Haydn: Opera Overtures (CD review)

Michael Halasz, Czech Chamber Philharmonic Orchestra Pardubice. Naxos 8.573488.

Maybe you think of Haydn as I do, as a composer of about 800 symphonies and chamber pieces. No, no, no. He also wrote a slew of operas, most of which we never hear anymore, even though people seemed to love them in their day. Anymore, about all we hear from his operas are the overtures, the present album containing some fourteen of them, ably performed by Michael Halasz and the ambitiously named Czech Chamber Philharmonic Orchestra Pardubice.

The smallish orchestra, comprised of about thirty or so players, is just the right size for Haydn. We get an intimate, fairly transparent presentation from this size an ensemble. Not so small that that it diminishes the weight Haydn's work but small enough to capture the zest and vigor of his music. Maestro Halasz does a good job keeping them on their toes and ensuring the scores get just treatment.

Anyway, as I say, there are a number of items on the disc--overtures, prologues, introductions, and sinfonias--and for those interested I've listed them below:

Lo Speziale (The Apothecary) (1768)
Acide e Galatea (Acts and Galatea) (1762)
Le pescatrici (The Fisherwomen) (1770)
L'Infedeltà delusa (Infidelity Outwitted) (1773)
Philemon und Baucis (1773)
Der Götterrath (The Diliberations of the Gods) (1773)
L'Incontro improvviso (The Unexpected Encounter) (1775)
Il Mondo della Luna (Life on the Moon) (1777)
L'Isola disabitata (The Uninhabited Island) (1779)
La vera costanza (True Constancy) (1778)
La fedeltà premiata (Fidelity Rewarded) (1781)
Orlando Paladino (Orlando the Paladin) (1782)
Armida (1784)
L'Anima del filosofo, ossia Orfeo ed Euridice (The Soul of the Philosopher, or Orpheus and Eurydice) (1791)

Michael Halasz
I've always suspected it's hard for any conductor to go too far wrong in the scores of Haydn or Mozart or Schubert. The music is simply too delightful. Nevertheless, Maestro Halasz does an extra-special job with it. Although he never takes anything at a breakneck speed, he and his crew do provide a zesty, frothy mixture of notes. The works are lightweight, to be sure, and the listener will probably have a hard time telling one from the other; still, Halasz does his best to differentiate them so it doesn't all sound the same.

Among my own favorites from the album were The Fisherwomen for its vitality; Infidelity Outwitted for echoes of Handel; The Deliberations of the Gods for its relative gravitas; Life on the Moon, just because it's fun; and Orlando the Paladin because of its high spirited nobility. But not to like any of it is to quibble. It's a hearty enjoyment.

Producer Jiri Stilec and engineers Vaclav Roubal and Karel Soukenik recorded the album at The House of Music, Pardubice, Czech Republic in January 2015. If played too loudly, the sound has a tendency to appear rather close; played at a normal (or more realistic) level, however, it's really quite good. There's a nice stereo spread, with uncommonly good depth, and a pleasantly warm, ambient glow. Because there aren't a lot of players involved, the sound is clearer, more lucid, than you might get from a full orchestra, yet the hall's natural bloom prevents the sound from becoming harsh or bright. It's all very natural and welcome.

JJP

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


Classical Music News of the Week, August 27, 2016

Gustavo Dudamel Conducts Youth Orchestra Los Angeles Oct 30 at Oakland's Paramount Theatre

Cal Performances at UC Berkeley presents, as part of its Berkeley Radical initiative, Gustavo Dudamel conducting the Youth Orchestra Los Angeles (YOLA) on Sunday, October 30, 2016 at 3pm at the Paramount Theatre in Oakland. This family-friendly matinee performance, lead by the music and artistic director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, features YOLA musicians ages 12-18 performing works by Bernstein, Beethoven, Brahms, Dvorák, and John Williams. The concert concludes a day of Bay Area music education activities with a focus on personal transformation, hosted and produced by Cal Performances for the traveling musicians of YOLA, Bay Area El Sistema groups and their families, Oakland Symphony's MUSE (Music for Excellence) students, and the instrumental music students of the Oakland School for the Arts. While guests of Cal Performances, YOLA musicians will also explore the UC Berkeley campus hosted by members of Student Musical Activities (SMA), a program of Cal Performances. Tickets for the 45-minute concert are priced at an affordable $5 allowing all to attend.

Matías Tarnopolsky, artistic and executive director, shared, "Cal Performances launched Berkeley Radical in September of 2015 with Gustavo Dudamel conducting Beethoven's Ninth Symphony with the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela in a historic season-opening concert at the Hearst Greek Theatre. This season, in our second year of Berkeley Radical, we expand our partnerships further by presenting a day-long exchange of music and learning with a wonderful performance by the Youth Orchestra Los Angeles and Gustavo Dudamel in Oakland's historic Paramount Theater as the centerpiece."

Gustavo Dudamel shared, "My collaborations with Cal Performances have always been about sharing music as broadly as possible with the people in our communities and beyond. I am very happy to return, this time with 80 of the most accomplished musicians of YOLA, on the very special occasion of the 10th anniversary of the program, and am excited to continue building bridges between the young people of Los Angeles and the young musicians in the Bay Area."

Ticket Information:
Tickets for Gustavo Dudamel and the Youth Orchestra Los Angeles are general admission and go on sale to the general public on Tuesday, August 9 at noon. Tickets are priced at $5 and are available only at Ticketmaster.com.

For more information, visit calperformances.org/berkeley-radical

--Louisa Spier, Cal Performances

Lawrence Brownlee Announces His 2016-17 Season
Lawrence Brownlee is excited to announce his 2016/17 season, featuring a mix of opera performances and recitals in the U.S. and Europe, as well as a new album with Delos Records to follow-up on his Grammy-nominated recording of Virtuoso Rossini Arias.

The season begins with an extended run of American performances, beginning with Seattle Opera's new production of Le Comte Ory (Aug 6-20), followed by Lawrence's San Francisco Opera debut singing Ernesto in Don Pasquale (Sept 18-Oct 15). From there he'll head to DC just in time for the election, joining the Washington National Opera for Fille du Régiment (Nov 11-20). He'll cap the year with a December 6 performance at Carnegie Hall, joining acclaimed producer Ray Chew for an evening of gospel and spirituals. Lawrence returns to the US in 2017 to bring his acclaimed interpretation of Charlie Parker in Yardbird to the Lyric Opera of Chicago (Mar 24-26). While there, he'll also perform a joint recital with Eric Owens April 9. He'll finish his U.S. presence up with a trip to Houston Grand Opera for Mozart's Abduction from the Seraglio (April 28-May 12).

Brownlee will also return to Europe, following last year's acclaimed performances with Opera National de Paris and Opernhaus Zürich. He will sing Semiramide at the Bayerische Staastoper (Feb 12-Mar 3), Le Comte Ory at Klangvokal Dortmund (May 28), and another run of Yardbird at English National Opera (June 9-17).

For more information, visit www.lawrencebrownlee.com

--Andrew Ousley, Unison Media

Armory Premieres Kaija Saariaho Compositions in 'Circle Map' this October
Park Avenue Armory, NYC, will present "Circle Map," two evenings of immersive spatial works by internationally acclaimed Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho performed by the New York Philharmonic under the baton of its Marie-Josée Kravis Composer-in-Residence Esa-Pekka Salonen on October 13 and 14, 2016. Conceived by Pierre Audi to take full advantage of the Wade Thompson Drill Hall, the engagement marks the orchestra's first performance at the Armory since 2012's Philharmonic 360, the acclaimed spatial music program co-produced by the Armory and Philharmonic.

A program of four ambitious works that require a massive, open space for their full realization, Circle Map will utilize the vast drill hall in an immersive presentation that continually shifts the relationship between performers and audience. The staging will place the orchestra at the center of the hall, with audience members in a half-round seating arrangement and performances taking place throughout. Longtime Saariaho collaborator Jean-Baptiste Barrière will translate the composer's soundscapes into projections that include interpretations of literary and visual artworks from which inspiration for specific compositions are drawn.

"Our drill hall is an ideal setting and partner for realizing spatial compositions, providing tremendous freedom for composers and performers," said Rebecca Robertson, President and Executive Producer of Park Avenue Armory. "After the New York Philharmonic's phenomenal performances in 2012, we are delighted to welcome these incomparable musicians back to our Wade Thompson Drill Hall for an evening of works by one of our most distinguished living composers."

"Kaija Saariaho is a composer of limitless imagination, whose vivid musical tapestries epitomize the spirit of artistic experimentation that we celebrate at the Armory," said Pierre Audi, Artistic Director of Park Avenue Armory. "We are so proud to present this interpretation of four of her most haunting compositions by one of the world's great symphony orchestras and within this exceptional setting, where Kaija has long wanted to have her spatial works performed."

--Stephanie Yeo

Summer Tour Highlights & Looking Ahead to the '16-17 Season
Since 1997, YPC's Concert Chorus has been invited by presenters and festivals on four continents to sing for their audiences. This summer, we were honored to begin our journey at SummerStage here in New York City, with a pre-curtain (and post-thunderstorm) performance to The Classical Theatre of Harlem's Macbeth.

With one concert and two and a half weeks of rehearsals under our belts, we headed out west to tour in Napa Valley, California and Austin, Texas.

Back by popular demand, YPC headlined two shows at the 11th Annual Festival Napa Valley: American spirituals on July 21st at the exquisite Mont La Salle Chapel, with acclaimed operatic baritone Lester Lynch, and the festival's Community Concert at Lincoln Theater on July 23rd. Read about our powerful Mont La Salle performance, from the perspective of proud choristers and from a wowed Napa Valley Register reviewer.

YPC's Texas tour premiere was action-packed, with a KUTX radio show feature, previewing our summer tour finale performance; an in-depth music education workshop for over 100 music educators of the Austin Independent Schools District, the heart of Austin's public education; and a final performance at the historic Paramount Theatre on July 26th, with special guest Ruthie Foster, that ended with a Texas-style, hooting and hollering standing ovation. Chorister Adonis remarked, "Seeing my fellow choristers cry tears of joy after our concert at the Paramount Theatre in Austin is a sensation I'll never forget."

Transient Glory Returns This Fall:
Save the dates: November 4th at National Sawdust and November 6th at Merkin Hall at Kaufman Music Center. The concert will feature six world premieres and works from six incredible composers: Mason Bates, Joan La Barbara, Michael Gordon, Jessie Montgomery, Robert Xavier Rodriguez, and Charles Wuorinen. Ticket information is forthcoming.

--Young People's Chorus of New York City

Los Angeles Master Chorale Appoints Jennifer Scott Director of Public Relations
Jennifer Scott has been appointed Director of Public Relations of the Los Angeles Master Chorale, a resident company of The Music Center of Los Angeles County, led by Artistic Director Grant Gershon and President & CEO Jean Davidson.

Scott begins her new role September 2. She moves to Los Angeles from Charleston, South Carolina where she has been the Director of Marketing and Public Relations for Spoleto Festival USA for the past two years. Scott was formerly a senior publicist at New York City-based Shuman Associates, Inc. working with clients such as the San Francisco Symphony, San Francisco Opera, The Cleveland Orchestra, cellist Alisa Weilerstein, pianists Jonathan Biss and Inon Barnatan, and on national public relations for Spoleto Festival USA. Prior to joining the festival staff, she was Communications Manager for the Las Vegas Philharmonic and has an extensive background in arts publicity and as a magazine editor and journalist in her native New Zealand.

--Gary W. Murphy Public Relations

St. Charles Singers Announces 2016–2017 Concert Season
The St. Charles Singers has announced plans for its 33rd concert season, which opens October 15 with a new installment of the professional chamber choir's "Mozart Journey," its multiyear project to perform Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's complete sacred choral music.

The mixed-voice ensemble, conducted by founder and music director Jeffrey Hunt, will present three different concert programs during its 2016–2017 season: "Mozart Journey XI: Mannheim and Beyond" in mid-October; an all-new "Candlelight Carols" holiday program in early December; and an all-American program in early June, giving local concertgoers a preview of what the St. Charles Singers will perform on its concert tour in England later that month.

Single tickets for each of St. Charles Singers' 2016–2017 concerts are $35 adult general admission, $30 for seniors 65 and older, and $10 for students. Season subscriptions to all three concerts are available at a 20 percent discount from single-ticket prices through September 30, 2016.

Tickets and general information about the St. Charles Singers are available at www.stcharlessingers.com or by calling (630) 513-5272. Tickets are also available at Townhouse Books, 105 N. Second Ave., St. Charles (checks or cash only at this ticket venue). Tickets may also be purchased at the door on the day of the concert, depending on availability. Group discounts are available.

--Nathan J. Silverman Co. PR

Bang on a Can's 2016-2017 Season Announced
Bang on a Can's 2016-2017 season continues the "relentlessly inventive" (New York Magazine) new music collective's mission to create an international community dedicated to innovative music, wherever it is found, with performances throughout the U.S., Canada, and Europe, plus two new Bang on a Can Institutes for emerging composers and performers in Neuwied, Germany (November 21-26, 2016) and Abu Dhabi (February 2-5, 2017). Bang on a Can's New York season includes its annual People's Commissioning Fund Concert (January 9); a special concert at Carnegie Hall curated by Steve Reich celebrating the music of Bang on a Can co-founders Michael Gordon, David Lang, and Julia Wolfe (April 19); the 30th Anniversary Bang on a Can Marathon (May 2017), and ongoing "Bang on a Can Presents" curating partnerships with The Jewish Museum and The Noguchi Museum. In addition, Julia Wolfe's Pulitzer Prize-winning work Anthracite Fields will tour the U.S. throughout spring 2017, and the All-Stars will continue to premiere new works in their Field Recordings initiative internationally.

Bang on a Can has appeared annually throughout the U.S. and Europe's most prestigious concert halls and festivals, as well as in Argentina, Australia, China, Korea, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, and Russia. The New York Times reports, "[Bang on a Can's] 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." Now, Bang on a Can brings the community-fostering model it has developed for the past 15 years in its annual Bang on a Can Summer Music Festival at MASS MoCA in North Adams, MA, to two new locations – Neuwied, Germany in partnership with Villa Musica Rheinland-Pfalz, and Abu Dhabi in partnership with NYU Abu Dhabi.  In both locations, Bang on a Can All-Stars members as well as co-founders Gordon, Lang, and Wolfe will work with students and young professionals to explore American contemporary music, passing on the Bang on a Can ethos and approach to "making music new" to the next generation of musicians and bringing an unexpected view of what American music is to other parts of the world.

For complete details of the new season, visit www.bangonacan.org

--Christina Jensen, Jensen Artists

Music Institute of Chicago Announces 2016-17 Chicago-Evanston Season
The Music Institute of Chicago announces the 2016–17 season of its Faculty and Guest Artist Series, showcasing noteworthy keyboard artists, illustrious alumni, and the legacy of Louis Armstrong. All but one of the concerts take place at the historic Nichols Concert Hall, 1490 Chicago Avenue in downtown Evanston. In March, the Music Institute presents one special performance at its partner venue, Fourth Presbyterian Church, 126 E. Chestnut Street in downtown Chicago.

Opening Night: "The Elements"
Saturday, September 24, 7:30 p.m.

Louis Armstrong Legacy Concert
Saturday, November 12, 7:30 p.m.

Family Concert: Duke It Out!
Saturday, December 10, 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.

Academy Orchestra with organ soloist John W. W. Sherer
Friday, March 3, 7 p.m., Fourth Presbyterian Church, 126 E. Chestnut St., Chicago—Free Admission
Saturday, March 4, 7:30 p.m.

Sergei Babayan
Friday, May 5, 7:30 p.m.

Academy Orchestra with Kate Liu
Saturday, May 20, 7:30 p.m.

All performances—except the March 3 concert, which takes place at Fourth Presbyterian Church, 126 E. Chestnut Street in Chicagotake place at Nichols Concert Hall, 1490 Chicago Avenue in Evanston. Tickets, except where noted, are $30 for adults, $20 for seniors and $10 for students, available online or 847.905.1500 ext. 108. All programming is subject to change. For more information, visit musicinst.org.

--Jill Chukerman, JAC Communications

Berkeley Symphony Opens 2016-17 Season with Paul Dresher World Premiere Oct. 13
Music Director Joana Carneiro and Berkeley Symphony open their 2016-17 season, their eighth together, on Thursday, October 13 at 7 pm with the world premiere of a commission by the Orchestra of a new work by Paul Dresher, Crazy Eights & Fractured Symmetries; Stravinsky's Petrushka; and violinist Philippe Quint performing Erich Korngold's Violin Concerto at Zellerbach Hall in Berkeley.

Well-established as a presenter of major contemporary orchestral works, Berkeley Symphony continues its steadfast commitment to presenting original and unique programs with new music commissioned by living composers, many of whom Berkeley Symphony has developed an ongoing creative and collaborative relationship. In addition to the Paul Dresher world premiere, Berkeley Symphony's 2016-17 season includes a performance of James MacMillan's Symphony No. 4, which is a new co-commissioned West Coast premiere, and the Bay Area premiere of Mason Bates's Cello Concerto, with Joshua Roman as soloist. The Orchestra will also perform Shostakovich's epic Symphony No. 13, "Babi Yar", with bass Denis Sedov and alumni of choruses including the UC Berkeley Chamber Chorus, the Pacific Boychoir Academy, and members of the St. John of San Francisco Russian Orthodox Chorale, led by Marika Kuzma. Shai Wosner is soloist in Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 4, and the Orchestra performs Beethoven's Symphony No. 4. Since its 1979-80 season, Berkeley Symphony has performed 64 world premieres, 28 U.S. premieres, and 21 West Coast premieres. In recognition of its leadership in commissioning and creating new music, the Orchestra has received the prestigious ASCAP Adventurous Programming Award in 10 of the past 13 seasons.

Paul Dresher, a musical omnivore who incorporates global musical influences into his compositions, has been widely commissioned and has written experimental opera and music theater, chamber and orchestral compositions, and scores for theater, dance, and film. The composer, who earned his bachelor's degree in music at Cal, has had a long and fruitful relationship with Berkeley Symphony, including commissioned performances of his new works, mentoring in the Orchestra's educational programs, and speaking at preconcert talks. His 2012 Concerto for Quadrachord and Orchestra was given its world premiere by the Orchestra under Carneiro; he invented the quadrachord, among other instruments. Carneiro also led the Orchestra in Dresher's Cornucopia in 2010.

Tickets for the Berkeley Symphony concert October 13 are priced at $15 to $74 and are available by phone at (510) 841-2800, ext. 1, and on-line at www.berkeleysymphony.org.

--Jean Shirk Media

Andrea Bocelli: Sentimento (CD review)

Lorin Maazel, violin. London Symphony Orchestra. Philips 289 470 400-2.

Esteemed conductor and violinist Lorin Maazel tells us in the booklet note that his father was an ardent admirer of the early twentieth-century violin-tenor duets of Fritz Kreisler and John McCormack and that he collected many of their popular recordings. So when the opportunity came for Maazel to record such material with Italian classical tenor Andrea Bocelli, he jumped at it. The result in this 2001 release is more than a series of popular Italian songs, however, as the compositions involved include not only familiar works by Tosti and Martini but pieces by Rodrigo, Leoncavallo, Offenbach, and Rossini as well. The result is an entirely satisfying collection of familiar, if still lightweight fare.

The listener may not mistake Mr. Bocelli's voice for the mellifluous timbres of Domingo nor the electrifying highs of Pavarotti, but it sounds surprisingly flexible and flowing, with a sturdy tone and a wide range. I confess my own previous acquaintance with the artist had been in bits and pieces of PBS specials on TV, hardly a fair way to judge the man's vocal qualities. I was delightfully surprised, therefore, when I heard him on disc, although I was not as overwhelmed by his talents as many people are.

Andrea Bocelli
The term "Sentimento" for the album derives from the fact that all of the chosen songs are connected to strong personal feelings and emotions, the selections largely ballads or romantic repertoire. In addition to the popular songs of Tosti, there is a vocal rendition of the second movement of Rodrigo's Concierto de Aranjuez, Offenbach's "Barcarolle" from Le Contes d'Hofmann, Liszt's Liebestraum No. 3, and others. It's incorrect to say these are purely duets, however, as the two men (Bocelli and Maazel) are discreetly accompanied by the London Symphony Orchestra.

The Philips recording of Bocelli's voice sounds superb, ringing loudly and clearly but not too forwardly, with the violin well balanced by his side. The orchestra, however, is another matter, which may please some listeners and bemuse others. At first one hardly notices the orchestra, probably a plus as the ensemble should not draw attention to itself. Later, one notices the instruments do not appear as well focused as they should, and they don't just spread out behind the soloists but practically envelop them. It's not an unpleasant sonic experience, but an oddly different one.

JJP

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 (moviemet.com, 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