Classical Music News of the Week, February 25, 2017

California Symphony 30th Anniversary Benefit Stars Anne Akiko Meyers

California Symphony and Music Director Donato Cabrera celebrate the Orchestra's 30th anniversary with "Symphony Surround," a special event and fundraiser Saturday, June 17, 2017 at the Blackhawk Auto Museum in Danville, California, with guest violinist Anne Akiko Meyers, who returns to perform with California Symphony for the first time since 2007. Meyers and the Orchestra will perform arrayed in a special configuration for this event, surrounding the guests seated on stage. The proceeds from Symphony Surround benefit the Orchestra's nationally-recognized education programs, including Sound Minds, Music in the Schools, and its Young American Composer-in-Residence program.

The Blackhawk Auto Museum will provide the unique environment for Symphony Surround, with pre-performance cocktails, hors d'oeuvres, and a three-course dinner catered by Scott's Restaurant (purchased separately), with an opportunity before the performance to admire privately-owned, one-of-a-kind classic cars and to bid on items in a silent auction to benefit the Orchestra's education programs. Dinner guests enjoy preferred seating on stage among the orchestra musicians for the three-course meal and performance with Meyers, valet parking, a welcome cocktail at 5 pm with Music Director Donato Cabrera, unlimited wine during dinner and a hosted bar all evening, special photo opportunities with musicians and the classic cars following the show, and early access to bid on auction items. Doors will open at 5:30 pm to all cocktail/performance ticket holders, who will have traditional theater-style seating. A live auction will also take place during the event.

The full Orchestra program opens with Attack Sustain Decay Release, written by Mason Bates, who was a Young American Composer-in-Residence with the California Symphony from 2007-2010. Anne Akiko Meyers joins the Orchestra for performances of Morricone's "Love Theme" from Cinema Paradiso; Gershwin's "Someone to Watch Over Me"; Piazzolla's "Oblivion," Gade's "Jealousie"; and Chaplin's "Smile." Meyers made her debut as soloist with the California Symphony in 1994. The principal musicians of the California Symphony, many of whom have been with the Orchestra since its inception thirty years ago, will perform in small chamber ensembles throughout the evening.

Tickets are $135 for cocktail/performance tickets, $500 for dinner/performance tickets, and from $5,000 to $30,000 to sponsor tables. Table tickets are available now by contacting California Symphony Executive Director Aubrey Bergauer at

Dinner/performance tickets and performance-only tickets are on sale at 925-280-2490 or

For more information, visit

--Jean Catino Shirk, Shirk Media

The Crypt Sessions Presents David Greilsammer's "Labyrinth"
The Crypt Sessions Season 2 continues on April 5, 2017 with Israeli pianist and conductor David Greilsammer giving the only North American performance of his acclaimed "Labyrinth" program. The performance centers around Leoš Janácek's haunting cycle "On An Overgrown Path," interspersed with works by C.P.E Bach, Mozart, and Jean-Féry Rebel, as well as the North American premiere of "Lost in the Labyrinth," by Israeli composer Ofer Pelz.

Says Greilsammer of the program: "Each one of us has been, at some point in life, lost, disoriented, or in search for a safe and luminous path. This feeling of disorientation, leading at times to inner chaos, can also serve as the force that will push us to begin the pursuit of new routes, new ideas, and new emotions. Walking through the daunting sounds of Janácek's music, and exploring the mysterious alleys of various enigmatic pieces from early baroque to our present days, I have decided to embark on a musical journey to the heart of a beautiful, abstract, and dazzling labyrinth."

For tickets and information, visit

--Andrew Ousley, Unison Media

Bang on a Can Marathon Celebrates 30 Years
Bang on a Can announces its 30th Anniversary Bang on a Can Marathon, presented for the first time at Brooklyn Museum on Saturday, May 6, 2017 from 2-10pm.

This incomparable super-mix of boundary-busting music from around the corner and around the world features eight hours of rare performances by some of the most innovative musicians of our time side-by-side with some of today's most pioneering young artists. The Marathon is part of "A Year of Yes: Reimagining Feminism" at the Brooklyn Museum, a yearlong project that celebrates the 10th anniversary of the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art through ten diverse exhibitions and an extensive calendar of related public programs. Bang on a Can Marathon artists include Meredith Monk, Julia Wolfe, Joan La Barbara, and many more.

Bang on a Can started as a one day Marathon concert thirty years ago on Mother's Day 1987 in a SoHo art gallery and has grown into a multi-faceted performing arts organization with a broad range of year-round international activities. The New York Times reports, "A quarter-century later their impact has been profound and pervasive. The current universe of do-it-yourself concert series, genre-flouting festivals, composer-owned record labels and amplified, electric-guitar-driven compositional idioms would probably not exist without their pioneering example. The Bang on a Can Marathon, the organization's sprawling, exuberant annual mixtape love letter to its many admirers, has been widely emulated…." The Village Voice recounted, "[one could] enjoy a world made a bit more habitable – something like an authentically felt home-- thanks to all manner of cultural practices that get dissed out in the mainstream."

For more information, call 718.852.7755 or visit

--Christina Jensen, Jensen Artists

West Edge Opera Announces Cast for 2017 Festival
February 7, 2017 – Under the artistic leadership of General Director Mark Streshinksy and Music Director Jonathan Khuner, West Edge Opera announces casting for its 2017 Festival, which takes place August 5 though August 20 at the abandoned train station in West Oakland at 16th and Wood.

Hamlet by Ambroise Thomas opens the Festival on Saturday, August 5 at 8 pm with repeat performances Sunday, August 13 at 3 pm and Saturday, August 19 at 1 pm.

Vicente Martín y Soler's The Chastity Tree, or L'arbore di Diana, opens Sunday, August 6 at 3 pm with repeat performances Saturday, August 12 at 1 pm and Saturday, August 19 at 8 pm.

 Libby Larsen's Frankenstein opens Saturday, August 12 at 8 pm with additional performances Thursday, August 17 at 7:30 pm and Sunday, August 20 at 3 pm.

The audience is invited to hear Mark Streshinsky lead pre-curtain talks approximately 45 minutes before each performance. Patrons will also be able to enjoy box meals from Berkeley's Poulet prior to each show, and food orders may be made either online at or by calling (510) 841-1903.

Complimentary beer and wine will also be available in the shaded Festival Pavilion, which will open to the public two hours before each performance. Guests are invited to attend a reception after each performance where they'll be able to meet the performers and artistic staff.

The abandoned train station in West Oakland has served as West Edge's Festival home for the past two years. Architect Jarvis Hunt designed the station, formally known as the 16th Street Station, in 1912. The Beaux-Arts building served as Oakland's primary train station until the 1989 earthquake, after which the tracks were moved to the other side of I-880 and the building was left to decay. The station remains one of Oakland's most significant historic landmarks.

Festival Subscriptions go on sale March 15, priced from $146 to $260. Single tickets go on sale June 1. Non-series limited view seats will be available one week prior to each performance at a price of $19. All tickets may be purchased online at or by calling (510) 841-1903.

For more information, visit

--Kate McKinney, West Edge Opera

California Symphony Announces Katherine Balch as New Young American Composer-in-Residence
California Symphony and Music Director Donato Cabrera announced today that Katherine Balch has been selected as the orchestra's new Young American Composer-in-Residence, for the three-year period from August 1, 2017 through July 31, 2020. The respected, intensely competitive Young American Composer-In-Residence program, launched in 1991, gives outstanding, emerging American composers a unique opportunity to write orchestral music while working with a professional orchestra and conductor.

Katherine Balch, 26, writes music that seeks to capture the intimate details of existence through sound. Often influenced by the extra-musical arts, literature, and philosophy, she pursues a heterogeneous yet formally cohesive aesthetic characterized by gestural lyricism. Her music has been commissioned and performed by the Albany Symphony Orchestra, the New York Youth Symphony, Ensemble Intercontemporain, International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE), Alea III, Antico Moderno, FLUX Quartet, New York Virtuoso Singers, Yale Philharmonia, American Modern Ensemble, wildUp and others in such venues as Carnegie Hall, Disney Hall and Wiener Konzerthaus. Performances in the 2016-17 season include those by Contemporaneous, Minnesota Orchestra (Minnesota Orchestra Institute), Albany Symphony Orchestra (American Music Festival), Tokyo Symphony Orchestra (Suntory Hall Summer Arts Festival), and violist Christophe Desjardins as a composer-in-residence with the MANCA festival in Nice, France.

For more information, visit

--Jean Catino Shirk, Shirk Media

Golden Gate Symphony Presents "Concert for Kids, Ages Eight to Eight Hundred"
The Golden Gate Symphony & Chorus presents a special performance for children and their families on Saturday, March 11 at St. Mark's Lutheran Church, San Francisco, "Concert for Kids, Ages Eight to Eight Hundred."

The program will feature a selection of chamber and orchestral works from the classical repertoire, Broadway and Hollywood, including the San Francisco premiere of Rain by 11-year-old Russian composer and cellist Illarion Gershkovich. Gershkovich features as soloist for his own work in addition to Saint-Saëns's Allegro Appasionato for cello and piano. The Golden Gate Symphony also welcomes a first-time collaboration with "The Spring Choir," a Chinese children's chorus from Pleasanton led by conductor Wenbo Deng, who will present a selection of folks songs from around the world. Rounding out the program is a performance of Chopin's Grand Polonaise Brilliante by Bay Area pianist Allison Lovejoy. Tickets begin at $15 with free admission for children under the age of 12.

For more information, visit

--Brenden Guy

Salon/Sanctuary Concerts Presents "Crepuscolo Götterdämmerung"
Monday, March 13, 8:00 PM

The Abigail Adams Smith Auditorium
417 East 61st, NYC

Tickets are priced at $20/$30/$50/$100.
To reserve call 1 888 718 4253 or go to

In 1797 the walls of the Venetian Ghetto came tumbling down on orders of Napoleon. Bonaparte's favorite composer, Domenico Maria Puccini, the grandfather of Giacomo and Mozart's contemporary, receives an American premiere of his precociously bel canto Sei Canzonette. His Czech coeval, Jan Ladislav Dussek, looks back rather than forward, penning a pianistic ode to a decapitated French Queen in The Sufferings of the Queen of France.

The Meyerbeer Hirtenlied and Weber Opus 33 Silvana Variations for clarinet and fortepiano paint a bucolic idyll, while a proto-Wagnerian song cycle by Louis Spohr caps off a program that stands on the ruins of the ghetto, looking forward into a Brave New World of dubious liberation.

This program was premiered in 2016 at the Accademia Cristofori in Florence, Italy.

--Salon/Sanctuary Concerts

American Bach Soloists 2017 Festival
Tickets for the 8th annual American Bach Soloists Festival & Academy—San Francisco's Summer Bach Festival—are now on sale. Titled "English Majesty," the 2017 Festival will feature concerts, lectures, and colloquia that extol the masterful achievements of London's most celebrated Baroque composers.

Along with a commemoration of the famous performance of Handel's Water Music on the Thames 300 years ago in 1717, Artistic & Music Director Jeffrey Thomas will lead the ABS Festival Orchestra in two delightful performances of Purcell's King Arthur and two performances of Bach's Mass in B Minor. Additionally, the "period style all-stars" (San Francisco Examiner) of ABS will offer "Bach & Sons," a program that honors J.S. Bach and his most illustrious composer offspring, and the Academy Faculty, a distinguished roster of performers, will offer "Orpheus in Britannia" featuring works by some of the greatest composers of the English Baroque.

Single tickets $30–$95
Purchasers of all 5 Festival productions receive a 15% subscribers discount.
For more information, call 415-621-7900 or visit or

--American Bach Soloists

Nashville Symphony Call for Submissions for Composer Lab and Workshop
Now through April 13, the Nashville Symphony is accepting submissions for the second round of its Composer Lab & Workshop, an initiative created to discover and nurture the next generation of outstanding American composers.

The Composer Lab & Workshop was developed and guided by Nashville Symphony Music Director Giancarlo Guerrero and Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Aaron Jay Kernis, who serves as Workshop Director and Chairman of the Selection Panel. The program aims to provide young composers with the opportunity to develop their talents, gain hands-on experience working with a major American orchestra, and showcase their work for local audiences. The Workshop & Lab is an outgrowth of the Nashville Symphony's longstanding commitment to promoting and cultivating American music.

Selected participants will have the opportunity to hear their music performed by the Nashville Symphony, receive mentoring and feedback from orchestra professionals, and potentially earn a performance of their work on the Nashville Symphony's 2018/19 Classical Series.

More information on the Nashville Symphony's Composer Lab & Workshop, including a full listing of submission guidelines and eligibility requirements, is available at

--Rebecca Davis Public Relations

Gramophone Award-Winning Duo Iestyn Davies and Jonathan Cohen
The conductor and countertenor join Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra March 1-5.

The countertenor voice allows modern audiences to experience the tone and agility of Baroque's leading opera roles originally written for castrati. Countertenor Iestyn Davies and conductor Jonathan Cohen are masters of this thrilling repertoire. Hear them perform stunning works from their 2012 Gramophone award-winning recording Arias for Guadagni accompanied by America's leading period instrument orchestra when they join PBO in March.

Wednesday March 1 @ 7:30 PM
Bing Concert Hall, Stanford, CA

Friday March 3 @ 8:00 PM
Herbst Theatre, San Francisco, CA

Saturday March 4 @ 8:00 PM
First Presbyterian Church, Berkeley, CA

Sunday March 5 @ 4:00 PM
Lafayette-Orinda Presbyterian Church, Lafayette, CA

For more information and tickets, visit

--Dianne Provenzano, PBO

Janoska Ensemble Embarks on First US Tour and Debut CD
The Janoska Ensemble has created an unmistakably unique style. Performing together since childhood, the four musicians are sixth generation classically trained family members with a sound that Andreas Großbauer, chairman of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, describes as "made up of great virtuosity, a literally inexhaustible wealth of musical ideas and bewitchingly mellow sonorities…. A true feast for the ears!"

Founded in 2013, the ensemble has quickly become a force in the music world with its profoundly personal vision that explores a vast range of works, from the classical repertoire to original compositions and completely idiosyncratic arrangements informed by jazz, pop and world music.

In March, the acclaimed ensemble embarks on its first U.S. multi-city tour with stops in New York, Miami and San Antonio, among other locales. They will perform a program based on their debut album "Janoska Style," being released in the U.S. on March 10 by Deutsche Grammophon.

As soloists and performers with numerous orchestras and ensembles, they have amassed impressive resumes, appearing with the likes of the Vienna State Opera Orchestra/Vienna Philharmonic, Vienna Art Orchestra, Anna Netrebko, the Roby Lakatos Ensemble, Michel Camilo, Julian Rachlin, and B.B. King, to name but a few.

Sample performance:


--Diane Blackman, BR Public Relations

Respighi: Feste romane and Pini di Roma (CD review)

Also, Rimsky-Korsakov: Le Coq d'or, suite. Lorin Maazel, the Cleveland Orchestra. Decca Legends 289 466 993-2.

Let's ignore for the time being the Roman Festivals, which are mostly noisy and bombastic, and concentrate on the late Maestro Lorin Maazel's interpretation of the Pines of Rome. It is among the best available.

Recorded in 1976, Maazel's performance is colorful, sometimes splashy, sometimes subtle, always vivid, and picturesque, everything you'd want from these miniature tone paintings. Maazel's rendering of them doesn't, perhaps, convey quite the individual expression of Fritz Reiner's classic set (RCA "Living Stereo" or the JVC XRCD remastering), but they come close. More important, they culminate in one of the best, most exciting versions of "The Pines of the Appian Way" you'll find. We hear the Roman legions first, of course, from a distance, their march coming closer and closer, sounding all the more ominous as they approach. When they reach our vantage point, the effect is staggering, especially if you have a good subwoofer.

Lorin Maazel
Paired with the two Respighi works we find an agreeably colorful reading of Rimsky-Korsakov's suite from Le Coq d'r, (The Golden Cockerel). It may not be the most exciting rendition around, but it does provide an all-around pleasant listening experience. The Cleveland Orchestra play terrifically well for Maazel, with plenty of professional enthusiasm evident.

Decca's 1976 sound for the Cleveland Orchestra didn't always impress me as much as Columbia's (Sony's) did in the old Szell days, but this transitional recording, remastered in Decca's "Legends" series in 2000 radiates much the same energy and presence. There is a decent orchestral perspective, decent front-to-back dimension, some small smothering of the mid frequencies, and tremendous bass.

Yes, tremendous bass, important in numbers like the aforementioned "Appian Way," as well as in the "Catacombs" and the "Epiphany" from Feste romane. Remastered in 96kHz, 24-bit digital sound in Decca's "Legends" series, the audio is perhaps a hair smoother and more transparent than it was in their older Ovation line, to which I compared it. And I much prefer the new coupling to that of the previous coupling, too.


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

Saint-Saens, Ravel, Gershwin: Piano Concertos (CD review)

Andrew von Oeyen, piano; Emmanuel Villaume, PKF-Prague Philharmonia. Warner Classics 01 90295 90848 5.

The first question you might ask about this album is why it contains such seemingly disparate composers as Saint-Saens, Ravel, and Gershwin on the same program. The answer, of course, is that the agenda is not so unusual as you might think. Not only did all three men write piano concertos, but they all in some way or another influenced each another. In particular, Saint-Saens influenced Ravel, and Ravel and Gershwin influenced the other. Besides, the soloist for the album, Andrew von Oeyen, is an American now living in Paris, who says he has fallen in love with French music. Fair enough.

The second question you might ask is, Who is Andrew von Oeyen? He's an American concert pianist, born in 1979, who here makes his piano-and-orchestra debut recording after releasing several solo discs. He began playing the piano at age five and made his first stage appearance at age ten. By age sixteen he was playing with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and after further studies at Juilliard and Columbia University and wins in several important piano competitions, his career was well on its way. The present disc marks his first release for Warner Classics, with accompaniment by Emmanuel Villaume and the PKF-Prague Philharmonia.

The opening piece on the program is the Piano Concerto No. 2 in G minor, Op. 22, by the French composer Camille Saint-Saens (1835-1921). He wrote it in 1868, and it remains among the most-popular of his five piano concertos. Oddly for a modern concerto, Saint-Saens begins his work with a relatively slow movement, followed by a faster second movement that resembles a scherzo, and finishes with a very quick Presto. These mercurial tempo changes prompted the Polish pianist and composer Zygmunt Stojowski to joke that the piece "begins with Bach and ends with Offenbach."

There is no doubting von Oeyen's intensity from the start as he gives every indication that he wants to get our attention. He varies the contrasts about as much as I've ever heard, making the opening movement more balky than ever. Which is neither here nor there; just more emphatic. The second movement is cheerful and bouncy enough, and if anything the orchestra carries it though as much as Mr. von Oeyen. Then in the finale, von Oeyen goes full bore with an all-out assault on the score, sounding exciting enough if a bit too studied for my taste.

Andrew von Oeyen
Next, we hear the Piano Concerto in G Major by French composer Maurice Ravel (1875-1937). He wrote it between 1929 and 1931 after a concert tour of the United States. Its most notable feature is the use of American jazz idioms, which Ravel probably picked up from Gershwin, whose Rhapsody in Blue appeared several years earlier.

I rather enjoyed von Oeyen's Ravel more than his Saint-Saens, which tended toward a want of charm. Maybe it's the combination of American and French expressive styles that suits the pianist. Still, when one has spent years as I have listening to Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli (EMI/Warner) play the piece, it's hard to find comfort in anyone else's interpretation. By comparison, von Oeyen never quite displays the imagination or creates the atmosphere that Michelangeli does. Nevertheless, my own quibbles should not distract the listener from enjoying von Oeyen's approach, which is more straightforward yet still jazzy enough to satisfy almost anyone. Additionally, von Oeyen offers us a particularly sensitive slow movement that in itself may be enough to sell the disc.

After that we find the Second Rhapsody by American composer George Gershwin (1898-1937). Here, some folks might quibble about whether the piece is a real piano concerto at all, but I would remind them that by definition a modern concerto is "a composition for orchestra and a solo instrument" (Harvard Concise Dictionary of Music). Gershwin's Second Rhapsody fits the bill. He wrote it for the 1931 Hollywood movie Delicious, on which both he and his brother Ira worked. Initially, Gershwin (and/or the studio) called this particular musical sequence Manhattan Rhapsody, New York Rhapsody, and Rhapsody in Rivets. Shortly afterwards, Gershwin more fully orchestrated it for concert use, titling it the Second Rhapsody. Although other people later reorchestrated the music (most notably Robert McBride some fourteen years after the composer's death), Mr. von Oeyen here plays the original 1931 version.

Following the pattern of getting better as we go along on the disc, Von Oeyen does a splendid job conveying the hustle and bustle of Gershwin's big city. His virtuosity seems always at the service of the music rather than simply drawing attention to itself. What's more, Maestro's Villaume's orchestral accompaniment keeps the rhythms on track and the musical impulses moving forward in suitable agreement. There are no awkward convolutions here, just a polished and stimulating tone picture.

The program concludes with a "bonus track": the Meditation from Jules Massenet's Thais, transcribed for solo piano by Mr. von Oeyen and bringing the total recorded music on the disc to over sixty-six minutes. For me, this was the highlight of the album, a hushed and heartfelt rendition that never lapses into teary-eyed mawkishness.

Producer and editor Christopher Alder and engineer Jakub Hadraba recorded the album at Studio 1, Czech Radio, Prague, Czech Republic in August 2015. The piano sounds solid and well placed from the start, if a mite wide, and the tone rings true. When the orchestra enters in the first movement of the Saint-Saens, it appears dynamic, full, and resonant, if not particularly deep or transparent. While strings sound a touch shrill and fuzzy at times, the overall effect is one of soft warmth rather than forward  brightness (or ultimate clarity).


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

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

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