Beethoven: Symphonies Nos. 1 and 6 "Pastoral" (CD review)

Otto Klemperer, Philharmonia Orchestra. EMI CDM 7243-5-66792-2.

When Klemperer's producer, Walter Legge, asked if he didn't think Klemperer took his recording of the Beethoven Sixth Symphony's scherzo a little too slowly, Klemperer replied, "Walter, you will get used to it." Well, we've had over sixty years to get used to it, and I suspect it has by now pretty much grown on us.

Klemperer's performance of the Sixth continues to be one of the most relaxed, leisurely, bucolic interpretations ever put to disc. It has not and will not find favor among the Toscanini crowd, but it has delighted most everyone else since EMI recorded it in 1957.

The conductor takes the first movement, "The Arrival in the Country," very deliberately, very purposefully, its repetitions made weightier through its unhurried pace, yet never dragging, never feeling lugubrious. The second movement, "The Scene at the Brook," flows naturally and smoothly, maintaining the easygoing nature of the setting. Then comes Klemperer's famous third movement, usually a quick and boisterous Allegro representing peasant merrymaking, but here taken as though the peasants were more than tipsy when the scherzo started. The storm that follows is weightily structured in big, bold outlines, flowing effortlessly into one of the most joyous "Shepherd's Hymn" in any Sixth interpretation around. This is no namby-pamby performance, but one with a clear and assertive vision of pastoral life.

Otto Klemperer
For what it's worth, by the way, I consider it pretty much a toss-up among four classic recordings of the Sixth as to which is my favorite: Karl Bohm and the Vienna Philharmonic (DG); Fritz Reiner and the Chicago Symphony (JVC, HDTT, or RCA); Bruno Walter and the Columbia Symphony Orchestra (Sony, and especially Sony Japan's Blu-Spec CD); and this Klemperer release on EMI. Any time I play any one of them, that one goes to the top of my list, so there's no clear winner for me.

My past reservations about the recording (made by producer Walter Legge and engineer Douglas Larter in Kingsway Hall, London) were in regard to the sound of the original LP and the recording's previous CD embodiment, which tended to be somewhat thin, harsh, and noisy. By comparison, this 1998 20-bit remastering, a part of EMI's "Klemperer Legacy" series, is smoother, fuller, and quieter. Nonetheless, the remastering retains a good deal of clarity, sounding more transparent than a lot of new releases.

The disc's coupling, Klemperer's recording of the Beethoven First Symphony, seems not nearly so characterful as his Sixth, sounding a little too massive to convey all of the work's good cheer. Nevertheless, it also seems more richly recorded than the Sixth. Go figure.

Of final note: EMI later reissued the same mastering of the Sixth as here in their "Great Performances of the Century" series, albeit with several Beethoven overtures as couplings instead of the First Symphony. You'll find that review here: https://classicalcandor.blogspot.com/search?q=beethoven+symphony+no.+6+klemperer

JJP

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


A Certain Slant of Light (SACD review)

Songs on poems by Emily Dickinson. Lisa Delan, soprano; Lawrence Foster, Orchestre Philharmonique de Marseille. Pentatone PTC 5186 634.

"I'm Nobody! Who are you?
Are you - Nobody - too?
Then there's a pair of us!
Don't tell! they'd advertise - you know!

How dreary - to be - Somebody!
How public - like a Frog - 
To tell one's name - the livelong June - 
To an admiring Bog!"

American poet Emily Elizabeth Dickinson (1830-1886) was among the country's most unusual artists in that she was almost unknown as a poet in her lifetime. She was withdrawn and reclusive, never married, and allowed the publication of only a handful of her poems while she was alive. After her death, her relatives found a veritable treasure trove of her poems and published many of them. Then, she became quite famous, yet, remarkably, her complete and largely unedited works would not see publication until 1955.

Although Ms. Dickinson's poems are most often brief and simple, they contain a wealth of insight. Conciseness is probably the single most important element in her poems, her succinctness in expressing big ideas in a small space. She had the unique ability to condense her observations on Nature, spirituality, consciousness, death, solitude, and essential human emotions like fear, longing, and ambition into just a few lines.

It was, perhaps, the breadth of Ms. Dickinson's insights that led a number of composers to set at least some of her poems to music. On the present album we find the work of four such composers, Copland, Heggie, Getty, and Tilson Thomas, effectively sung by soprano Lisa Delan, accompanied by conductor Lawrence Foster and the Marseille Philharmonic Orchestra.

Here's a rundown of the album's contents:

Aaron Copland:
  1. Nature, the gentlest mother
  2. There came a wind like a bugle
  3. The world feels dusty
  4. Heart, we will forget him
  5. Dear March, come in!
  6. Sleep is supposed to be
  7. Going to Heaven!
  8. The Chariot

Jake Heggie:
  9. Silence
10. I'm Nobody! Who are you?
11. Fame
12. That I did always love
13. Goodnight

Gordon Getty:
14. Safe in Their Alabaster Chambers
15. A Bird Came Down the Walk
16. There's a Certain Slant of Light
17. Because I Could Not Stop for Death

Michael Tilson Thomas:
18. Down Time's Quaint Stream
19. The Bible
20. Fame
21. The Earth Has Many Keys
22. Take All Away From Me

The earliest of the musical compositions, Aaron Copland's, date from 1948-50; the others from 2001 (Tilson Thomas) to 2014 (Jake Heggie), with Gordon Getty's pieces deriving from 2004.

Lisa Delan
Soprano Lisa Delan provides a lovely presentation of the poems, her voice radiant and expressive. Maestro Foster's accompaniment with the Marseille Orchestra is sweet and sympathetic. One cannot doubt that the album's selections get a treatment the composers would approve.

That said, I don't know that I appreciated the music as much as I might. Having practically grown up with the poetry of Ms. Dickinson (well, since my teens, at least, in the 1950's), I not sure her poems need the added distinction of music. Would the words of Shakespeare be any better sung? Besides, poetry needs time for reflection, often line by line, maybe word by word, and by turning Ms. Dickinson's poems into songs, we don't get that meditative opportunity (unless you're going to hit the pause button every few seconds).

But I quibble. Of the song-poems presented, I preferred the ones set to music by Aaron Copland. They seemed the most musical and most evocative to me, perhaps because Copland was so used to staging ballet. By contrast, Jake Heggie's arrangements seem more energetic, with more pronounced, more dramatic accompaniments. Gordon Getty's take on some of the poems appears lighter than the others, but certainly appropriate--maybe the most appropriate of all considering the simplicity of the poems. However, he offers up the title poem, "There's a Certain Slant of Light," with a gravity, a seriousness, it deserves. The program ends with five poems by conductor-composer Michael Tilson Thomas, who affords them the most creative, most theatrical frameworks, with a hint of Leonard Bernstein thrown in.

Certainly, there is variety here, with everyone doing his and her part in the proceedings with evident care. I just wish, as I said, I could have enjoyed the music as much as I admired it.

Producers Job Maarse and Lisa Delan and engineers Jean-Marie Geijsen and Karel Bruggeman recorded the music at Friche la Belle de Mai, Marseille, France in June and July 2017. They made the album in hybrid SACD for multichannel and two-channel playback from an SACD player and two-channel playback from any ordinary CD player. As usual, I listened in two-channel SACD.

Ms. Delan's voice sounds clear, if a tad strident in the highs, and well integrated with the orchestra--out in front but not excessively so, just realistically placed. The orchestral accompaniment is not too widely spaced behind her but again realistically, and it provides a good stage depth. The overall sonic picture is smooth and gentle, nicely complementing the music.

JJP

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


Classical Music News of the Week, November 10, 2018

Concerts at Saint Thomas in December: Handel's Messiah, Britten and Messiaen

Concerts at Saint Thomas will host a special series of holiday programs this December, featuring their annual tradition of Handel's Messiah December 4 & 6, Britten's introspective A Ceremony of Carols December 13, and Messiaen's masterful organ cycle La Nativité du Seigneur December 22, performed on their newly inaugurated Miller-Scott Organ.

Handel: Messiah
December 4 & 6, 2018 | Tuesday & Thursday at 7:30 PM
Saint Thomas Church, Fifth Avenue at West 53rd Street, NYC

Britten: A Ceremony of Carols
December 13, 2018 | Thursday at 5:30 PM
Saint Thomas Church, Fifth Avenue at West 53rd Street, NYC

Messiaen: La Nativite du Seigneur
December 22, 2018 | Saturday at 3:00 PM
Saint Thomas Church, Fifth Avenue at West 53rd Street, NYC

For more information, visit http://www.saintthomaschurch.org/music/concerts

--Andrew Ousley, Unison Media

Andrea Bocelli Achieves First Ever U.S. #1 Record
In the year of his 60th birthday and almost a quarter century since his debut release, global classical music icon Andrea Bocelli has topped the U.S. Billboard 200 chart for the first time in his illustrious career with the release of 'Sì' (Decca/Sugar Music), his first album of new original material in 14 years. The album, released in the U.S. on October 26, through Universal Music Classics, part of Verve Label Group, sold 126,000 equivalent units in its first week to debut at #1 stateside and simultaneously topped the charts in the U.K. for the first time.

One of the most universally loved and recognizable performers on the planet, Andrea Bocelli has sold in-excess of 90 million albums to date. His latest album 'Sì' has captivated audiences around the world and features Andrea collaborating with artists including Josh Groban, Dua Lipa, Russian soprano Aida Garifullina, Ed Sheeran and his 21-year-old son Matteo Bocelli. Uniquely for a classical artist, their duet together 'Fall on Me' has become a viral hit around the world with its music video garnering more than 21million views in just 5 weeks, while charting on streaming playlists globally.
'Fall on Me' also appears in the end credits of Disney's latest feature film 'The Nutcracker and The Four Realms' starring Keira Knightley, Mackenzie Foy, Helen Mirren and Morgan Freeman which debuted in theaters this week. 'Sì' was recorded at his home in Italy and produced by the legendary Bob Ezrin (Pink Floyd, Lou Reed, Alice Cooper, Deep Purple, Thirty Seconds To Mars).

--Julia Casey, Universal Music

Naxos Music Group Acquires Opus Arte Label
Naxos is happy to announce its acquisition of the Opus Arte label from the Royal Opera House. The acquisition marks an important step in the company's expansion of its audiovisual activities, as video is gaining importance in the classical music industry.

The Naxos Music Group has been distributing the label worldwide almost since its launch in 1999.  Opus Arte is one of the most important top-line international DVD and Blu-ray labels today, focused on opera, ballet and theatre. The acquisition includes an important catalogue of some 600 productions, many of which are also available for licensing for television and video on demand. While productions of the Royal Opera House are central to its activities, Opus Arte also regularly releases productions of its key partners, such as the Royal Shakespeare Company, The Globe and Glyndebourne.

With the addition of the Opus Arte catalogue, the Naxos Music Group holds rights to some 1,600 audiovisual programmes and is now a major player in the business of performing arts on screen.  Along with the acquisition of Opus Arte, the Naxos Music Group signed a long-term cooperation agreement with the Royal Opera House, giving Naxos the first option to distribute and market new and upcoming audiovisual recordings of opera and ballet performances from the Royal Opera House on DVD and Blu-ray, as well as to television, video on demand platforms and educational and other licensing partners.

For more information, visit www.naxosmusicgroup.com

--Mara Miller, Naxos USA

Annenberg Center Live Presents The Crossing @ Christmas
On Friday, December 14, 2018 at 8:00 p.m. at the Church of the Holy Trinity in Rittenhouse Square in Philadelphia, The Crossing gives its annual Christmas concert, The Crossing @ Christmas, presented by Annenberg Center Live. The concert is in memorial of Jeffrey Dinsmore, co-founder of The Crossing, and features an evening-length world premiere by Gavin Bryars, composer of The Fifth Century, for which The Crossing won the 2018 Grammy Award for Best Choral Performance.

The Crossing @ Christmas will receive a special encore performance on Sunday, December 16 at 5:00 p.m. at The Crossing's home venue, The Presbyterian Church of Chestnut Hill. A pre-concert talk with conductor Donald Nally and composer Gavin Bryars takes place on Sunday at 4:00 pm in the Burleigh Cruikshank Memorial Chapel.

For complete information, call (215) 898-3900 or visit annenbergcenter.org.

--Katy Solomon, Morahan Arts and Media

First Annual Andrew Park Composition Prize and Concert
The Andrew Park Foundation has named composers June Young Kim (South Korea) and Joseph Lee (USA) prize-winners in the Foundation's first annual Andrew Park Composition Prize. Messrs. Kim and Lee will each receive a cash prize valued at $1,500 and will have their new works premiered at New York's Merkin Concert Hall on Sunday, December 16, 2018, 3 p.m.

The purpose of the Andrew Park Composition Prize is to build a broader understanding of the connections between the traditions of the West and East through music and poetry. In the past, Toru Takemitsu and Isang Yun produced some of the most important works of Asian modernism, combining their experiences of their own and Western cultures. The Foundation encourages composers to continue in this spirit, bridging differences and forging stronger ties.

Applications for the 2019 Andrew Park Composition Prize will be available in February, 2019. For more information please visit https://www.andrewparkfoundation.org/en/composition-prize/

--Raphael Zinman, Nancy Shear Arts Services

Patrick Dupré Quigley leads PBO in December Program
Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra & Chorale will welcome guest conductor Patrick Dupré Quigley at their "Philharmonic Fire" program December 5-9. Currently the founder and artistic director of the Grammy-nominated ensemble Seraphic Fire, Quigley brings a passionate approach to scholarship and conducting with his program of Bach cantatas and vocal works by Monteverdi, Vivaldi, and Purcell.

"The program features two sides of Bach's musical personality: the florid, Italianate Bach who studied the music of the Roman priest Antonio Vivaldi, and the firm, Lutheran Bach in the capitol of Saxony," says Quigley.

Wednesday December 5 @ 7:30 pm | Bing Concert Hall, Stanford*
Friday December 7 @ 8 pm | Herbst Theatre, San Francisco
Saturday December 8 @ 8 pm | First Congregational Church, Berkeley
Sunday December 9 @ 4 pm | First Congregational Church, Berkeley

Tickets:
*Bing Tickets available at Stanford Live
(650) 724-BING (2464) or live.stanford.edu

All other concert tickets available at
City Box Office: (415) 392-4400 or cityboxoffice.com
Price range: $32–$120.

For more information, visit https://philharmonia.org/2018-2019-season/philharmonic-fire/

--Dianne Provenzano, PBO

ASPECT Foundation Presents Mozart, Schumann & the Tales of Hoffmann
The ASPECT Foundation for Music & Arts continues its third New York City season of illuminating performances on Wednesday, December 5, 2018 at 7:30pm with Mozart, Schumann & the Tales of Hoffmann at Bohemian National Hall. The program features Mozart's String Quintet No. 4 in G minor, K. 516 and Schumann's Piano Quintet in E flat major, Op. 44 performed by an ensemble of world-class musicians: violinists Philippe Quint and Grace Park, violists Matthew Lipman and Kyle Armbrust, cellist Zlatomir Fung, and pianist Vsevolod Dvorkin.

Journalist and author Damian Fowler returns for an illustrated talk on writer E.T.A Hoffmann, about whom Schumann wrote "One hardly dares breathe when reading Hoffmann." Fowler discusses Hoffmann's influence on composers like Schumann, Brahms, and Mozart, having inspired ballets by Tchaikovsky (The Nutcracker) and Delibes (Coppélia), as well as operas by Offenbach, Busoni (Die Brautwahl) and Hindemith (Cardillac). His reach as a author, meanwhile, can be seen in the writings of Baudelaire, Balzac, Maupassant, Dostoevsky, Pushkin, Gogol, and Edgar Allan Poe.

Mozart, Schumann & the Tales of Hoffmann
Wednesday, December 5, 2018 at 7:30pm
Bohemian National Hall | 321 E 73rd St | New York, NY
Tickets: $45 includes wine and refreshments

For more information, visit https://www.aspectfoundation.net/payment-test/mozart-schumann-amp-the-tales-of-hoffmann

--Katy Salomon, Morahan Arts and Media

The Nutcracker in New York
In New York on Saturday December 1st, Experiential Theater is thrilled to be bringing the "Nutcracker Dance Party" to the beautiful Bohemian National Hall, NYC. Be transported inside the story of Clara and her Nutcracker Prince. You'll have the opportunity to dance, drink and be merry at this fully interactive concert. Come at 3:30pm for a family friendly experience, and 7:30pm for Adults (with full bar).

Take it from our audience last year, who were dancing to Tchaikovsky's ballet in a magical experience unlike anything else this holiday season!

Did you attend our Nutcracker last year? If so, we'd love to hear from you! We're looking for any and all kinds of feedback, stories, even photos and videos if you have them. If you're willing to share your Nutcracker experience with us, please let us know. We might even feature you on a future post.

Because of the nature of this performance, seats are limited.  Buy your tickets here: https://www.universe.com/events/nutcracker-dance-party-tickets-new-york-CB5LSV

For more information, visit www.experientialorchestra.com

--Elizabeth Holub, Experietial Orchestra

Details about Gustavo Dudamel Residency Opening, Dec 1-2
Maestro Gustavo Dudamel's residency at Princeton University Concerts, in honor of our 125th anniversary, will launch on December 1-2, 2018.

As outlined in the press release attached to this email, Maestro Dudamel's first visit to campus will include performances by Afro-Venezuelan folk singer Betsayda Machado, Quartet 212 from the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra with mezzo-soprano Emily D'Angelo, students from the El Sistema-inspired Boston String Academy, and two public discussions with Maestro Dudamel about Art, Education and Social Change: one with musicologist Don Michael Randel, and one with New York Philharmonic President & CEO Deborah Borda.

An updated residency public schedule is available online at princetonuniversityconcerts.org

--Dasha Koltunyuk, Princeton University Concerts

Pianist Simone Dinnerstein Plays Couperin, Glass, Satie, Schumann at Miller Theatre
Saturday, December 8, 2018, 8 p.m.; Miller Theatre, 2960 Broadway, NYC
"An Evening with Simone Dinnerstein"

The celebrated pianist Simone Dinnerstein brings her signature expressive elegance to works by Schumann, Satie, Couperin, and Glass. This collection of intriguing musical curios was chosen by Dinnerstein for their lyrical, contemplative, and exuberant qualities.

For complete information, visit https://www.millertheatre.com/events/an-evening-with-simone-dinnerstein

--Aleba Gartner, Aleba & Co.

Chanticleer Presents "A Chanticleer Christmas"
Chanticleer presents its beloved annual holiday tradition, "A Chanticleer Christmas," with eleven performances in venues across the San Francisco Bay Area, December 11 through 23. Chanticleer will present an offering of sacred music from the Renaissance to joyful spirituals and traditional carols in some of the Bay Area's most ornately decorated missions, churches and cathedrals.

The program will be performed on eleven occasions at eight different venues throughout the Bay Area: Tuesday, December 11 at 8:00 p.m., First Congregational Church, Berkeley; Friday, December 14 at 6:00 p.m. and 8:30 p.m., St. Vincent Church, Petaluma; Saturday, December 15 at 8:00 p.m., St. Ignatius Church, San Francisco; Sunday, December 16 at 6:00 p.m, Cathedral of Christ the Light, Oakland; Tuesday, December 18 at 8:00 p.m., Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament, Sacramento; Friday, December 21 at 6:00 p.m. & 8:30 p.m., Carmel Mission, Carmel; Saturday, December 22 at 6:00 p.m. & 8:30 p.m., Mission Santa Clara, Santa Clara; and Sunday, December 23 at 8:00 p.m., St. Ignatius Church, San Francisco. This season, Chanticleer will also present "A Very Special Chanticleer Christmas" as part of its Salon Series on Monday, December 10 at 7:00 p.m., Trinity & St. Peter's Church, San Francisco, featuring repertoire from "A Chanticleer Christmas," solo selections and music featuring the church's famed 1924 Skinner Organ.

For further information, visit http://www.chanticleer.org.

--Brenden Guy PR

Mezzo-Soprano J'Nai Bridges to Make Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall Debut
Mezzo-soprano J'Nai Bridges makes her highly-anticipated Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall Debut on December 13 in a recital with pianist Mark Markham.

The program showcases the breadth of her music-making with a mix of contemporary and core repertoire, from Danielpour to Mahler and Ravel, along with songs of faith and spirituals including works by Undine S. Moore and Margaret Bonds that she feels express her views as a woman of color living in America today.

Carnegie Hall, Weill Recital Hall
154 W 57th St, New York, NY 10019
Recital with Mark Markham
Thu, Dec 13 @ 7:30pm

For more information, visit https://jnaibridgesmezzo.com/

--Andrew Ousley, Unison Media

Savannah Music Festival Announces 30th Anniversary Season
From March 28 through April 13, 2019, the Savannah Music Festival (SMF), Savannah, Georgia, celebrates its landmark 30th season with a stellar lineup of concerts, recitals, dance parties and events, and family-friendly performances in nine venues across Savannah's Historic District. From its origins as Savannah On Stage, SMF has grown to become one of the nation's leading multi-disciplinary musical arts events, distinguished by its commitment to innovative programming and known for attracting top-flight artists and audiences from across the country and overseas.

A non-profit performing arts organization, the Savannah Music Festival (SMF) is dedicated to presenting world-class celebrations of the musical arts by creating timeless and adventurous productions that stimulate arts education, foster economic growth and unite artists and audiences in Savannah. In addition to year-round music education and broadcast initiatives, SMF produces one of the most distinctive cross-genre music festivals in the world. The 2019 festival marks the organization's 30th festival season and runs March 28 through April 13, including performances in venues throughout Savannah's historic district.

For more information, visit www.savannahmusicfestival.org.

--Mike Fila, Bucklesweet

John J. Puccio

John J. Puccio

About the Author

Understand, I'm just an everyday guy reacting to something I love. And I've been doing it for a very long time, my appreciation for classical music starting with the musical excerpts on The Big John and Sparkie radio show in the early Fifties and the purchase of my first recording, The 101 Strings Play the Classics, around 1956. In the late Sixties I began teaching high school English and Film Studies as well as becoming interested in hi-fi, my audio ambitions graduating me from a pair of AR-3 speakers to the Fulton J's recommended by The Stereophile's J. Gordon Holt. In the early Seventies, I began writing for a number of audio magazines, including Audio Excellence, Audio Forum, The Boston Audio Society Speaker, The American Record Guide, and from 1976 until 2008, The $ensible Sound, for which I served as Classical Music Editor.

Today, I'm retired from teaching and use a pair of bi-amped VMPS RM40s loudspeakers for my listening. In addition to writing the Classical Candor blog, I served as the Movie Review Editor for the Web site Movie Metropolis (formerly DVDTown) from 1997-2013. Music and movies. Life couldn't be better.

Mission Statement

It is the goal of Classical Candor to promote the enjoyment of classical music. Other forms of music come and go--minuets, waltzes, ragtime, blues, jazz, bebop, country-western, rock-'n'-roll, heavy metal, rap, and the rest--but classical music has been around for hundreds of years and will continue to be around for hundreds more. It's no accident that every major city in the world has one or more symphony orchestras.

When I was young, I heard it said that only intellectuals could appreciate classical music, that it required dedicated concentration to appreciate. Nonsense. I'm no intellectual, and I've always loved classical music. Anyone who's ever seen and enjoyed Disney's Fantasia or a Looney Tunes cartoon playing Rossini's William Tell Overture or Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 can attest to the power and joy of classical music, and that's just about everybody.

So, if Classical Candor can expand one's awareness of classical music and bring more joy to one's life, more power to it. It's done its job.

Contact Information

Readers with polite, courteous, helpful letters may send them to pucciojj@gmail.com.

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

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa