Piano Potpourri, No. 5 (CD reviews)

By Karl W. Nehring

Illumination: Piano Works of Victoria Bond. Illuminations on Byzantine Chant; Ancient Keys*; Black Light**; Byzantine Chant. Paul Barnes, pianist and chanter; Kirk Trevor, *Slovak Radio Orchestra; Philharmony “Bohuslav Martinu”. Albany Records TROY1880.

Once again we encounter a composer – and performer – whom we have not encountered before, and we are once again rewarded with some music that is interesting, entertaining, and uplifting. The American composer and conductor Victoria Bond (b. 1945) was the first woman to be awarded a doctorate in conducting from the Juilliard School and has composed eight operas, six ballets, two piano concertos, as well as other works. In her liner notes, Bond explains that the works included on this release stem from more than two decades of collaboration with the American pianist Paul Barnes (b. 1961). This temporal span is exemplified not only by the recording dates of the compositions (Ancient Keys, 1997; Black Light, 2003; Illuminations on Byzantine Chant, 2021) but also by dates of the composition that opens the program, Illuminations on Byzantine Chant, a work for solo piano in three parts: Potirion Sotiriu, 1999; Simeron Kremate, 2019; and Enite ton Kyrion, 2021.

The first two movements of Illuminations, Potirion Sotiriu and Simeron Kremate, are energetic and intense, with an Eastern flavor that is consistent with their roots in the Greek Orthodox tradition. The third movement, Enite ton Kyrion, is more meditative in mood, more peaceful and lyrical. Ancient Keys, a piano concerto in one movement, begins with a chant from pianist Barnes before the orchestra enters, followed by his piano. According to Bond, Ancient Keys is based on Potirion Sotiriu. “In expanding the solo piano work for piano and orchestra, I pictured an enormous space, like a great cathedral, gradually filling up with rich and sonorous bass [sic] tones that swirled around, echoing and disappearing like delicate smoke into the high dome.” (Given the way the piece opens, I’m pretty sure she meant “brass tones.”) Over its 17 minutes, this is a piece that provides drama and a sense of mystery. Impressive! Black Light is in three movements. Interestingly enough, Bond writes that “the title Black Light implies the light that shines from African American music, which has had a profound effect on my compositions.” The first movement is almost jarringly energetic – it is marked “Aggressively driving” and is certainly that. Not unpleasant, mind you, but something that will definitely wake you up. The second movement, marked “Forcefully,” is much less aggressive, and is said by the composer to be inspired by Jewish liturgical music. The final movement, marked “Presto,” said to be inspired by the scat singing of Ella Fitzgerald, is quite a fun romp. The program then ends in a completely different vein as Barnes performs four brief Byzantine chants, including the three that undergird the beginning of the program: Potirion Sotiriu, Simeron Kremate, and Enite ton Kyrion. All in all, then, what we have here is something of an unusual musical program, but nonetheless a recording that is coherent, stimulating, and satisfying, with more than satisfactory engineering and informative liner notes. Well worth an audition by the musically curious.

Schubert: Piano Sonatas D. 840, ‘Reliquie’ & D. 960. Jean-Marc Luisada, piano, La Dolce Volta LDV 93. 

The Tunisian-born French pianist Jean Marc Luisada (b. 1958) offers performances of two piano sonatas by Schubert on this beautifully engineered recording that comes in a hardbound book-type bound format featuring liner notes in four languages: French, English, Japanese, and German. This is surely one one of the most imposing and impressive presentations that I have encountered in quite some time. The question that remains, then, is whether the musical performance is worthy of the engineering and packaging quality lavished upon it. To these ears, at least, the answer is affirmative.

Luisada plays only the first two movements of the Sonata in C major, D. 840, known as the “Relique” a name it was given because when it was first published it was mistakenly thought to be Schubert’s final work in piano sonata form. These first two movements, marked Moderato and Andante, being the only two that Schubert completed himself. By the way, although there are only two movements, they are substantial, taking up more than 28 minutes. There exists a longer version that includes later movements that were completed by Ernst Krenek. In Luisada’s view, “In Schubert’s case, incompletion is not a sign of impotence. It’s a deliberate gesture, because he has already said the essential, revealed the suffering of the moment.” As we listen to Luisada’s tenderly expressive performance and ponder his perspective on this work, we find ourselves confronting one of music’s – of art’s – paradoxes, how the expression of sorrow and suffering can at the same time be so beautiful and life-affirming.

Then it is on to the Sonata in B-flat major, D. 960, which truly was Schubert’s final piano sonata, of which Luisada comments “is a culmination, the completion of a life… Certain passages in the first movement of the sonata are among the highpoints of the whole nineteenth-century musical literature. Then there are the moments bathed in an immaterial atmosphere, when the Wanderer calmly accepts death in the C major modulation at the end of the second movement, the Andante sostenuto. This imposes a feeling of stillness, a sensation of eternity… In this recording, I play [the Scherzo] slower than usual and in the spirit of an angel dance with a certain reserve… In truth, nothing is improvised in Schubert. Sometimes he gives the illusion of improvisation, pulls the wool over our eyes. Everything is ‘orchestrated’ without ever reaching a climax, for he must constantly postpone the inevitable, gain time. Only the Faustian finale with its galloping theme and its syncopations in the left hand ends the Wanderer’s race to the abyss.”  

For those who might be unfamiliar with this composition, it is an imposing work, but one that is ever so beautiful. The first movement is the longest; at 20 minutes or so, it could pretty much stand on its own as an independently satisfying work of art. (I must confess that there have been times when I have come to the end of the movement and then rather than going on to the next, have immediately returned to the beginning of the movement again, lingering with this music for another 20 minutes, because it is just so beautiful that I cannot bear to part from it.) But then comes the second movement, that Andante sostenuto, slow and tender for nearly 10 minutes, music to melt your heart, with Luisada playing it as expressively as can be imagined without ever taking it over the top. The relatively brief Scherzo follows, dancing along for less than five minutes before we come to the closing nine-minute Allegro, which bounces along until it seems to hesitate questioningly near the end before seeming to take a deep breath and conclude with a flourish. Overall, Luisada plays with great imagination and emotion, bringing out the drama in the music. D. 960 truly is one of the truly great piano sonatas, a work that every classical music listener should encounter at some point. A great place to start for those who have not yet heard the piece would be the recording by Mitsuko Uchida on Philips, a more straightforward but still quite beautiful performance; however, for those who are already acquainted with the piece, this new recording by Luisada offers a fascinating interpretation that is well worth an audition, and the pairing of both sonatas on one disc and the superb recorded sound make this an especially appealing choice.  

Hovhaness: Invocations to Vahakn; Yenovk; Lalezar; Suite on Greek Tunes; Mystic Flute; Journey Into Dawn; Laona; Lake of Van Sonata; Vijag; Sonata “Hakhpat”. Sahan Arzruni, piano; Adam Rosenblatt, percussion. KALAN 773. 

Many classical music fans are no doubt familiar with the orchestral works of the late American composer Alan Hovhaness (1911-2000), who wrote 67 symphonies as well as other symphonic works such as the symphonic poem And God Created Great Whales. With something like 464 works in his published catalog plus additional unpublished manuscripts, Hovhaness wrote not only for orchestra, but for other ensembles and solo instruments as well, including the piano. The Armenian pianist Sahan Arzruni (b. 1943) has studied the piano music of Hovhaness in preparation for recording this album of selected piano works by the composer. Clearly this was a work of love, for Arzruni points out that the majority of the compositions he chose to include are unpublished, existing in manuscript form only. Arzruni comments that Hovhaness “was a musician-mystic who rejected the materialistic values of the Machine Age. He explored, instead, the transcendental realm – using music as a link between the physical and metaphysical worlds. Hovhaness took non-Western cultures as his point of departure, while employing Western music as his frame of reference.” Arzruni goes on to quote the American composer and critic Virgil Thomson who wrote of Hovhaness in 1947 that “the music is at times strophic in phraseology and emotionally continuous, never climactic. Each piece is like a hand-made wallpaper. Its motionless quality is a little hypnotic. Its expressive function is predominantly religious, ceremonial, incantatory, its spiritual content of the purest.”

Even before reading the extensive liner notes in which Arzruni provides detailed background information on each track, you begin to get a sense of what Thomson was writing about even before you read it. The music does have a sense of the mystical about it, a feeling of striving for something beyond the notes. The occasional addition of percussion adds to the sense that the music is part of some sort of ritual. That is not to say, however, that it cannot be enjoyed purely as music, for it is music that is lively, energetic, and quite capable of capturing the imagination. On the back cover of the booklet is a quotation from Hovhaness himself that makes his intentions clear: “I propose to create a heroic, monumental style of composition simple enough to inspire all people, completely free from fads, artificial mannerisms and false sophistications, direct, sincere, always original but never unnatural.” That is a bold, ambitious statement, but for the music on this album at least, I would say that he pretty much succeeded, with the able assistance of Arzruni, Rosenblatt, and the engineering team. The booklet and disc are packaged in a sturdy box; all in all, this is a first-class production of some fascinating music that deserves to be heard. Highly recommended!

KWN

Beethoven: Complete String Quartets, Volume 2 (CD review)

The Middle Quartets: Nos. 7, 8, 9, 10, and 11. Dover Quartet. Cedille CDA 90000 206 (3-disc set).

By John J. Puccio

As you know, the German composer and pianist Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827) wrote sixteen numbered string quartets and one, single-movement, unnumbered quartet in the final thirty years or so of his life. Since the Dover Quartet are determined to issue all seventeen of them on disc, this is the second volume, the Middle Quartets as they’re known, Nos. 7, 8, 9, 10, and 11. Or, if you’re fussy about numbering, Op. 59, Nos. 1-3; Op. 74, “Harp”; and Op. 95, “Serioso.”

For those of you still unsure about who The Dover Quartet are, Wikipedia explains that they are “an American string quartet...formed at the Curtis Institute of Music in 2008 by graduates of the Curtis Institute of Music and the Rice University Shepherd School of Music. Its name is taken from the piece ‘Dover Beach’ by Samuel Barber,” which in turn is a setting for the poem by the English poet Matthew Arnold. The Dover ensemble “consists of violinists Joel Link and Bryan Lee, violist Milena Pajaro-Van de Stadt, and cellist Camden Shaw. In 2020, the quartet was appointed to the faculty of the Curtis Institute of Music as ensemble-in-residence. Additionally, they hold residencies with the Kennedy Center, Bienen School of Music at Northwestern University, Artosphere, the Amelia Island Chamber Music Festival, and Peoples’ Symphony Concerts in New York.” The Beethoven album under review is by my count the fifth one they have released on which they are the primary performers.

The Dovers play on instruments spanning three centuries. Mr. Link plays a violin by Jean Baptiste Vuillaume, Paris, 1845. Mr. Lee plays a violin by Riccardo Antoniazzi, Milan, 1904. Ms. de Stadt plays a viola by an unknown maker from Brescian School, early 18th century. And Mr. Shaw plays a cello by Frank Ravatin, Vannes, 2010. Whatever the make and model of the instruments they play, the Dover Quartet make beautiful music together.

The first item on the agenda is the String Quartet No. 7 in F major, Op. 59, No. 1, written and published in 1808 on a commission from Prince Andrey Razumovsky, the Russian ambassador to Vienna at the time. Many music scholars consider it the first of Beethoven’s truly mature quartets, and even its length attests to this, being quite a bit longer than his previous efforts. In fact, it’s so long (almost forty minutes) it takes up the entire first disc of this three-disc set. The thing is, though, while it’s a long quartet, it seems shorter. Maybe it’s how one gets so completely swept up in the music making. Certainly, the Dovers appear to be enjoying themselves, which in music is paramount. Their instruments sing, and there was a great temptation for this listener to sing along with them if the music had any words. Well, OK, the third-movement Adagio is a bit too solemn for singing, but the Allegro finale with its “Theme russe” is so fully melodic, the Dovers practically croon it. Wonderful musicianship.

The String Quartet No. 8 in E minor, Op. 59, No. 2 and the String Quartet No. 9 in C major, Op. 59, No. 3 occupy disc two. Beethoven wrote and published them in 1808, also as part of the commission from Prince Razumovsky. (The three Razumovsky quartets are so strongly intertwined that people often think of them as a trio or as simply the “Russian Quartets”). Supposedly, Beethoven was inspired to write the second movement (Molto Adagio) of No. 8 as he pondered the stars and imagined the music of the spheres. The Dover Quartet play it gently, sensitively, graciously and do, indeed, conjure up the magic of the night sky. They conclude it with a rousing rendition of Beethoven’s Presto. Then comes No. 9, two of whose most prominent features are the similarity in its introduction to Mozart’s “Dissonance” Quartet and in its second movement’s Hungarian (and possibly Russian) influences. For me, this has always been the most unusual (and my favorite) of the trio, largely due to its surprises and inventions. The Dover players have fun with it, even in the more serious parts. By the time they reach the tumultuous finale, they’re in full swing and attack it with a heady gusto.

Disc three begins with the String Quartet No. 10 in E-flat major, Op. 74, “Harp,” written in 1809. Interestingly, Beethoven’s publisher gave it the nickname “Harp” not because it includes a harp but because of the quartet’s pizzicato sections in the first movement, where the player’s alternate notes in an arpeggio remind us of the plucking of a harp. It’s a delightful piece of music, and the Dover Quartet do it complete justice in a performance of playful elegance and flair.

The final selection in the set is the String Quartet No. 11 in F minor, Op. 95, “Serioso,” from 1810. It gets its nickname from the third movement, Allegro assai vivace ma serioso. Because it was so different from his other quartets (brief length, sudden outbursts, tonal liberties, unusual silences, and rhythmic oddities, among other things), Beethoven never wanted it played in public. He considered it more of an experiment than a finished product and didn’t want it on display. Thankfully, he was wrong, and we have it today for everyone to enjoy.

Producer Alan Bise and engineer Bruce Egre recorded the quartets at Sauder Concert Hall, Goshen College, Goshen, Indiana in December 2019 and July and August 2020. Although there is not a lot of hall resonance involved, it all sounds wonderfully clean and natural, with a warm, ambient glow. The sound is fairly close up but extremely smooth (perhaps a touch too smooth for some audiophiles) and eminently listenable.

JJP

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

Classical Music News of the Week, January 15, 2022

“Great Performances at the Met” Returns

We're excited for “Great Performances at the Met” to make its return for Season 16 with 10 new operas premiering monthly, February-November 2022, on PBS (check local listings). After the 2020 shutdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic, full-scale productions for live audiences return to the Met Opera house in Lincoln Center Plaza to form a starry lineup of new and timeless operas featuring beloved Met Opera singers with hosts including Angel Blue, Renée Fleming, Anthony Roth Costanzo, Audra McDonald, and more.

This season features “Great Performances at the Met: Fire Shut Up in My Bones,” premiering Friday, April 1 at 9 p.m. ET on PBS (check local listings), the historic production that marked the Met’s first performance of an opera by a Black composer, Grammy winner Terence Blanchard, and “Great Performances at the Met: Rigoletto,” premiering Friday, June 17 at 9 p.m. ET on PBS (check local listings), directed by Tony winner Bartlett Sher.

The season begins with “Great Performances at the Met: Boris Godunov” premiering Sunday, February 6 on PBS (check local listings) starring bass René Pape as the tortured tsar caught between ambition and paranoia. Conductor Sebastian Weigle leads Mussorgsky’s Russian masterwork in its original 1869 version, and Angel Blue hosts.

“Great Performances at the Met” continues to bring the best of the Metropolitan Opera into the homes of classical music fans across the country. Season 16 of “Great Performances at the Met” is part of #PBSForTheArts, a multiplatform campaign that celebrates the arts in America. For more than 50 years, PBS has been the media destination for the arts, presenting dance, theater, opera, visual arts and concerts to Americans in every corner of the country.

Websites: http://pbs.org/gperffacebook.com/GreatPerformanceshttp://youtube.com/greatperformancespbs, giphy.com/great-performances, youtube.com/greatperformancespbs

--Elizabeth Boone, WNET

Start Off the New Year with YPC
“AloneTogether”
January 7 - January 30

Young People’s Chorus of New York City are proud to announce the extension of “AloneTogether” at the High Line Nine Gallery, NYC. This immersive exhibit spotlights the voices and creativity of our young artists as they navigated a year like no other. With impactful photography, video, and musical experiences, these stories will forever transform your perception of young people’s inner lives.

The show will be open to the public from January 7 th to 30 th , Fridays to Sundays, from 12pm to 6pm. Private viewings are available throughout the week by appointment only.

Learn more: https://ypc.org/alonetogether/

--Young People’s Chorus of NYC

The Gilmore Presents 15th Biennial Gilmore Piano Festival
The Gilmore Piano Festival--the largest gathering of keyboard artists in North America--returns to live performance this year with appearances by nearly 50 pianists in more than 100 concerts and events from Sunday, April 24 to Sunday, May 15.

Highlights of the 15th biennial Gilmore Piano Festival include the return of 2018 Gilmore Artist Igor Levit; an opening night of jazz with 14-time Grammy Award-winner Herbie Hancock; a duo program by sibling musicians Isata (piano) and Sheku (cello) Kanneh-Mason; world premieres of Gilmore commissions from Matthew Aucoin, Tyshawn Sorey, and Andrius Žlabys; and educational offerings as part of a new career-advancement initiative, The Gilmore Festival Fellows residency program.

The festival’s diverse performance schedule is complemented by an extensive series of master classes, pre-concert talks, film screenings, and lectures, as well as an interactive, public art installation.

For complete information, visit https://www.thegilmore.org/blog/announcing-the-2022-gilmore-piano-festival/

--Lisa Jaehnig, Shuman Associates

ROCO's February 2022 Concerts
River Oaks Chamber Orchestra (ROCO) presents two concerts in February, starting with “Pictures at an Exhibition: A ROCO Musical Promenade” on February 17, featuring ROCO pianist Mei Rui in excerpts from the composer’s original piano suite, paired with artworks from the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston collections, celebrating the work as a tribute from the composer to his friend and artist Viktor Hartmann.

Next in the Albert and Margaret Alkek Foundation IN CONCERT series is “Canvasing the Earth”, with media sponsor Texas Monthly, at The Church of St. John the Divine (2450 River Oaks Boulevard, Houston, TX) on February 26, featuring three world premieres. The concert is an exploration of the world through sight and sound, led by conductor Sarah Hicks, making her ROCO debut.

For more information, visit https://roco.org/

--Andrew Ousley, Unison Media

Artist-in-Residence Abigel Kralik Recital
Festival Mozaic is excited to present up-and-coming violinist and Mozaic Artist-in-Residence Abigel Kralik in an intimate recital at the Templeton Performing Arts Center on January 23.

Richard Strauss: Violin Sonata in E-flat, op. 18
Maurice Ravel: Tzigane
Jessie Montgomery: Rhapsody No. 1

Abigel Kralik, violin
with Maxim Lando, piano

Sunday, January 23 at 2:00 PM
Templeton Performing Arts Center
Templeton, CA

For more information, visit https://ci.ovationtix.com/35741/performance/10820828

--Festival Mozaic

PBS Premieres “Marian Anderson: The Whole World in Her Hands”
We're excited for “American Masters – Marian Anderson: The Whole World in Her Hands - Great Performances at the Met,” which premieres nationwide Tuesday, February 8 at 9 p.m. ET on PBS (check local listings), pbs.org/americanmasters and the PBS Video app in honor of Black History Month and Anderson’s 125th birthday (February 27, 1897).

The new documentary, directed by Emmy- and Peabody Award-winner Rita Coburn, explores the life, career, art and legacy of the African American contralto and civil rights pioneer in her own words using archival interview recordings. Marian Anderson’s singing and speaking voice are heard throughout the documentary, providing new understanding of the woman behind the music.

For more information, visit https://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/marian-anderson-documentary/14262/

--David Clarke, WNET

New York Festival of Song Presents "Buenos Aires, Then and Now"
New York Festival of Song (NYFOS), led by Artistic Director Steven Blier, continues its 2021-22 Mainstage Series with “Buenos Aires, Then and Now” on Tuesday, February 15, 2022 at 8:00pm at Merkin Hall at Kaufman Music Center. The concert features soprano Nicoletta Berry, bass-baritone Federico De Michelis, soprano Raquel González, and others artists to be announced with pianist Shawn Chang and NYFOS Artistic Director Steven Blier serving as pianists and hosts.

The program honors the diverse musical culture of Buenos Aires and includes the works of its iconic masters, such as Guastavino, Ginastera, López Buchardo, Carlos Gardel, and Piazzolla, as well as its contemporary voices, Esteban Benzecry and Ezequiel Viñao. Buenos Aires, Then and Now is being produced with the collaboration of Jorge Parodi and Opera Hispánica.

“Buenos Aires, Then and Now” will be available online as part of the NYFOS@Home Digital Series, beginning on Tuesday, April 5 at 7pm ET for four weeks through May 3. Free access to the digital concert is available at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/buenos-aires-then-and-now-tickets-239173162367

--Katlyn Morahan, Morahan Arts and Media

New Century Announces Green Music Center Cancellation
New Century Chamber Orchestra today announced the cancellation of its "Hope Leads Appalachian Spring" performance at Green Music Center on Friday, January 21. The cancellation was announced by the Green Music Center in accordance with Sonoma County’s recent health order that prohibits indoor gatherings of more than 50 people as a response to the recent rise in COVID-19 cases. This follows the cancellation of “Hope Leads Appalachian Spring” at Stanford Live’s Bing Concert Hall on Saturday, January 22. New Century Chamber Orchestra's remaining performances on January 20 (First Congregational Church, Berkeley) and January 23 (Presidio Theatre, San Francisco) are continuing as scheduled.

--Brenden Guy PR

Music Institute Academy Receives NEA Grant
The Music Institute of Chicago's Academy, a pre-conservatory training program for advanced string and piano musicians in high school, has been approved for a $10,000 Grants for Arts Projects award from the National Endowment for the Arts.

The grant will enhance the enrichment elements of the Academy curriculum, including master classes, workshops, and performances by some of the most respected teachers and professional musicians in the classical music industry. Introducing Academy students to these experts helps them grow immeasurably in their musical endeavors and encourages them to consider the future direction of their studies and careers. In addition, NEA funding will make possible the production of a full symphonic orchestra at Nichols Concert Hall, inviting Academy students to share the stage with professional harp, woodwinds, brass, and percussion musicians to perform repertoire critical to the development of well-rounded musicians.

--Jill Chukerman, JAC Communications

Aspect Chamber Music Series - Winter/Spring 2022 Season
Aspect Chamber Music Series presents its Winter/Spring 2022 season, comprising five concerts from February through May 2022. In addition to gems of the chamber music repertoire performed by world-class artists, many concerts also feature Illustrated Talks — or in one case, a poetry reading — by scholars and writers whose expertise and wisdom provide invaluable context to the musical performances.

The winter/spring concerts delve into music by composers from Haydn, Beethoven, and Schubert to Dvorák and Alma and Gustav Mahler, and examine what these works might reveal of each composer’s life. All concerts take place at Bohemian National Hall (321 E. 73rd Street, NYC) at 7:30 p.m., with the exception of the season’s final concert on May 18.

For more information, visit https://www.aspectmusic.net/

--Amanda Sweet, Bucklesweet

West Edge Opera Announces Complete Casting
West Edge Opera announces the casts for Julius Ceasar by Handel, Ariane & Bluebeard by Paul Dukas, and the American premiere of Coraline by Mark-Anthony Turnage in partnership with Papermoon Productions.

Opening July 23rd at the Scottish Rite Center in Oakland, CA.

For complete details, visit https://www.westedgeopera.org

--West Edge Opera

Los Angeles Master Chorale to Receive $45,000 Grant
The Los Angeles Master Chorale, led by Grant Gershon, Kiki & David Gindler Artistic Director, has been approved for a $45,000 Grants for Arts Projects award to support “United We Sing,” led by guest conductor Rollo Dilworth on May 8, 2022 at 7 p.m. at Walt Disney Concert Hall.

“United We Sing” showcases the breadth and vitality of the many shared cultures that make America what it is today. Dilworth, one of choral music’s most dynamic leaders, returns to the Master Chorale after appearing as guest conductor in 2018’s “Big Sing California,” the biggest choral event in California history. Highlights include music from choral legends like Alice Parker and Mary Lou Williams, plus music from Rollo himself.

The Los Angeles Master Chorale’s project is among 1,248 projects across America totaling $28,840,000 that were selected to receive this first round of fiscal year 2022 funding in the Grants for Arts Projects category.

For more information, visit https://lamasterchorale.org/united-we-sing

--Lisa Bellamore, Crescent Communications

Gotham Early Music Scene Presents "C3: Countertenors, a Consort, and Continuo"
Gotham Early Music Scene (GEMS) continues the inaugural season of its Open Gates Project with “C3: Countertenors, a Consort, and Continuo,” a program featuring a roster of countertenors of color alongside a consort of viols, on Friday, February 11, 2022 at 7:00pm at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church (3 W 65th Street, NYC). The concert will also be livestreamed.

Featured artists in this unique program include countertenors Biraj Barkakaty, Wei En Chan, Patrick Dailey, Iván Maria Feliciano (special guest young artist), and Jonathan May, with viol consort composed of Motomi Igarashi, Larry Lipnik, Rosamund Morley, and Pat Neely, with Dongsok Shin on harpsichord. The program includes Gabrieli’s “Vieni, Vieni, Himeneo,” Handel’s “Ombra mai fu,” Monteverdi’s “Pur ti miro,” Cavalli’s “Pur Ti Stringo,” and consort songs by Purcell and William Byrd, in addition to Trevor Weston’s “O Maria.”

GEMS’ Open Gates Project offers a rich variety of music performed by distinguished professional artists at locations throughout New York City. The series is dedicated to creating greater access to stages for musicians of color in Early Music, while also seeking to create greater access to Early Music for underserved communities. The Project aims to see increased diversity on the stage and in the audience.

For more information, visit https://gemsny.org/

--Katlyn Morahan, Morahan Arts and Media

Washington Performing Arts Reschedules Next Three Events
Washington Performing Arts today announced that, at the request of its participating artists, the next three events in its 2021/22 Season are being rescheduled in light of logistics stemming from the coronavirus Omicron variant. The impacted events are the following:

“Living the Dream…Singing the Dream.”
Original Date: January 30, 2022. Rescheduled Date: April 10, 2022.
  
Sphinx Symphony Orchestra.
Original Date: February 1, 2022 — Rescheduled Date: January 31, 2023 (as part of the 2022/23 Season; ticket sales for this event will begin at a later date TBA).
  
Hazel Scott 101st Birthday Celebration with The U.S. Air Force Band, Michelle Cann, and others.
Original Date: February 5, 2022 — New Format: Pre-recorded virtual presentation; webstream premieres February 16, 2022, 7pm EST.

For complete information, visit https://www.washingtonperformingarts.org/media/publications/event-rescheduling-in-response-to-omicron/

--Camille Cintrón Devlin, Bucklesweet

25th Annual Sphinx Competition & SphinxConnect
Two of the Sphinx Organization’s flagship annual events--the 25th annual Sphinx Competition for Black and Latinx musicians and the organization’s annual convening, SphinxConnect--will take place virtually Thursday, January 20 through Saturday, January 29.

The events are the first in a year-long celebration of Sphinx’s 25th anniversary, marking a quarter of a century of transforming lives through the power of diversity in the arts.

For complete information, visit https://www.sphinxmusic.org/

--Jennifer Scott, Shuman Associates

Greek National Opera to Present Umberto Giordano’s Andrea Chénier
The Greek National Opera will open 2022 with four performances of Umberto Giordano’s Andrea Chénier  from January 29 to February 13 in Stavros Niarchos Hall at the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center (SNFCC).

The revival will be conducted by Philippe Auguin with stage direction, sets and costumes by Nikos Petropoulos. Sharing the three lead roles are internationally acclaimed soloists tenors Marcelo Puente and Marcelo Álvarez, sopranos Cellia Costea and Eva-Maria Westbroek, and baritones Dimitri Platanias and Elchin Azizov.

For more information, visit https://www.nationalopera.gr/en/

--Constance Shuman, Shuman Associates

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