Classical Music News of the Week, March 24, 2018

Bach Week Festival for 2018

The Bach Week Festival has announced its 45th annual program of concerts in Evanston, Illinois, April 27 and 29 and Chicago, IL May 4, featuring new twists on presenting music by the event's namesake, German Baroque composer Johann Sebastian Bach.

"Each season, we go 'Bach' to the drawing board to keep the festival fresh while remaining true to our mission," says Richard Webster, Bach Week's long-time music director and conductor. Webster performed in and helped organize Evanston's inaugural Bach Week in 1974 and has been music director since 1975.

The 45th annual concert series will feature the world premiere of Marcos Balter's new Bach-inspired work for solo cello, pianist Sergei Babayan in a Bach concerto and solo works, and the festival's first performance of Bach's Cantata 191.

Single-admission tickets to each of the three main concerts are $30 for adults, $20 seniors, $10 students. Subscriptions to the main concerts are $80 for adults, $50 for seniors, and $20 for students. All tickets for the April 27 Candlelight Concert are $20. Tickets can be purchased online at or by phone, (800) 838-3006. For general festival information, phone 847-269-9050 or email

For complete information, visit

--Nathan J. Silverman Company

West Edge Opera Announces 2018 Summer Festival
West Edge Opera announces its 2018 summer festival venue, casting and program, which includes Debussy's Pélleas and Mélisande, Luca Francesconi's Quartett, and Matt Marks's Mata Hari. The artists include soprano Heather Buck, baritones Hadleigh Adams and Efrain Solis, actress Tina Mitchell, directors Elkhanah Pulitzer, Keturah Stickan and Paul Peers, conductors John Kennedy, Jonathan Khuner and Emily Senturia.

The West Edge Festival 2018 opens August 4 and closes August 19. This year's venue is The Craneway Conference Center, a former Ford assembly plant on the Richmond, CA waterfront. Series tickets go on sale April 1 with a significant reduction in the price of general admission tickets. Single tickets go on sale June 1.

For complete information, call 510-841-1903 or visit

--Adam Flowers, West Edge Opera

Vienna Philharmonic and IDAGIO Announce Partnership
The Vienna Philharmonic and classical music streaming service IDAGIO announce an important new partnership today.

Classical music lovers can now audio-stream live recordings of the Vienna Philharmonic's famous subscription concerts at the Vienna Musikverein on IDAGIO. First in this series of exclusive recordings to be made available on the streaming service features Christian Thielemann conducting the farewell concert of Dieter Flury, the orchestra's principal flute from 1981 to 2017. The programme includes Brahms's Fourth Symphony and Jörg Widmann's "Flûte en suite".

The partnership also encompasses joint marketing activities, including a series of short films, "Up Close," in which members of the Vienna Philharmonic answer one simple questions: "Which recording should we listen to and why?" You can watch the first in this revealing series of exclusive videos here:

--Elias Wuermeling, IDAGIO PR

MasterVoices Presents New Production of Orphic Moments at JALC Rose Theater
MasterVoices--dedicated to celebrating the power of the human voice through the art of musical storytelling--presents two performances of a new production of Orphic Moments, in conjunction with producers Anthony Roth Costanzo and Cath Brittan.

The performances are Sunday, May 6, 2018 at 8:30 p.m. and Monday, May 7, 2018 at 7:00 p.m. at the Rose Theater at Jazz at Lincoln Center's Frederick P. Rose Hall, NYC. The inventive and contemporary pairing, which premiered at National Sawdust in 2016 to great acclaim, combines trailblazing composer and librettist Matthew Aucoin's dramatic cantata, The Orphic Moment, with Gluck's Orfeo ed Euridice, in a large-scale new version re-conceived for MasterVoices.

The production probes Orpheus's psychology, and his fatal decision to turn back. The traditional myth is viewed through the lens of artistic ego and hubris in moral choice. The production is conducted by Ted Sperling, directed by Zack Winokur, and has scenic design by Douglas Fitch. It features countertenor Anthony Roth Costanzo, sopranos Kiera Duffy and Lauren Snouffer, dancer Bobbi Jene Smith, violinist Keir GoGwilt, Orchestra of St. Luke's, and the MasterVoices Chorus.

Sunday, May 6 at 8:30 p.m.
Monday, May 7 at 7:00 p.m.
Rose Theater at Jazz at Lincoln Center's Frederick P. Rose Hall
10 Columbus Circle
New York, NY 10023

Tickets can be purchased at, by calling CenterCharge (212-721-6500) or by visiting the Jazz at Lincoln Center Box Office, within the Time Warner Center, at Broadway at 60th Street, Ground Floor Monday-Saturday 10am-6pm and Sunday 12pm-6pm.

--Katy Salomon, Morahan Arts and Media

ROCO Announces its 2018-19 Season
ROCO (River Oaks Chamber Orchestra) is excited to announce its 2018-19 season, entitled "Games People Play." The rollicking musical rumpus will include seven world premiere commissions – bringing the organization's total to an impressive 76 – and will reinforce ROCO's commitment to diversity by featuring a female composer, conductor, or soloist on every concert.

The In Concert performances feature pieces running the game-related gamut from a chess match between piano and orchestra, to a sonic simulacrum of solitaire, to an orchestral depiction of a Turkish wrestler. The delightfully unorthodox, musician-led Unchambered series continues to offer a new vision of how chamber music can uniquely connect performers and audiences – including a new piece entitled "Mind Games," where the audience votes with their phones during the performance and influences the direction of the piece.

The Connections series continues to take the music out of the concert hall and into new and unusual places, including a vintage game night at Rienzi, a larger-than-life version of musical chairs at The Heritage Society, and a performance of Peter and the Wolf at the Houston Zoo that swaps 'wolf' for 'bear' in celebration of the zoo's new ursine exhibit.

For more information go to

--Andrew Ousley, Unison Media

PBO Closes Season with a Beethovenian Bang
Waverley Fund Music Director Nicholas McGegan and Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra & Chorale are soon to cap off another season of historically informed performances with a powerful Beethoven program that includes the composer's monumental Mass in C major, Op. 86 and Fantasia in C minor, Op. 80 "Choral Fantasy" in concerts throughout the San Francisco Bay Area April 25-29.

The 2017/18 season finale entitled "Beethoven Unleashed" is inspired by Beethoven's epic Akademie concert of 1808, during which he premiered the Mass in C and "Choral Fantasy." PBO will also include Cherubini's poignant tribute to Haydn, "Chant sur la mort de Joseph Haydn."

For complete information, visit

--Dianne Provenzano, Philharmonia Baroque

Coming up in France à Cordes...
The 14th-century relocation of the papacy from Rome to Avignon provided ripe opportunity for both shock and satire. The Roman de Fauvel, an allegorical verse about an orange-hued donkey who becomes king, and whose marriage to Fortune results in the antichrist, is probably the best known work to come out of the tumult.

Basel-based virtuosa Corina Marti performs exquisite musical selections by Philippe de Vitry and others, Ars Nova tales that tell of calamity that ensues when a state loses its way and an ass takes the throne.

Sunday, April 8 at 4:00pm
L'Église Française du Saint Esprit
111 East 60th Street, NYC

Corina Marti, clavisymbalum, double flutes, and recorders

For more information and tickets, visit

--Salon/Sanctuary Concerts

San Francisco Girls Chorus Concludes Season with Jacobsen World Premiere
The San Francisco Girls Chorus and Artistic Director Designate Valérie Sainte-Agathe conclude the 2017-18 subscription season on Sunday, April 22, at 4 p.m. at the Forum at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco, in a program in collaboration with composer and violinist Colin Jacobsen.

Featuring the world premiere of Jacobsen's Vocalissimus, the program celebrates Lisa Bielawa's final concert as SFGC's Artistic Director with a musical amalgam of projects and partnerships created during her five seasons with the chorus. Selections from the ensemble's newly released album Final Answer are featured, including Opening: Forest from Bielawa's TV opera Vireo: The Spiritual Biography of a Witch's Accuser, Final Answer by Theo Bleckmann, Herring Run by Carla Kihlstedt, and Bubbles by Aleksandra Vrebalov. Also featured on the program are three hymns from The Crucible by Philip Glass and Septuor by French composer André Caplet.

For more information, visit

--Brenden Guy PR

ASPECT Foundation Presents "Weimar, The Cradle of Musical Talent"
The ASPECT Foundation for Music & Arts presents Weimar: The Cradle of Musical Talent on Thursday, April 19, 2018 at 7:30 p.m. at The Italian Academy at Columbia University, NYC, part of the foundation's second New York City season of illuminating performances featuring many of the most prominent performers and musical scholars of today.

The evening features celebrated pianist Vsevolod Dvorkin and 2007 International Tchaikovsky Competition Gold Medalist, cellist Sergey Antonon, in Bach's Cello Suite No.1 in G Major, Mendelssohn's Cello Sonata No. 2 in D Major, and Liszt's Piano Sonata in B Minor, paired with an illustrated talk by veteran BBC radio host and musicologist Stephen Johnson. Johnson will delve into the city of Weimar's significance during the twentieth century as a beacon of culture. This includes Bach's tenure as Weimar's court organist; twelve-year-old Mendelssohn's visit to the city, effectively making an impression on the writer Goethe; and Liszt's 1842 appointment as court composer. Alongside performances of some of these three composers finest instrumental works, this concert examines the Golden Age of a city that became a place of refuge during troubled times.

"Weimar: The Cradle of Musical Talent"
Thursday, April 19, 2018 at 7:30pm
The Italian Academy at Columbia University, 1161 Amsterdam Avenue, NYC
Tickets: $45 includes wine and refreshments

--Katy Salomon, Morahan Arts and Media

The Emerson String Quartet and Pianist Evgeny Kissin's First U.S. Tour
For the first time, Evgeny Kissin joins the Emerson String Quartet in chamber music for three performances in the U.S. at Chicago's Symphony Hall (April 15), Boston's Jordan Hall (April 22) and  New York's Carnegie Hall (April 27), following a European tour in Baden Baden, Paris, Munich, Essen, Vienna, Amsterdam. The program features Piano Quartets by Mozart and Fauré, and Dvorák's Piano Quintet No. 2 in A Major, Op. 81, a central masterwork of Romantic-era chamber music.

The Emerson Quartet & Evgeny Kissin talk about their first-time collaboration:

--Xi Wang, Kirshbaum Associates

Graupner: Two Overtures, G14 and D5 (CD review)

Also, Cantata for the Sixteenth Sunday after Trinity. Barbara Schlick, soprano; Hein Meens, tenor; Hermann Max, Das Kleine Konzert. CPO 999 592-2.

This is the kind of disc that would probably go by unnoticed by most classical record shoppers unless they had heard about it somewhere. Now you've heard about it. Johann Christoph Graupner (1683-1760) was a German Baroque composer with over 1,500 published works to his credit, yet hardly anyone recognizes his name anymore. He worked as Kapellmeister at the Hesse court in Darmstadt for almost fifty years, composing both secular and religious music, and he might have gotten the music director's post in Leipzig that went to J.S Bach instead had Graupner's patron allowed him leave.

Graupner was, in fact, one of the leading composers of his day, but his name and works fell into obscurity. According to what I've read, this obscurity is unfair: his heirs fought legal battles over his manuscripts, and he had very few pupils to carry on his work. So it's good that a label like CPO and artists like soprano Barbara Schlick,  tenor Hein Meens, conductor Hermann Max, and Das Kleine Konzert to honor him on occasion and keep his name alive.

Hermann Max
Appropriately, the disc offers two overtures (suites) with a cantata between them as representative of his output. There is nothing remarkable about any of the pieces that might describe him as a genius, but each work is highly likable and approachable. More important, Maestro Max and the small Das Kleine Konzert ensemble play each work with spirit and dignity, never overreaching their limits in headlong displays of period-instrument frenzy.

Executive producer Barbara Schwendowius and engineer Dietrich Wohlfromm recorded the overtures in 1996 and Ms. Schwendowius and engineer Hans Vieren recorded the cantata in 1983. They captured the results in wonderfully revealing and realistic sound, even though the overtures and the cantata were recorded some thirteen years apart. For a few listeners there may be too much sense of "space," too much ambient reflection in the setting, but it is a flattering acoustic that puts the group firmly in the stage picture and the listener firmly in the audience.

Graupner was an important composer, though now largely unknown; the performances are animated yet wholly earnest; the sound is natural and lifelike. It is a lovely album.


To listen to several brief excerpts from this album, click below:

Brahms: Piano Concerto No. 2 (CD review)

Also, Piano Sonata No. 1. Norman Krieger, piano; Philip Ryan Mann, London Symphony Orchestra. Decca DD41142 / 481 4871.

German composer Johannes Brahms (1833–97) wrote two piano concertos, the first one (1858) all rugged and craggy, and the second one over twenty years later (1881) more lyrical and poetic. As American pianist (and professor of music) Norman Krieger had already recorded an excellent version of the First Concerto, it came as no surprise that he would record the Second. And with the help of Maestro Philip Ryan Mann (Music Director of the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra) leading the London Symphony, Krieger does a splendid job with it.

Brahms's Piano Concerto No. 2 in B flat, Op. 83 became an immediate success from the very beginning, with the composer himself as the soloist, and he went on to perform the work all over Europe. Brahms wrote the piece in four movements rather than the traditional three, so it's a little longer than most concertos (I've read that Brahms included the extra movement, a scherzo, because he thought the opening movement sounded too plain and simple.) Still, he filled the work with so many memorable melodies and Krieger plays the whole thing so lovingly, the time flies by.

Krieger's playing is characterized not only by its technical virtuosity but by its clarity of expression. He exposes every note to the listener with extreme care, the pianism precisely executed. Yet he manages to maintain the poetry and lyricism of Brahms in the process. Certainly, Brahms didn't make it easy on the performer, though, and the concerto contains numerous difficult passages, which Krieger flies through with ease. His tone is big and robust, filled with energy and emotion, yet compassionate and yielding at the same time, qualities demanded of the Brahms.

Norman Krieger
After the relative calm of the first movement, Krieger plays the second-movement with the drama and passion it needs, yet without bombast, pretentiousness, or padding. Again, for Krieger, clarity dominates, although it is of the fervent kind. In the third movement, Krieger is careful not to upstage the lovely cello duet, and it comes off with a charming grace. Then, while the finale may not exhibit as much sheer joy and abandon as some other interpretations, it is exuberant and filled with an effortless good cheer.

Would I recommend Krieger's recording over some of my personal favorites from Stephen Kovacevich (Newton Classics), Emil Giles (DG), Maurizio Pollini (DG), or Sviatoslav Richter SO (RCA)? Probably not. As good as Krieger's version is, listeners may find it a tad too matter-of-fact compared to the others. Nonetheless, Krieger demonstrates much of the same combination of gusto and lyricism as the pianists mentioned and can walk in their company.

Accompanying the concerto, Krieger includes the Brahms Piano Sonata No. 1 in C, Op. 1 (1853), his first published work. Actually, he wrote his Second Sonata before it but wanted this one to be his first published because he liked it more. The opening Allegro is a kind of homage to Beethoven; the second movement is a theme and variations inspired by a song, which he would later rewrite for female chorus; the third movement is a scherzo; and the finale is a rondo, the theme recurring with noticeable changes. Krieger's reading is as skilled and heartfelt as any I've heard, so no complaints here.

Producer Richard Fine and engineer Wolf-Dieter Karwatky recorded the concerto at Abbey Road, Studio 1, London in September 2014 and the sonata at Jesus-Christus-Kirche, Berlin in August 2015. The London Symphony recording at Abbey Road: Who'da thunk? It must be like a second home for them.

Anyway, it's a fine-sounding recording. The sonics are round, warm, and natural, detailed but not at the expense of being hard or bright. The piano is a bit too close for my taste, but it's not right on top of the listener. The hall acoustics are moderately reflective, making the sound more realistic than analytical. Dynamics are acceptably wide and strong, but not grossly so; and the frequency response seems at least adequately extended. It makes for a pleasurable, easy-listening experience.


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

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

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"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa