Overlooked Mahler (CD and SACD Reviews)

Symphony No. 2 “Resurrection” (w/Brahms, Symphony No. 4)*; Symphony No. 5.**
*Brigitte Fassbaender, mezzo-soprano; Margaret Price, soprano; London Symphony Chorus; Leopold Stokowski, London Symphony Orchestra. RCA Victor Gold Seal 09026-62606-2. **Hartmut Haenchen, Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra; Pentatone classics 5186 004.

By Karl W. Nehring

There are multitudes upon multitudes of Mahler recordings out there, sometimes even by the same conductor. Mahler fans often own multiple recordings of the same symphonies, but still look forward to hearing new recordings that continue to be released. However, for those fans who can never get their hands on enough Mahler recordings, but perhaps even more importantly, for those fans just starting to appreciate Mahler’s music, I would like to turn your attention to a couple of wonderful recordings that have both been around for a good while but are generally overlooked. Neither recording is by a conductor that most music lovers would associate with Mahler. However, both recordings are musical as well as sonic gems, well worth seeking out both by dedicated Mahlerians and by those just curious to see what this Mahler fellow is all about, anyway. 

Interestingly enough, Stokowski was in the audience in Vienna in when Mahler conducted the premiere of his Symphony No. 8. With the political situation in Vienna deteriorating, Stokowski obtained a copy of the score and managed to smuggle it in his luggage and bring it back to Philadelphia with him, where he was the newly appointed conductor of the at that time relatively unknown Philadelphia Orchestra. He insisted that the orchestra present the work and demanded on staging it with a choral force of 950(!) singers – an expense that the orchestra’s board thought way too financially risky. Through sheer force of will and a magnetic personality, Stokowski prevailed and he conducted the U.S. premiere of the work – leading a force of 1,069 musicians – in  March, 1916. The concert proved such a sensation that it was repeated several times in March and April to standing-room-only crowds and thrusting the orchestra into international prominence. (Stokowski’s life is one of the  most colorful imaginable, if you have never read about this now largely-forgotten conductor, do some web browsing and prepare to be entertained!) 

Leopold Stokowski
Although he frequently conducted Mahler in concert, Maestro Stokowski made few Mahler recordings, but this one is a definite keeper. It was made in 1974, when Stokowski was in his 90s. Always eager to embrace new sound technologies, in 1931 he worked with Dr. Harvey Fletcher of Bell Labs on the original stereophonic (three-channel, BTW) orchestral recordings. (If I may be allowed to insert a personal note, in his later life, Harvey Fletcher was married to my wife's grandmother, and in the mid-1970s, we spent many interesting times with “Uncle Harvey,” who even in his 90s was still fascinated by sound and still working on acoustics research. He loved to tell us tales of his work, and he showed us many pictures of him with Leopold Stokowski from those pioneering recording sessions.) For these Mahler sessions, Stokowski worked with the producers of this recording to capture the proceedings in quadraphonic sound, which was an exciting new technology at the time.

However, quadraphonic vinyl LPs never really established themselves in the marketplace. But with the advent of compact discs and digital surround-sound formats, BMG went back to the original quadraphonic master tapes, mixed them for Dolby Surround and released them on CD. I never did set up surround system in my home, but I enjoyed this CD in two-channel stereo and it certainly sounds excellent in that format. However, sometime in the early 2000s I took this CD along on a visit to the Legacy Audio facilities in Springfield, Illinois. In one of his several listening rooms, Bill Dudleston had set up a multi-channel system for the purpose of investigating various approaches to surround sound for both home theater and music listening. For the heck of it, we stuck the Stokowski CD in to the system and were bowled over by the resulting sound. Not only was the soundstage expansive left-to-right and front-to-back, but there was a sensation of height that was truly impressive. Dudleston had a scope in the system that allowed him to see the way the signal was allocated among the four main speakers – he was amazed to see that the Stokowski  CD yielded the cleanest, purest, most impressive signal division that he had ever encountered.

In terms of performance, Stokowski's Mahler is a bit on the slow side, but very expressive – this is a powerful, moving performance. With its excellent sound and majestic performance, this version of the "Resurrection" is one of the finest I have ever heard. If you are a fan of this symphony but have never heard this recording, well, you might want to put it on your want list.

By the way, Stokowski's Brahms 4th is also powerful, but in the opposite way -- it is performed at breakneck speed! A quick comparison: Mackerras's performances with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra (Telarc) are generally regarded as fast and lively. In the first movement, Mackerras clocks in at 12:02, Stokowski at 10:48. In the final movement, a set of dramatic theme and variations, Mackerras clocks in at 10:06, while Stokowski comes in at 9:51. Yes, this is probably much faster than Brahms intended (and remember, Mackerras is leading a chamber orchestra, while Stokowski is at the helm of the full LSO). It is hard to imagine this one being anyone’s first choice in the Brahms, but it is fun to listen to every once in a while. Majestic Mahler, manic Brahms. Most of the time, you can just start with Track 5, the opening movement of the Mahler.

When Mahler fans start discussing notable Mahler conductors, the names that usually pop up right away are familiar ones such as Bernstein, Abbado, Klemperer, and Barbirolli. The discussion might then move on to names such as Haitink, Karajan, Tilson Thomas, Abravanel, Jansons, Chailly, or the Fischer brothers. Ivan and Adam. One name you are very unlikely to hear is Haenchen. Who?!

Which is pretty much exactly what I thought some years back when this disc arrived along with a bunch of other Pentatone releases for possible review in my old “More Jazz Than Not” column in The $ensible Sound. For one reason or another, mostly because so many other recordings at the time seemed more appealing to audition than a Mahler 5 by some guy named Hartmut Haenchen (who?!) leading the Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra.

Hartmut Haenchen
Alas, that pretty much summed up my reaction to the recording when I received it as part of a box of releases from Pentatone back in 2002 or so when it was first released. I wound up never actually listening to it back then, moving on to other things. I vaguely remember reading a review or two over the years that said it was a nice recording, but I never really generated any real desire to hear it. Believe it or not, it wound up sitting on my shelf, still in its original shrink wrap, until just a month or so ago, when I decided that I wanted to listen to some more Mahler on SACD and remembered that I still had the Haenchen disc buried in my collection.

Oh. My. Goodness…

Both musically and sonically, this is one of the finest recordings of the Mahler Symphony No. 5 that I have ever heard. German conductor Hartmut Haenchen just seems to get everything right. Not too fast, not too slow. Plenty of dynamics, but not overblown exaggerations. The orchestra plays with precision and power, and the engineers have done a remarkable job of capturing a live concert performance in superb. The liner notes state that the recording was made by Polyhymnia, a recording firm that “specializes in high-end recordings of acoustic music on location in concert halls, churches, and auditoriums around the world. It is one of the worldwide leaders in producing high-resolution surround sound recordings for SACD and DVD Audio.” Based on this recording, I am willing to believe them. As I indicated above, I do not have a surround setup, so have only listened to the two-channel CD and SACD channels. Both layers yielded stunningly good sound.

Neither of these recordings ever seems to get mentioned in discussions of Mahler recordings, but both are gems. Overlooked gems. I recommend them both very highly!

KWN

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

Kernis: Color Wheel (CD Review)

Also, Symphony No. 4 “Chromolodeon.” Giancarlo Guerrero, Nashville Symphony. Naxos 8.5598.38

By Karl W. Nehring and John J. Puccio

First, a word from Karl:
A while back I reviewed a disc of compositions by Sessions and Panufnik. Both were in effect concertos for orchestra, and both were composed for the 1981 centennial of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. After listening a couple of times to get a general sense of the music on this release of two compositions by American composer Aaron Jay Kernis (b. 1960), I then took a first look at the liner notes (written by Kernis himself) and discovered to my surprise that “Color Wheel was composed especially for the Philadelphia Orchestra’s opening concerts in Verizon Hall at the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts in 2001, and in celebration of the orchestra’s centennial.”

As you might expect of a work composed for such an occasion, Color Wheel is brash and exuberant, a piece that allows the orchestra to really strut its stuff. The performance on this new Naxos CD was recorded 15 years later (2016), not by the Philadelphians, but by the Nashville Symphony under the direction of Maestro Giancarlo Guerrero. Another interesting tidbit from Kernis’s liner notes is his explanation that “long before starting it I met with architect Roland Vinoly and acoustician Russell Johnson to learn about the development of the new hall… Initially I’d intended that Color Wheel would explore specific spatial characteristics of this new hall… I eventually decided to concentrate on exploring the unique qualities of the orchestra itself, employing a wide array of contrasts in dynamics and sounds in what I hoped would be a vivid new musical experience.” So, in light of all that, how do the more modest Nashville forces measure up to the challenge of performing music written especially for the formidable Philadelphians? In  my estimation, they do themselves proud.

Color Wheel opens dramatically with a big blast of brass and percussion, followed by a bit of a respite, then another blast, then more introspection. Suddenly the sound profile shifts. The lead gets passed among various sections of the orchestra, with an underlying pulse, which you can feel more than hear, keeping everything in line. At about 10 minutes in, the pulse changes. The energy continues unabated, though, reaching a peak not long after minute 13. A sound that really stands out after 14 minutes or so is a bass line that calls to mind something you might expect to hear on a jazz recording featuring, say, Christian McBride. The pulse gains more drive as Color Wheel rolls on, becoming more frantic than ever as the finish line comes into view. Heaving chords build toward a climax. Surprisingly, for a piece that has sounded anything but “conventional” in sonority and structure, the ending sounds much more conventional that you might expect. All in all, an interesting piece, one that shows off the power and versatility of the modern symphony orchestra. For audiophiles, it will also reveal the power and versatility of your audio system.

Kernis’s Symphony No. 4 “Chromelodeon” (Kernis explains how he came up with this odd term in his liner notes) is also a work that was commissioned, in this instance by the New England Conservatory of Music for its 150th anniversary in 2018. In contrast to the loud opening measures of Color Wheel, the symphony seems to emerge gradually from silence, not surprising for a movement aptly titled “Out of Silence.” Gentle percussion, then strings, establish somber mood. As the movement develops, you notice a four-note motif that weaves in and out of the fabric of the music as the movement moves forward. The energy level builds, the tempo speeds up, and the overall mood becomes increasingly agitated. Later, the tempo decreases, but the drama builds, leading to a tympani outburst. As the movement comes to an end, there is a big buildup, then silence, until the movement ends quietly with the sound of a flute.

Giancarlo Guerrero
The second movement, titled “Thorn Rose | Weep Freedom (after Handel)” opens with brash chords from the brass, joined later by the strings, then settling down to a softer mood with woodwinds in the lead, and then a rather archaic-sounding contribution from a string quartet. In the movement, the longest of the symphony at more than 12 minutes, the lead is taken by different sections of the orchestra, including a piano for a brief stretch. At around 7 minutes there is some quiet, restless playing from the strings, followed a couple of minutes later by the winds. There is a big climax at about 10 minutes in, some snare drum action, followed by brass, flute, and then the movement ends with the return of the archaic quartet. The movement – like the symphony as a whole – comes across as dramatic but a bit of a hodgepodge.

The brief (5:50 in this performance) final movement, titled “Fanfare Chromelodia,” begins with, you guessed it, fanfare gesture from the brass section, with another fanfare gesture near the end of the piece before the big ending with brass bellowing and bass drum pounding. Layered in between are contributions for the percussion section, some fluttering woodwinds, and some frenzied strings running up and down. Again, plenty of energy, but still a bit of a hodgepodge.

In the final analysis, although I found much of the symphony interesting to hear, it never really came across as a symphony to my ears. To be honest, I preferred Kernis’s Symphony No. 2, which I reviewed for The $ensible Sound back in  the late 1990s. That is a remarkable work, well, worth seeking out, and there are two other interesting Kernis compositions included on the CD (originally on Argo but rereleased on the Phoenix label). This new recording from Naxos is not without merit, however, and I can recommend it to those who are not intimidated by the very idea of contemporary music. There are some truly imaginative passages to be found, and the engineers have done a fine job. Bravo to Naxos for letting us hear interesting music we might never get to hear otherwise!

KWN

And now a word from John:
I have to admit that I do not stay as abreast as Karl of all current music, and unless I review something, I don’t often hear about new recordings or new composers. Well, American composer Aaron Jay Kernis (b. 1960) is hardly “new,” and I’ve already reviewed one of his pieces a few years ago. But I still wasn’t really familiar with him. So, I looked him up.

According to Wikipedia, Mr. Kernis “is a Pulitzer Prize and Grammy Award-winning American composer serving as a member of the Yale School of Music faculty. Kernis spent 15 years as the music advisor to the Minnesota Orchestra and as Director of the Minnesota Orchestra's Composers' Institute, and is currently the Workshop Director of the Nashville Symphony Composer Lab. He has received numerous awards and honors throughout his thirty-five year career.” So, there you have it.

The first of two Kernis works on the present album he wrote in 2001 for the Philadelphia Orchestra and titled Color Wheel. Like a color wheel in art that shows the relationships of all the colors in the visible spectrum, Kernis’s Color Wheel attempts to show at least some of the many tonal colors of the musical world.

The piece is in a single twenty-odd minute movement that moves from one extreme to another with benefit from some hints of melody, although nothing you’re going to start whistling afterwards. It appears to be more the way it’s title implies, a swirling cycle of musical colors. As such, it’s fun to listen to, at least the first time through. Beyond that, I give no guarantees. What’s beyond doubt, though, is the elegance and precision of the Nashville Symphony under Maestro Giancarlo Guerrero. They negotiate the twists and turns of the music with an assured polish. As the music moves from light to dark, from poetic to prosaic, from classical to jazz, from harmonic to melodic to rhythmic, the orchestra catches all the nuance in between. It may just grow on me.

The second piece on the disc is Kernis’s Symphony No. 4, written in 2018 and subtitled “Chromelodeon.” Yeah, I had to look this one up, too. I should have just read Kernis’s booklet note, which said the same thing I googled. Namely, a chromelodeon is a microtonal instrument invented by composer Harry Partch, as well as an eight-piece indie rock band from Philadelphia that was active between 2000 and 2007. Kernis tells us it was also a cult progressive rock band from the late 60’s. Take your choice.

More important, Kernis tells us that for him “chromelodeon” means “chromatic, colorful, melodic music performed by an orchestra. This new symphony is created out of musical elements, not images or stories, though I would not be surprised if the influence of living in the chaos of the world today--at a ‘molecular’ emotive level--didn’t play a part in its creation.” The disc jacket describes the symphony as an exploration of “the coexistence of opposing musical forces to powerful, pensive and touching effect.”

Anyway, I enjoyed the symphony more than I did the previous piece, whether or not it’s an actual “symphony” in the conventional sense. Perhaps it’s because I’m old-fashioned and the symphony had a more traditional structure and content. The first of three movements, “Out of Silence,” is thoughtful, moody, maybe even reflective. Whatever, it’s mostly dreamy, slow-moving, and contemplative until the final third, ending on a mildly dark, if also rousing, note. The second movement, “Thorn Rose | Weep Freedom,” exposes what the composer calls “a melody vaguely influenced by Handel,” followed by variations on the theme. The initial string quartet he incorporates in the background is a strong part of the contrasts he seeks to define. Some parts of the movement work; other parts seem more than a bit odd merely for the sake of eccentricity. The final movement, “Fanfare Chromelodia,” is short and sparingly regal, ending the symphony in a triumph of sorts. Both works on the disc are world première recordings.

Producer Tim Handley and engineers Gary Call and Trevor Wilkinson recorded the music at the Laura Turner Concert Hall, Schermerhorn Symphony Center, Nashville, Tennessee in November 2016 and February 2019. As with most of the recordings of the Nashville Symphony, this one sounds quite natural. Although it’s a little shallow in front-to-back depth and slightly narrow in orchestral width, it doesn’t detract much from the overall realism of the sound. It’s well balanced throughout, with no elements of the frequency spectrum sticking out obtrusively, and even though the extreme ends of the scale, the highs and the lows, may be somewhat unimpressive, the whole is pleasingly listenable.

JJP

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

Classical Music News of the Week, August 1, 2020

Jupiter String Quartet Gives World Premiere

The Jupiter String Quartet remains committed to making music during these challenging times, and in place of its scheduled in-person performance will give a virtual concert presented by Rockport, Maine’s Bay Chamber Concerts on August 6, 2020 at 7:30pm, recorded from the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana, where the ensemble has been artists-in-residence since 2012. The concert will be available for the public worldwide to watch at www.baychamberconcerts.org.

The Jupiter is a particularly intimate group, consisting of violinists Nelson Lee and Meg Freivogel, violist Liz Freivogel (Meg’s older sister), and cellist Daniel McDonough (Meg’s husband, Liz’s brother-in-law). Now enjoying their 19th year together, this tight-knit ensemble is firmly established as an important voice in the world of chamber music. The New Yorker writes, “The Jupiter String Quartet, an ensemble of eloquent intensity, has matured into one of the mainstays of the American chamber-music scene.”

On August 6, the Jupiter will give the world premiere of composer Michi Wiancko’s To Unpathed Waters, Uncharted Shores, a new commission for them by Bay Chamber Concerts with the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts, alongside Beethoven’s monumental String Quartet No. 15 in A minor, Op. 132. The new work was commissioned in celebration of the 60th anniversary of the founding of Bay Chamber Concerts as well as Maine’s Bicentennial, and is paired with Beethoven’s music in honor of the 250th anniversary of the composer’s birth.

For more information, visit www.jupiterquartet.com

--Christina Jensen, Jensen Artists

What's Streaming: Classical / Theater (Week of August 3–9)
Monday, August 3 at 6:30 p.m. MT (one-time-only viewing)
Sun Valley Music Festival: Gala performances by Audra McDonald, Kelli O’Hara, and Brian Stokes Mitchell.

Tuesday, August 4 at 2:00 p.m. CT
Tulsa Opera’s “Staying Alive” continues with soprano Sarah Coburn.

Tuesday, August 4 at 6:30 p.m. MT (one-time-only viewing)
Sun Valley Music Festival: Reich, Golijov, Mozart, Handel, and The Beatles, for strings and percussion.

Thursday, August 6 at 6:30 p.m. MT (one-time-only viewing)
Sun Valley Music Festival: Mason Bates’s Mothership and Beethoven’s “Spring” Sonata.

Thursday, August 6; Friday, August 7; and Saturday, August 8 at 5:30 p.m. PT
Miró Quartet concludes live-streamed Beethoven cycle with late quartets and Grosse Fuge.

Saturday, August 8 at 6:30 p.m. MT (one-time-only viewing)
Sun Valley Music Festival: Family Concert Inspiring Duos.

Sunday, August 9 at 6:30 p.m. MT (one-time-only viewing)
Sun Valley Music Festival: Daniil Trifonov in recital.

Minnesota Orchestra at Home

--Shuman Associates

Notable Encounters Online - Dvorak Bass Quintet
Today we are pleased to introduce a four-episode Notable Encounter Online exploring the Bass Quintet in G major by Antonin Dvorak. In this first episode, Scott Yoo discusses how the addition of a double bass affects a musical ensemble.

On behalf of our Board of Directors, our artists, our staff, and our hundreds of volunteers, we thank you for staying home and helping to slow the spread of COVID-19. We will perform for you live in our favorite venues— and some new ones as well— when our local and state officials deem safe.
In the meantime, we have prepared some new Notable Encounters Online for you to enjoy from the comfort of your own home. Recently a few of our artists came together safely with music director Scott Yoo to prepare Brahms’s Second String Sextet and Dvorak's Bass Quintet.

For the next several days, we will send you a daily episode to illuminate the genius behind these masterpieces. We will conclude with a complete performance of each work at the end of the week.

You may view all past Notable Encounters Online here: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLpI84aVMZC_JMcvmgm1PMyAEKlyuY0cLK

--Scott Yoo, Music Director, Festival Mozaic

American Composers Orchestra Announces New Commissions and Virtual Premieres
American Composers Orchestra (ACO) announces Volume 3 of Connecting ACO Community, featuring seven commissions to be premiered online on Sundays at 5pm ET between August 2 and October 4, 2020, for a ticketed audience on ACO’s YouTube Channel. Each session includes a live conversation with the featured composer and performer(s), hosted by ACO Artistic Director Derek Bermel or ACO President Edward Yim, in addition to the performance.

ACO initiated Connecting ACO Community in response to the coronavirus pandemic crisis and since launching it on April 19 has created twelve brand new pieces by twelve composers, written for twelve solo performers plus the Brooklyn Youth Chorus, through the program. Previously commissioned composers include Ethan Iverson, Shara Nova, Vicente Hansen Atria, Sakari Dixon Vanderveer, Gity Razaz, Yuan-Chen Li, Joseph Pereira, Karena Ingram, Krists Auznieks, Lembit Beecher, and Alejandro Basulto Martinez.

Volume 3 includes seven more commissions and premieres, and features four soloists, two duos, and a sextet of musicians from ACO. Commissioned composers and performers for this installment include Tanner Porter composing for cellist Eric Jacobsen and vocalist Aoife O’Donovan; Vincent Calianno composing for trombonist Mike Seltzer; Wynton Guess composing for pianist Aaron Diehl; Amina Figarova composing a flute duo for ACO orchestra musicians Susan Palma Nidel and Laura Conwesser; Dawn Norfleet composing for vocalist Clarice Assad, voice; Guy Mintus composing for violinist Kelly Hall-Tompkins; and Brian Nabors composing for a sextet of ACO Musicians (violinist Debbie Wong; violist Sandy Robbins; cellist Gene Moye; bassoonist Harry Searing; flutist Diva Goodfriend Koven; and harpist Susan Jolles).

August 2, 2020 – October 4, 2020
Online world premieres streaming live on Sundays at 5pm ET


More information here: bit.ly/ACOConnectVol3

Watch Connecting ACO Community Volumes 1 and 2 on ACO’s YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLqToHsgaez-t3iuWx42eG8pcmQTdazOuf

--Maggie Stapleton, Jensen Artists

Arranging Songs That Sound Pro
When you pick up a lead-sheet for a song, it looks pretty sparse, doesn’t it? I imagine you wonder, ‘what do I do with it?’ I also imagine that you pick up already arranged versions of songs, right? The problem is they don’t sound all that wonderful, and some are difficult to play. Have you found that to be true?

The four videos in this post take a song and show several ways to create arrangements that are not only surprisingly easy but indeed, sound ‘pro’. It shouldn’t take you but a short time to get the idea of the arrangements, then start to practice them. I think you will be excited at what you can do with a minimum of effort… work smart, not hard!

In addition, you will be learning the language of music that can be used directly in the classics because you will have a working knowledge of the different chord identities with their characteristic intervals. Not hard!

But please, if you haven’t already, get your copy of ‘Learning the Language of Music… with Bach’ in my last post and continue to work with the videos in that post. It will be a life-changing experience since you will be learning things you never learned previously. The companion videos, ‘Rudiments’ are a must! I have avoided ‘theory’ like the plague in all posts!


--Ralph Hedges, Chopin Piano Academy

HAUSER Performs from Dubrovnik, Croatia
HAUSER now shares the third installment in his “Alone, Together” concert series, this time taking fans to the historic old town of Dubrovnik for a special solo performance amongst the city’s stunning scenery. “Alone, Together--From Dubrovnik” is now streaming globally on HAUSER’s official YouTube channel. With cinematic views of the city and surrounding Adriatic Sea, HAUSER’s latest performance includes a mix of classic compositions as well as his renditions of popular themes from film and television titles.

The repertoire fittingly includes a nod to “Game of Thrones,” much of which was filmed within the medieval walls of Dubrovnik’s old town, with HAUSER performing his rendition of the series’ well-loved theme song from the iconic Fort Lovrijenac. The latest in his series of “Alone, Together” performances, the event arrives on the heels of HAUSER’s previous concerts filmed in an empty Pula Arena in Croatia and the beautiful Krka Waterfalls National Park – watch HAUSER’s recent concerts here: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLdVkHRu3zRbJvd6VxF31HlgiNCf0mhtrQ

--Larissa Slezak, Sony Music

Episode 3 of SOLI's new Summer video series, "Moments of SOLIcitude"
Don't miss Episode 3 of SOLI's new summer video series Moments of SOLIcitude on YouTube Premieres featuring an original work composed and performed on Bass clarinet by SOLI's Stephanie Key with Sound Design and mixing by Jason Murgo.

Inspired by the prints by American artist Mary Bonner and the words of President Barack Obama, this project was created for McNay Art Museum's '100 Years of Printmaking in San Antonio' exhibit in 2018. Stephanie was inspired to create this original music in response to Marry Bonner's powerful print Fighting Bulls and inspirational text from President Barack Obama's acceptance speech on November 6, 2012.

The episode premiered Wednesday, July 29.


--SOLI Chamber Ensemble

New Century Announces 2021 Season
Music Director Daniel Hope and New Century Chamber Orchestra announced today a 2021 season that includes two San Francisco Bay Area subscription weeks in February and April.

Returning to the stage for the first time since January 2020, New Century will present a reduced season highlighted by the world premiere of a new work for piano and string orchestra by Chinese composer Tan Dun at Stanford University’s Bing Concert Hall, featuring Ukrainian pianist Alexey Botvinov; an evening of orchestral works in honor of Mozart’s birthday showcasing American violist Paul Neubauer and Daniel Hope in the composer’s Sinfonia Concertante for Violin, Viola and Orchestra in E-flat Major, K. 364; and a selection of string orchestra masterworks including Bloch’s Conceto Gross No. 1 and Dvorák’s Serenade for Strings in E Major, Op. 22 as well as George Gershwin and Kurt Weill song suites arranged by Paul Bateman.

In addition to performances in Berkeley, San Francisco and Marin, New Century will be at the Green Music Center in Sonoma and a debut appearance at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts in Los Angeles.

For more information, visit https://www.ncco.org/ebrochure

--Brenden Guy PR

Festival de Lanaudière Connected: Charles Richard-Hamelin Gives the Finale
Festival de Lanaudière unveils its surprise concert, scheduled for August 9: an exclusive recital by pianist Charles Richard-Hamelin, filmed at the Musée d'art de Joliette. The pianist will perform Ludwig van Beethoven's Piano Sonatas Nos. 13 and 14, Op. 27 – which includes the famous “Moonlight Sonata” – as well as Frédéric Chopin's 24 Preludes, Op. 28.

“I am very pleased to be performing live again in my hometown. Festival de Lanaudière is one of the events and places in the world where I have experienced some of the best moments of my career,” remarked Mr. Richard-Hamelin, whose last concert dates back to early March.

For Artistic Director Renaud Loranger, “It is only fitting to close our virtual edition with a unique concert given by one of the finest musicians from the region.”

For complete information, visit https://www.lanaudiere.org/en/

--France Gaignard, CN2 Communication

Orli Shaham's MidWeek Mozart - Piano Sonata No.16
Pianist Orli Shaham's MidWeek Mozart features a different complete Mozart piano sonata each week. This week enjoy Sonata No.16, K. 545 in its entirety, available to stream for free beginning Wednesday, July 29.

"The C major sonata is the first big classical sonata that most piano students learn. Mozart wrote this in a didactic way with all the fingerwork, technique, and getting around the keyboard with arpeggios, trills, and scales – it’s all in there," says Ms. Shaham about Sonata No.16.


--Gail Wein, Classical Music Communications

Arlen Hlusko as the New Bang on a Can All-Stars Cellist
Bang on a Can announces Canadian cellist Arlen Hlusko as the newest member of the Bang on a Can All-Stars. Hlusko has been performing with the All-Stars throughout the 2019-20 season and now joins the group as the permanent cellist.

Bang on a Can Co-Founders and Co-Artistic Directors Michael Gordon, David Lang, and Julia Wolfe, welcome Hlusko by saying, "We're thrilled to introduce the dynamic cellist Arlen Hlusko as the newest member of the Bang on a Can All-Stars. Her spectacular playing and commitment to community engagement wowed us all!"

Hlusko’s first official performance as an All-Star will be Saturday, August 1, 2020 at MASS MoCA in North Adams, MA as part of Bang on a Can & Friends, two nights of live-in person music on July 31 and August 1. She’ll perform a solo work - Michael Gordon’s Light is Calling - as well Louis Andriessen's Workers Union and Thurston Moore's Stroking Piece #1 with the All-Stars.

More about Bang on a Can & Friends, including program info, performer bios, and COVID-19 safety information, is available at friends2020.bangonacan.org.

--Maggie Stapleton, Jensen Artists

Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center Announces CMS FRONT ROW: National
The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center (CMS) announces a new digital initiative to enable local chamber music venues to bring its outstanding series of digital chamber music concerts, CMS: FRONT ROW, to audiences around the country. That not only brings the concerts to new audiences, it also gives local presenters a tool they can use to stay in touch with their audiences while concert halls in the U.S. and Canada remain shuttered.


--Beverly Greenfield, Kirshbaum Associates

PARMA Summer 2020 Call for Scores
PARMA Recordings is pleased to present our Summer 2020 Call for Scores. We are currently accepting submissions for Armenian Symphony Orchestra, Live Orchestral Performance. Performing Artist: The Armenian State Symphony Orchestra

One selected work will be performed live via the PARMA Live Stage.

Studio recording and release: Selected scores will be recorded and commercially released by PARMA Recordings. For these recording options, the submitter is responsible for securing funds associated with the production and retains all ownership of the master and underlying composition. Grammy Award-winner Brad Michel (PARMA’s Senior Producer, North America) is available to produce approved sessions.

Works for soloists, duos, Ttios, quartets, or quintets. Recording locations: Boston, MA / The Czech Republic.
        
Works for full or chamber orchestra.
Recording Artist: The Grammy Award-winning Nuremberg Symphony Orchestra.

The deadline for all submissions is August 14, 2020. Interested in submitting your work? Visit our website for more information: https://www.parmarecordings.com/call-for-scores/

--PARMA Recordings

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 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.
Karl W. Nehring, Contributing Reviewer

For more than 20 years I was the editor of The $ensible Sound magazine and a regular contributor to its classical 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 simpleminded, but I know I appreciate reading reviews by others that do the same for me -- point out recordings that I 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 an Arcam CDS50 CSD/SACD CD player, 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