Visions”
The Sphinx Virtuosi--a professional chamber orchestra comprising 18 of the nation's top Black and Latinx classical soloists--will return to live performances with a nine-city tour this fall. Featuring works by Jessie Montgomery, Xavier Foley, Andrea Casarrubios, and more, the tour program, “Tracing Visions,” sets out to challenge and evolve the classical canon with music that celebrates the rich history of America as a place where differences can be overcome and diverse communities can unite under a shared identity. The Sphinx Virtuosi is part of the Sphinx Organization, the social justice organization dedicated to transforming lives through the power of diversity in the arts.

For details, visit https://www.sphinxmusic.org/

--Jennifer Scott, Shuman Associates

Semyon Bychkov & Czech Philharmonic launch 126th Season
Welcoming back audiences to Prague’s Rudolfinum on 29 September, the Czech Philharmonic launches its 126th season with Chief Conductor and Music Director Semyon Bychkov marking the start of his fourth year at the helm of the Orchestra. The season opens with Shostakovich’s Leningrad Symphony, a work that has a deep significance for Bychkov who was born in Leningrad and whose mother lived through the 900 days of the siege which was still ravaging Leningrad when the second performance of the work was given in the city.

Recorded and broadcast by the Czech Philharmonic’s own state-of-the-art producing house Czech Phil Media, the first performance on 29 September can be enjoyed live by national audiences on Czech TV (available thereafter for 7 days on Czech TV’s iVysilani web player). International subscribers to takt1 can watch the live stream of the second performance on 30 September: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCvuA8MvpZZ3TByy1HrwYJ0g

--Moë Faulkner, Macbeth Media Relations

Greek National Opera Announces Fall 2021 Season
The Greek National Opera (GNO) today announced the programming for its fall 2021 season, which runs from October through December and marks the company’s return to indoor performance at the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center (SNFCC). Featuring opera, ballet, dance, and concert performances, much of the fall lineup is dedicated to celebrating 200 years since the Greek revolution began. The fall program is made possible by a grant from the Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF) to enhance the Greek National Opera’s artistic outreach and also to create a tribute to the 2021 bicentennial of the Greek Revolution.

For details, visit https://www.nationalopera.gr/en/

--Jennifer Scott, Shuman Associates

Tickets for “Tableau” Are Selling
SOLI Chamber Ensemble has carefully crafted evenings to include voices of distinct compositional colors: each voice and concert contributing equally to a season that is one color wheel - not complete without each integral hue. Season tickets are now available and include all concerts listed above.

For information and tickets, visit https://www.solichamberensemble.com/tickets/?mc_cid=fb2c1b7348&mc_eid=a39b63e6bd

--SOLI Chamber Ensemble

Death of Classical Presents Ulysses Quartet
Death of Classical will continue its third season of The Angel’s Share, with the Ulysses Quartet performing in the Catacombs of The Green-Wood Cemetery on October 6, 7, and 8, with two performances per night. The quartet will perform a program of works reflecting on the beauty and brevity of human life, with Osvaldo Golijov’s Tenebrae followed by Schubert’s String Quartet no. 14, “Death and the Maiden.”

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

--Andrew Ousley, Unison Media

JoAnn Falletta Returns to Live Concerts, Recording and Celebrations
Multiple Grammy Award-winning conductor JoAnn Falletta is delighted to be once again performing for live audiences, recording and celebrating career achievements with fellow musicians and friends.

On September 14,  Falletta led the National Symphony Orchestra (NSO) at The Kennedy Center's 50th Anniversary Celebration Concert, which will be broadcast nationwide on October 1 at 9pm EST as “The Kennedy Center at 50” on PBS, PBS.org, and the PBS video app. Earlier this summer, JoAnn conducted Wolf Trap's 50th anniversary concert, made her debut at the Sunflower Music Festival featuring women composers, conducted her Covid-delayed farewell concert in Virginia, led an all-star performance and Naxos recording of William Walton's Façade, accepted the Virginia Arts Festival's Ovation Award, and was finally able to celebrate her 2021 Grammy win with fellow awardee Adam Luebke for Richard Danielpour's choral masterpiece, The Passion of Yeshua.

More information on Maestro Falletta may be found at https://www.joannfalletta.com/

--Genevieve Spielberg Inc.

Wet Ink Ensemble Announces Fall Season
The Wet Ink Ensemble announces its fall 2021 lineup of concerts and inaugural Artist-in-Residence Program, featuring composer-performers Nick Dunston and Katherine Young, as well as new editions of the Wet Ink Archive, the ensemble’s artist-curated online journal of adventurous music.

Wet Ink’s fall concerts kick off with an appearance at the Ear Taxi Festival on Saturday, October 2, 2021 at 7:30pm. Held at the Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts in Chicago, the Wet Ink octet will perform four premieres, presented by the Chicago Center for Contemporary Composition in partnership with UChicago Presents. The program features the Chicago premiere of Ben LaMar Gay’s. Better Known, Still Lit, who joins Wet Ink on the cornet; the world premieres of new works by Ted Moore and Maria Kaoutzani; and the Chicago premiere of Alex Mincek’s So Many Ways.

For the complete schedule, details, and tickets, visit https://www.wetink.org/

--Katy Salomon, Morahan Arts and Media

EXO’s Season Kick-Off
Join Experiential Orchestra’s 2021-2022 season, Saturday, October 2nd, 8:00pm at the DiMenna Center for Classical Music, NYC.

Don't miss our first concert in nearly two years as we celebrate a powerful program of hope -
featuring two New York premieres by Julia Perry and works by Quinn Mason, Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, Margaret Bonds, William Grant Still, David Baker, Jessie Montgomery, Julia Perry, and Jessica Meyer.

Buy tickets and view full program details here: https://experientialorchestra.com/concerts

--James Blachly, Experiential Orchestra

2021 Primrose International Viola Competition
The Colburn School and the American Viola Society today announced the 24 live round competitors for the 2021 Primrose International Viola Competition. The 24 live round competitors were chosen from a pool of 103 applications received during the pre-screening round that closed in July 2021. The 2021 Primrose International Viola Competition takes place at the Colburn School, December 13-18, 2021.

The 24 live round competitors come from all over the world, representing 10 countries. The average age of participants is 23, with the youngest aged 18 and the oldest 29.

“After a prolonged period of closure, it is especially meaningful this year to be able to present, in-person, the Primrose International Viola Competition in collaboration with the American Viola Society,” said Colburn School President and CEO Sel Kardan. “As we prepare for the 16th international competition honoring the legacy of William Primrose, we look forward to hearing the next top soloists, chamber musicians, orchestral players, and pedagogues on campus. These talented young musicians are an inspiration and testament to perseverance during the challenging pandemic period, and this will undoubtedly be an uplifting week of music and celebration.”

For details, visit https://www.primrosecompetition.org/2021jury/

--Lisa Bellamore, Crescent Communications

Oratorio Society of New York Opens 21-22 Season
The Oratorio Society of New York (OSNY), led by Music Director Kent Tritle, presents the opening concert of its 2021-2022 season on Tuesday, November 9, 2021 at 7:30pm at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, its first performance for a live audience since March 2020. The concert showcases Britten’s sacred choral piece Festival Te Deum and the cantata “Rejoice in the Lamb”; Pärt’s Berliner Messe and Two Slavonic Psalms; and Gabrieli’s Jubilate Deo, Omnis Terra (A 8), with organist Raymond Nagem, and conducted by Kent Tritle, David Rosenmeyer, and William Janiszewski.

Additional concerts in OSNY’s 2021-22 season include: Handel’s Messiah on December 20, 2021 at 8pm in Stern Auditorium / Perelman Stage at Carnegie Hall featuring soprano Leslie Fagan, contralto Heather Petrie, tenor Joshua Blue, and baritone Sidney Outlaw; Bach’s Magnificat and Mozart’s Coronation Mass on March 8, 2022 at 7:30pm at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine featuring soprano Hyeyoung Moon, mezzo-soprano Jasmin White, tenor Patrick Bessenbacher, and bass-baritone William Socolof with the Orchestra of the Society; and Mendelssohn’s Elijah on May 9, 2022 at 8pm in Stern Auditorium / Perelman Stage at Carnegie Hall featuring soprano Susanna Phillips, tenor Isaiah Bell, baritone Justin Austin, and the Orchestra of the Society. (Mezzo-soprano to be determined.) The Oratorio Society of New York also hosts its 45th annual Lyndon Woodside Oratorio-Solo Competition on April 9, 2022 at 1:30pm in Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall.

For complete information, visit https://osny.org/

--Katlyn Morahan, Morahan Arts and Media

Princeton University Orchestra: Free Concerts
The Princeton University Orchestra, directed by Maestro Michael Pratt, will present their first live performances since the start of the pandemic on Friday & Saturday, October 8-9, at 7:30PM in Richardson Auditorium, Alexander Hall, Princeton, NJ.

The two concerts, free to all (tickets required), will feature two recent alumni: guest conductor Mariana Corichi Gómez (Class of 2021), and violinist Hana Mundiya (Class of 2020). The program, featuring works by Copland, Mozart, and Rimsky-Korsakov, will be performed without an intermission. All attendees will be required to be masked and fully-vaccinated against COVID-19.

For more information, visit https://music.princeton.edu/events/princeton-university-orchestra-peter-westergaard-memorial-concerts

--Dasha Koltunyuk, Princeton University Concerts

Fall 2021 Updates from Young People’s Chorus
Young People's Chorus of New York City has opened up its doors and we are thrilled to welcome back our choristers to their home away from home! It is magical to hear their beautiful voices and the sounds of laughter coming from our rehearsal studios as we kick off our exciting 2021-22 season.

Saturday, September 25th, YPC will be on stage in Central Park with Lang Lang at Global Citizen Live–a 24-hour live broadcast with events and performances happening around the world. The New York lineup includes Coldplay, Billie Eilish, Camila Cabello, Jennifer Lopez, Lizzo, Meek Mill, and Shawn Mendes, with special guest performances by Alessia Cara, Burna Boy, Cyndi Lauper, and Jon Batiste.

To learn more and watch, visit https://www.globalcitizen.org/en/live/

--Young People’s Chorus of New York City

International Contemporary Ensemble Announces New Ensemble Members
The International Contemporary Ensemble welcomes Matana Roberts and Fay Victor as new, permanent Ensemble members and Vimbayi Kaziboni as Artist-in-Residence for the 2021-22 season. As the Ensemble approaches its 20th year anniversary, Roberts, Victor, and Kaziboni will join and lead creative collaborations, as well as shape programming and policies in support of the organization’s overall mission to develop new work built on equity, belonging, and cultural responsiveness.

“Alongside growing our board of directors and staff, we are thrilled to welcome Matana, Fay, and Vimbayi as part of the International Contemporary Ensemble. They each have a collaborative history with the Ensemble that we are excited to grow and deepen together,” says Executive Director Jennifer Kessler.

Learn more: https://www.iceorg.org/

--Katy Salomon, Morahan Arts and Media

Novak: Piano Concerto (CD review)

Also, At Dusk; Toman and the Wood Nymph. Jan Bartos, piano; Jakub Hrusa, Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra. Supraphon SU-4284-2.

By Bill Heck

The title of this release,
Piano Concerto, Toman and the Wood Nymph, needs a little clarification. Yes, the first work on the disk is Novak’s one and only piano concerto, but that’s not the real highlight: the concerto is a very early work, enjoyable but not truly representative of the composer’s more mature style. Next, the second piece that you’ll hear is not in the title at all: a four-movement work for solo piano entitled At Dusk. Finally, the last work on the disk, Toman, not only is the featured item, but also the last composed. What doesn’t need clarification is that all three pieces are worth hearing and well-played to boot. (One might accuse Supraphon of burying the lede; as that last sentence shows, I won’t!)

With those clarifications out of the way, let’s turn to the question surely on the minds of many readers: just who was this Vitezslav Novak anyway? Although the list of classical music “headline” composers may not include many Czech names other than Dvorak, the next tier is surprisingly large: Smetana in the Romantic period, followed by more contemporary names like Janacek, Mahler (born in Bohemia), Suk, and Martinu. Novak, it turns out, is part of this latter group. In his day, he often was considered the natural musical heir to Dvorak: the latter’s star pupil, one of a small group of musical revolutionaries bent on casting off Germanic forms in order to develop a more nationalistic, truly Czech musical style. (In this they were perhaps following the better-known example of the earlier Russian “Mighty Five.”) Novak’s own style evolved from one recognizably like Dvorak’s – listen to the Piano Concerto on this disk for evidence – to a more contemporary (think sonorities more like Stravinsky than Dvorak) but still noticeably east European one. Yet somehow there was a missing spark, something that allowed Novak’s music to sink into obscurity while that of some of his contemporaries lived on. The liner notes for this release, along with the music, make the case that this obscurity is not deserved.

Turning to the music, the concerto opens dramatically in a minor key, and we immediately hear external influences that Novak incorporates: phrases vaguely reminiscent of Liszt and, a bit later, some that remind us of Mendelssohn. In the proceedings, a lively first theme is bandied about between the orchestra and piano and reiterated in suitably dramatic fashion by all. The piano settles in for some development, with varying tempos. Shortly, a gentle, pretty second theme emerges: a ray of sunlight through the clouds; the temperature rises again. All this goes on nicely, with a more than competent resolution.

The second movement, andante con sentimento, really is quite lovely. The piano plays quietly alone for the first two minutes of the movement, then the orchestra comes in as a partner in a duet, reminding me a bit of the slow movement of Brahms’s Second Piano Concerto. To be clear, that's meant as high praise.

As the second movement fades away, it is replaced immediately by a sprightly allegro. This last movement is the one that perhaps owes most to Dvorak, with harmonies that sound "Czech" to my untutored ear and using the rhythm of the furiant, a Czech dance. (That last bit is courtesy of the very informative liner notes that come with this release.)
Next up is At Dusk, a collection of four short pieces for solo piano totaling just over 10 minutes. Again, the word “charming” comes to mind: these are far more than filler for the album, very listenable pieces in their own right. They are mostly quiet and reflective, and clearly demonstrate the Novak had matured as a composer since writing the concerto.

The final work on the disk is a major one: Toman and the Wood Nymph, subtitled A Symphonic Poem After A Bohemian Legend For Large Orchestra. As many readers will know, fairies, sprites, and other magical beings, including nymphs, have been frequent subjects for more abstract musical pieces, particularly in the late romantic period, and this work is in that tradition. The gist of the poem on which the work is based, and which in turn is based on a German folktale, tells the story of a young man (Toman) who is betrayed by his lover, wanders into the forest, and makes the fatal mistake of yielding to the blandishments of a nymph. Along the way there are plenty of dramatic, even passionate moments as depicted in the music, a few passages of sprightly dance-like tunes, all interspersed with thoughts of longing and sorrow and even peace and hope, with some quite lovely passages in the latter vein. (Yes, it really is a tone poem.) As we approach the end, the music fades softly, only to shatter the calm spell with a final short burst of just a couple of notes.

Of course, these capsule descriptions can’t do the works here justice, or may even suggest that the music is trivial. Not so! Novak had earned his reputation back in the day, and we’re fortunate to have a chance to hear his work now.

As to the music-making, all involved seem intent on making the case that this music is worth hearing. The playing is thoughtful, dynamic, and technically secure. The Supraphon engineers are on the job as well, capturing a natural sound for both piano and orchestra. By the way, I noticed that the recording particularly highlights the lovely “woody” sounds of the orchestra’s string sections, a sound that reminds me of some other recordings of Czech orchestras. Quite nice.

To put all this in perspective, Novak is not going to replace Beethoven – nor Dvorak – in the pantheon of classical composers. But it would be a rather small and boring world that had room for only a handful of certified superheroes. Have a listen, I think you’ll like it.


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

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 Jon 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 both its equipment and recordings 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 they 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 Marantz CD 6007 and Onkyo CD 7030 CD players, Goldpoint SA4 “passive preamp,” Legacy Audio PowerBloc2 amplifier, and a pair of Legacy Audio Focus SE loudspeakers. 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 cell phone. 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.

William (Bill) Heck, Contributing Reviewer

Among my early childhood memories are those of listening to my mother playing records (some even 78 rpm ones!) of both classical music and jazz tunes. I suppose that her love of music was transmitted genetically, and my interest was sustained by years of playing in rock bands – until I realized that this was no way to make a living. The interest in classical music was rekindled in grad school when the university FM station serving as background music for studying happened to play the Brahms First Symphony. As the work came to an end, it struck me forcibly that this was the most beautiful thing I had ever heard, and from that point on, I never looked back. This revelation was to the detriment of my studies, as I subsequently spent way too much time simply listening, but music has remained a significant part of my life. These days, although I still can tell a trumpet from a bassoon and a quarter note from a treble clef, I have to admit that I remain a nonexpert. But I do love music in general and classical music in particular, and I enjoy sharing both information and opinions about it.

The audiophile bug bit about the same time that I returned to that classical music. I’ve gone through plenty of equipment, brands from Audio Research to Yamaha, and the best of it has opened new audio insights. Along the way, I reviewed components, and occasionally recordings, for The $ensible Sound magazine. Recently I’ve rebuilt--I prefer to say reinvigorated--my audio system, with a Sangean FM HD tuner and (for the moment) an ancient Toshiba multi-format disk player serving as a transport, both feeding a NAD C 658 streaming preamp/DAC, which in turn connects to a Legacy Powerbloc2 amplifier driving my trusty Waveform Mach Solo speakers, supplemented by a Hsu Research ULS 15 Mk II subwoofer.

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