Recent Releases, No. 10 (CD Mini-Reviews)

By Karl W. Nehring

Rachmaninoff: Symphony No. 1; Symphonic Dances. Yannick Nézet-Séguin, The Philadelphia Orchestra. Deutsche Grammophon 483 9839.

One of the pleasures of following Classical Candor is reading reviews by fellow reviewers John Puccio and Bill Heck not only to enjoy their insights and recommendations about various recordings but also to delight in their deft and descriptive deployment of the English language. They always seem to find just the right words with which to craft their insightful and delightful prose. In sad contrast to those distinguished gentlemen, after listening to this new recording numerous times all I can say is that the music, the performances, and the and the engineering are all totally kickass. Rachmaninoff’s Symphony No. 1 suffered a disastrous first public performance in 1897 by an ill-prepared orchestra conducted badly by an apparently drunken Alexander Glazunov. The resultant fiasco and humiliating press coverage so unnerved Rachmaninoff that he suffered a nervous breakdown that stifled his creative energy for three years. But in this recording we have the “Fabulous Philadelphians” at the height of their powers under the baton of a conductor in full possession of his faculties; together, they make a persuasive case indeed for this oft-overlooked symphony, a work full of passion and excitement. Its disc-mate is the more widely known Symphonic Dances, a rousing piece that has long been a favorite of audiophiles. Old-timers may remember the old Donald Johanos/Dallas Symphony recording, one that seemed exciting at the time, especially in light of its being on a budget label, but in retrospect was maybe not really all that great (the low price may have perhaps tainted our judgment). Other audiophiles might have fond memories of the David Zinman/Baltimore Symphonic Dances on Telarc, which still sounds darned good. Whatever your preference might be, this new DG recording is right up there with the best in terms of both sonics and performance, with plenty of energy in both those dimensions (and with, yes, Telarc-worthy bass). As I said above, kickass. Enough said…     

Pat Metheny: Road to the Sun. Metheny: Four Paths of Light; Road to the Sun; Arvo Part: Fur Alina. Jason Vieaux and Pat Metheny, guitar; Los Angeles Guitar Quartet (John Dearman, Matthew Greif, William Kanengiser, Scott Tennant). Modern Recordings 538639322.

The first concert I ever took my young sons to was the Pat Metheny Group sometime back in the early 80s – may even have been the late 70s. Over the ensuing decades, Metheny has made some memorable music, never resting on his laurels or content to play his familiar tunes over and over again, always striving to create something new, pushing himself as a composer and arranger as well as a guitarist. From his earlier albums with his Pat Metheny Group (Still Life Talking and We Live Here are noteworthy examples highlighting his melodic gift, along with that of his gifted keyboard companion, the late Lyle Mays) through his ultimate album with that group, The Way Up, which is virtually a through-composed symphonic piece by Metheny that strains against the limitations of a small jazz ensemble, Metheny followers could sense that he was more than just a guitarist, he was a composer whose chosen instrument was the guitar. Then in 2020 he returned to the studio with a new group to release From This Place, a flowingly lyrical album that included some symphonic accompaniment. At 76 minutes, it was an amazing achievement, emphasizing once again Metheny’s gift for composition as well as his prowess on the guitar.

Each month, the final page of BBC Music Magazine features an interview titled “Music That Changed Me,” in which some public figure, typically someone connected with the arts, is asked about the music that has had a significant influence in the course of their life. Imagine my surprise – and joy! – when I reached the final page of the most recent issue to reach my humble abode (May 2021) and saw a photo of a smiling, curly-headed American guitarist by the name of Pat Metheny. What a wonderful surprise! The interviewees are always asked to list a few key recordings, and Metheny’s list of five pieces began with three that were not particularly surprising: “And I Love Her” by the Beatles (as a teenager he loved George Harrison’s guitar work, and later in his career he recorded the piece himself on acoustic guitar), “Seven Step to Heaven” by Miles Davis (Metheny says that his brother brought home Davis’s Four and More album and that “hearing this cut was like being hit over the head by a two-by-four, and instant life-changing moment. At the time I didn’t know anything about form and chord changes, I just heard the sound…”), and Wes Montgomery’s “If You Could See Me Now” (which Metheny says contains “the greatest guitar solo of all time, including Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Page and Segovia”). His next selection was something of a surprise, Steve Reich’s Music for 18 Musicians (Metheny notes that “among the best phone calls I ever got was Steve Reich asking me to play his solo work for electric guitar, Electric Counterpoint. I’d been a fan for years: his Music for 18 Musicians changed everything – Steve had somehow captured the worldwide polar-magnetic shift from triple to duple time”). But it was his final choice that really surprised me, none other than Furtwangler’s recording of Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde (“Filling in blanks, particularly in the world of written music, is an ongoing process for me. I’m lucky to live across the street from Lincoln Center in New York and I had the chance to see Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde conducted by Sir Simon Rattle at the Met. It was a life-changing experience to rival ‘Seven Steps to Heaven.’ I knew the piece because it is famous in my world as being this four-hour exploration of a minor seventh, flat five chord, of the ‘Tristan’ chord. I went three night in a row, and each night it just got better”). I really did not see that one coming…

Something else that I did not see coming was that the next recording that Metheny would release after From This Place would be his first release ever to feature his work not as a performer, but rather as a composer. The album leads off with classical guitarist Jason Vieaux performing a Metheny composition for solo guitar titled Four Paths of Light. Naturally enough, the composition comprises four parts, each possessing a depth of expression and emotion that long-time listeners of Metheny’s music will recognize; however, Vieaux’s style of playing and the sound of his guitar does come across as more traditionally classical most of the time – still, there are passages where you can really hear Metheny ringing through. The next composition is the title piece, Road to the Sun, a six-part work written for and performed by the Los Angeles Guitar Quartet (with some “guest strumming” by Metheny on a couple of the parts). This is of course a more ambitious undertaking, more complex in structure, more formal sounding, but not without phrases that make you think that yes, this sounds like something that Pat Metheny could have composed. It truly is a delightful work, one that rewards repeated listening.

The album closes with a bonus track, and once again I can honestly say that just like I never see it coming that Pat Metheny would list Furtwangler conducting Tristan and Isolde as one of his favorite recordings, neither did I ever foresee him playing an Arvo Pärt tune on one of his recordings, but Road to the Sun concludes with Metheny offering a haunting version of Pärt’s Für Alina on his custom-made 42-string guitar. My friends, hearing Pat Metheny, one of my all-time favorite musicians, play the music of Arvo Pärt, one of my all-time favorite composers, on his amazing instrument with its incredible range of sounds made me feel that my life was now complete and had not been lived entirely in vain. To be sure, this recording may not have anywhere near the same profound sort of spiritual effect on you, but still, there is some genuinely fine music here that I can recommend without reservation.       

Bonus Recommendation:

Images of Metheny. Jason Vieaux, guitar. Azica Records ACD 71233.

On this recording from 2005, classical guitarist Jason Vieaux presents 13 songs by Pat Metheny in arrangements for classical guitar, including taking five songs and arranging them into the form of a baroque suite. Unfortunately, the CD is now hard to find; it can be streamed, however, for those so inclined. 


KWN

Tchaikovsky: Violin Concerto (Digital DL review)

Also, Mendelssohn: Violin Concerto. Jascha Heifetz, violin; Fritz Reiner, Chicago Symphony Orchestra; Charles Munch, Boston Symphony Orchestra. HDTT Direct Stream Digital and DXD PCM FLAC downloads.

By John J. Puccio

Let me begin with a few personal opinions and observations so you know where my biases lie.

First, I think Jascha Heifetz is one of the greatest violinists of the stereo age. Maybe the greatest violinist of any age. Yes, there are some fine runners up, like Itzhak Perlman, Nathan Milstein, Arthur Grumiaux, Yehudi Menuhin, Henryk Szeryng, Isaac Stern, and others. And certainly there are any number of contemporary musicians who may, in time, lay claim to the title. In any case, it’s always a pleasure to review something by Heifetz. (These HDTT remasters were originally recorded in the late Fifties.)

Second, I do have slightly mixed feelings about these particular Heifetz recordings of the Tchaikovsky and Mendelssohn concertos. I have always thought Heifetz’s Tchaikovsky was unsurpassed for its performance, but I’ve never cared overmuch for the sound. With the Mendelssohn I always found the sound acceptable but thought the performance a bit rushed. Nevertheless, they are both well worth owning.

Third, I have no horse in the vinyl vs. compact disc vs. digital streaming vs. digital download races. I’m sure there are excellent examples of superb sound in each format. For me, the fact that I listened to these Heifetz performances via Direct Stream Digital DSD and DXL PCM FLAC downloads is immaterial to my preference in formats. Whatever sounds best is what I enjoy, so I try to look for whatever I haven’t heard, make comparisons, and not generalize too much about what is always going to be best.

Now, about the performances: The program begins with the Violin Concerto in D major, Op. 35 by Peter Tchaikovsky (1840-1893). He wrote it in 1878 during a time when he was trying to recover from a bout of depression. Some critics of the day found the work wanting, one of them going so far as to say that it sounded "long and pretentious" and that it "brought us face to face with the revolting thought that music can exist which stinks to the ear." Thank heaven for the passage of time and the eventual validation of the work as a classic of the repertoire.

As with most concertos, Tchaikovsky’s piece begins with an Allegro, in this case taken at an appropriately healthy tempo, followed by a slow middle section Andante and then, without a break, a spirited Allegro vivacissimo. I doubt that anyone could argue against the Heifetz performance. He generates more excitement than probably any violinist in history. Still, he’s not all flash, and he handles the Andante with infinite care before concluding with a dazzling finish. Heifetz plays the piece with authority. It’s beautiful.

The other piece on the agenda is the Violin Concerto No. 2 in E minor, Op. 64 by Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847) The composer premiered it in 1845, just two years before his early death, and it would be the last big orchestral work of his lifetime. Fortunately, he went out in style, the concerto being among the most popular in the violin repertoire. The work consists of three fairly standard movements, but it was inventive in its day in that the violin appears almost immediately, and the movements are played without pause. In this concerto, Heifetz again puts on a blazing display of virtuosity, and while it can be fun in most respects, it may also be overkill. Some would say Mendelssohn needs a lighter, gentler touch.

Producer John Pfeiffer and engineer Lewis Layton recorded the Tchaikovsky at Orchestra Hall, Chicago in April 1957. Producer Pfeiffer and engineer John Crawford recorded the Mendelssohn at Orchestra Hall, Boston in February 1959. HDTT remastered the recordings in a variety of download formats including DSD128 (Direct Stream Digital), 24/352 8 DXD PCM FLAC digital, DSD64, 24/192 PCM, and 24/96 PCM, plus a variety of DVD Audio and CD configurations on physical disc. I listened to the DSD128 and 24/352 8 DXD PCM FLAC downloads.

During my listening sessions, I couldn’t help compare apples to oranges. I had on my shelf two longtime favorite CDs of these Heifetz recordings from JVC (Japanese Victor Company) using their meticulous XRCD processing. So I brought them down for a direct A-B comparison with the HDTT products. Which is unfair, I know, because JVC used the original RCA master tapes, and HDTT used commercially available tapes. Therefore, the reader should draw no absolute conclusions from my listening.

The differences, though, were quite apparent between the HDTT DSD download and the JVC discs, even after much fiddling with the volume to adjust each source to within a decibel of one another. HDTT tells us ahead of time what to expect, so I’ll quote from their Web site: “Because of the limited editing capability of DSD, to keep it ‘Pure DSD’ with no PCM used, you could hear blemishes from the original tape source that would be normally edited out in a PCM release.” In the case of the Tchaikovsky and the Mendelssohn, both recorded in the late 1950’s, HDTT retained not only”blemishes” but the original tape hiss, which was quite noticeabe in the Tchaikovsky and especially in the DSD format. JVC apparently used some sort of noise-reduction process to edit out the tape hiss, making their CD’s considerably quieter. However, the HDTT transfers appear to have retained much of the dynamic range of the originals. They’re just noisier, which is unfortunate. On the other hand, once adjusting one’s ears to the HDTT hiss, the JVC discs could sound downright dull for a moment, until one got used to the quieter sonics. The Mendelssohn sounded better than the Tchaikovsky all the way around in both HDTT download formats as well as on the JVC discs, with a better balance between the soloist and orchestra and a generally warmer, fuller presentation.

In any case, the HDTT transfers sounded fine, if not as easy on the ears as the JVC discs (which I’m not sure are available anymore). Yet, the fact remains that neither of these recordings--neither the Tchaikovsky nor the Mendelssohn--was ever the ultimate in sound to begin with. The close-up violin in the Tchaikovsky, for instance, can be annoying given the quality of the performance.

Bottom line: In the absence of the JVC XRCD’s, the HDTT transfers may be a person’s best bet for sound. The DSD download is slightly the better sounding if you can put up with the tape hiss. The DXD PCM FLAC, however, may be the optimum compromise: good sound with less hiss. Finally, if you are unable to play back digital downloads at all, HDTT offers various CD transfers that will do nicely, and they have the advantage of HDTT having cleared them of most tape noise.

Both of these Heifetz performances--the Tchaikovsky and the Mendelssohn--remain among the finest ever recorded, and I would advise anyone to seek them out in whatever format is available.

For complete information on HDTT products, visit their Web site at https://www.highdeftapetransfers.com/

JJP

To listen to a brief excerpt from the DXD FLAC download, click below:

Classical Music News of the Week, June 19, 2021

American Composers Orchestra Presents Two Composer Spotlights

American Composers Orchestra (ACO) presents two online Composer Spotlights events for the Toulmin Orchestral Commissions Program at 3pm ET on Wednesday, June 23, 2021 and Wednesday, July 7, 2021, streaming live on YouTube and Facebook. On Thursday, June 24, 2021 at 6pm, ACO will host an online Listening Party via Zoom with ACO Artistic Director Derek Bermel and special guest composers John Adams, Laurie Anderson, Eugene Moye, and Melinda Wagner. Advance registration is required for the Listening Party; advance registration is recommended for the Composer Spotlights. General admission for all the events is free, with donation options available.

Central to its values of diversity, disruption, and discovery, ACO partners each year with orchestras nationwide through its EarShot program (formerly the New Music Readings), which has identified and championed some of the most important rising compositional voices in the orchestral field since its founding in 1991. To deepen the creative community around this work, the Virginia B. Toulmin Orchestral Commissions Program (formerly the Women Composers Readings and Commissions Program), an initiative of the League of American Orchestras in partnership with ACO, has commissioned three EarShot alumni each year to write a new orchestral work that is premiered by participating orchestras across the country. The panels on June 23 and July 7 highlight eight composers whose pieces have been recently premiered, or will soon premiere, as part of the program. Get to know each artist, hear recordings of their music, and catch an inside look into the relationships they have built with the orchestras that will premiere their works.

Registration and information: http://americancomposers.org/performances-events/

--Christina Jensen, Jensen Artists

Berkshire Opera Festival Announces Indoor Full Capacity Summer Season
The fast-growing Berkshire Opera Festival moves full steam ahead after last summer's pandemic cancellations and virtual programs. In accordance with Massachusetts' revised reopening timeline, the two featured operas this summer—at both venues—will be offered at full capacity. Tickets are on sale through the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center box office.

The only company of its kind in the region, Berkshire Opera Festival has restored fully-staged opera to the Berkshires, with savvy productions and superlative casts under the vision of co-founders Brian Garman (Artistic Director) and Jonathon Loy (Director of Production). Just a few years after its founding in 2016, Opera News declared "destination status" on the Festival, and Berkshire On Stage wrote "No longer need we confine our opera-going to HD films—now we have the highest quality productions and performers in our own backyard." The New York Times called BOF's Ariadne auf Naxos "one of those productions that change the way you think about things."

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

--Aleba Gartner, Aleba & Co.

Chanticleer Announces Summer 2021 Season
Chanticleer announced today its summer 2021 season including a new concert film event, “After a Dream,” streaming on-demand beginning June 27, and a six-state national tour throughout the month of July including eight performances, the ensemble’s first live appearances since March 2020.

Following the highly successful holiday film, A Chanticleer Christmas: From Darkness to Light, Chanticleer will release an innovative new concert film that showcases the world premiere commission of close[r], now by American composer Ayanna Woods. Also featured on the program is a 2002 commissioned work by renowned film composer Carlos Rafael Rivera entitled Motet for 12 Singers, arrangements newly created for the ensemble of music ranging from Gabriel Fauré to Des’ree, as well as a selection of Renaissance works by Monteverdi, de Lassus, Vecchi, Lusitano and Byrd.

Tickets are priced at $25 for individuals and $42 for households and the event will remain available for unlimited viewing through July 11, 2021. For further information, visit http://www.chanticleer.org/

--Brenden Guy PR

Festival Mozaic Single Tickets on Sale Now
Join us for eight exciting days of live music in beautiful venues throughout San Luis Obispo County. We've assembled programs ranging from Baroque composers J. S. Bach, Vivaldi and Handel to Romantic works by Clara Schumann and Fanny Mendelssohn. Enjoy the soulful singing of Latin Grammy-winning Guatemalan songwriter Gaby Moreno. Explore classical remixes and modern tango with Grand Orquesta Navarre.

It's been a tough year-plus. Let's gather together for unparalleled performances in unforgettable places. It's time to make music with applause at the end!

For tickets and information, visit https://www.festivalmozaic.org/events

--Festival Mozaic

Donghoon Shin Wins Claudio Abbado Composition Prize
London based Korean composer Donghoon Shin has today been announced as the winner of the Claudio Abbado Composition Prize presented by the Karajan Academy of the Berliner Philharmoniker in honour of their Chief Conductor from 1989–2002. Awarded at irregular intervals, the recipient of the Claudio Abbado Composition prize is commissioned to write a work for members of the Karajan Academy.

Donghoon Shin’s Concerto for Cello and Orchestra will be premièred in May 2022 at a Gala Concert to mark the 50th Anniversary of the Karajan Academy. The orchestra, conducted by the Chief Conductor of the Berliner Philharmoniker, Kirill Petrenko, will be a combination of current scholars of the Karajan Academy and alumni who are members of the Berliner Philharmoniker. The soloist is Bruno Delepelaire, first principal cellist of the 0rchestra and former graduate of the Karajan Academy. The programme will open with Mozart’s Linz Symphony under conducting scholar Nodoka Okisawa and concludes with Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony under Kirill Petrenko.

The Karajan Academy of the Berliner Philharmoniker was an initiative of Herbert von Karajan who had the idea of organising the training of young orchestra musicians for the Berliner Philharmoniker in an academy. The commission is composed for the musical and artistic qualities of the current scholarship holders and is rehearsed by the composer with the scholarship holders.

--Ginny Macbeth, Macbeth Media Relations

“Great Performances: Vienna Philharmonic Summer Night Concert 2020”
Coming up on June 25, “Great Performances: Vienna Philharmonic Summer Night Concert 2020” premieres at 9 p.m. on PBS (check local listings), https://www.pbs.org/wnet/gperf/, and the PBS Video app. Enjoy the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra’s performance of selections by Strauss, Wagner, Offenbach, Puccini and more from the Schönbrunn Palace Gardens under the baton of conductor Valery Gergiev and featuring Metropolitan Opera tenor Jonas Kaufmann.

--Elizabeth Boone, WNET

James Conlon Conducts Four Spanish Orchestras
From June 18 leading up to World Music Day (or Fiesta de la Música) on June 21, internationally renowned maestro James Conlon celebrates by conducting the complete Schumann and Brahms symphonies in collaboration with four different Spanish orchestras. Most of these performances are part of the sixth ¡SOLO MÚSICA! biennial, this year titled “Duelo Romántico,” at Madrid’s Auditorio Nacional de Música. Given that Schumann and Brahms each composed four symphonies, the biennial treats each of the four programs as a ‘duel’ between their respective symphonies of the same number.

For more information, visit http://jamesconlon.com/

--Shuman Associates

A Season of Metamorphosis: National Youth Orchestra of Canada
As Canada begins to slowly emerge from an unprecedented shutdown of live music performance – and life as we knew it – the National Youth Orchestra of Canada (NYO Canada) is at the ready to guide and inspire the new generation of musicians to thrive in a world forever changed. While a second season – the orchestra’s 61st – will be exclusively online, instead of the usual intensive rehearsal and touring schedule, NYO Canada is proud to introduce a varied, flexible, and innovative online training institute. The exceptional program makes this season a true Metamorphosis, as today’s best young instrumentalists prepare to meet the future.

Launched this past Saturday, NYO 2021 includes a robust schedule of individual lessons, a remarkable series of marquee masterclasses from top musicians and teachers from around the world, and workshops covering essentials for today’s performer – from audio capture and production to digital marketing, and performance and audition skills. NYO Canada continues to be a world leader in providing exceptional mental health support and personal skills-building for its musicians, aiding top performance as well as life balance.

“I never could have imagined that we would see such extraordinary digital reach and collaboration with partners from across the country and around the world,” comments Kevin Latimer, Q.C., Board Chair of NYO Canada. “We are taking a whole new approach to ensuring our next generation of gifted orchestral musicians continue their training journey and will be ready in person when the time is right.”

For more information, visit https://nyoc.org/about/overview/

--Shira Gilbert PR

Festival de Lanaudière’s Return of Large-Scale Concerts Before Live Audiences
Consolidating tradition and renewal, the Festival de Lanaudière announces its programming under the theme The Thrill of Enchantment, and joyfully reconnects with its audiences this summer from July 17 to August 8.

“The Festival exists for the public and therefore reconnecting with audiences is a profoundly emotional event. In addition to celebrating this reunion, this edition is an occasion for us to reflect on what we experienced and what we were deprived of during the pandemic: live music, beauty, but especially our connection with others and the freedom to share,” explained Artistic Director Renaud Loranger.

As such, the region will resonate to the sounds of ten large-scale concerts at the Amphithéâtre Fernand-Lindsay, five recitals given in some of Lanaudière most beautiful churches, as well as fifteen or so free performances in parks and public spaces in the Greater Joliette Area. Four online webcasts of large-scale outdoor summer concerts (available for purchase) and four outdoor screenings of musical films (free of charge) complete the programming.

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

--France Gaignard, CN2 Communication

Opera Maine Presents a New Production of The Elixir of Love
Opera Maine will celebrate a return to live opera with two performances July 28 and 30 at Merrill Auditorium. Under the direction of Artistic Director Dona D. Vaughn, the company will stage an original production of Gaetano Donizetti's endearing comic opera L'elisir d'amore (“The Elixir of Love”). The opera will be reimagined and presented without intermission. Maestro Israel Gursky will conduct an outstanding cast of singers, along with an Opera Maine orchestra of sixteen select musicians. Nicolás Alberto Dosman is chorus master. Set and lighting will be designed by Tony-award winning Christopher Akerlind and costumes by Millie Hiibel.

The Elixir of Love combines Donizetti's exuberant music with a joyful story in which true love is revealed--with a little help from a magic potion.
       
Opera Maine's production of The Elixir of Love will be presented at Merrill Auditorium on Wednesday, July 28 and Friday, July 30 at 7:30 p.m. The opera will be sung in Italian, with English supertitles. Pre-performance talks at 6:30 p.m. will be given in Merrill by Calien Lewis, dramaturg.

For more information, visit https://www.operamaine.org/

--Kristen Levesque PR

MUSE/IQUE Announces 2021-22 Season
“L.A. Composed: A Festival of Los Angeles Music” led by Artistic Director Rachael Worby at the Huntington Library, Art Museum and Botanical Gardens and Skirball Cultural Center, July - October. 2021

July 14, 15 & 18: Tapestry at 50
In honor of the 50th anniversary of this iconic record, MUSE/IQUE weaves a surprising new performance of her seminal album through an eclectic range of performers and styles.

August 18, 19 & 22: Dylan Goes Hollywood
MUSE/IQUE explores Bob Dylan on the west coast and his quintessentially cinematic songs through the Hollywood lens.

September 22, 23 & 26: The House that Nat Built
MUSE/IQUE explores the enduring music of Nat King Cole and his impressive L.A. story, from his lasting legacy on television, on the Billboard charts, in the recording booth, and beyond.

October 13, 14 & 17: Etta At Last
MUSE/IQUE celebrates Etta’s most beloved songs and relives her most famous collaborations

http://www.muse-ique.com/
Tickets on sale Friday, June 18

--Lisa Bellamore, Crescent Communications

Death of Classical Present Gil Shaham and The Knights
The Angel’s Share will continue its third season on June 25, with superstar violinist Gil Shaham and the Brooklyn-based ensemble The Knights, performing their own pandemic-proof “pocket” version of Beethoven’s immortal Violin Concerto, in an outdoor performance set underneath Green-Wood’s historic Gothic Arch.

Normally, in order to perform Beethoven’s luminous, life-affirmingly beautiful Violin Concerto, one needs a full orchestra…fortunately, we have superstar violinist Gil Shaham and a contingent of five top-shelf players from Brooklyn’s own ensemble, The Knights (including founding brothers Colin and Eric Jacobsen), who have shrunk the work down to their pandemic-proof “pocket Beethoven” version. They’ll make six players sound like sixty, and cut to the core of this transcendent masterwork.

For complete information, visit https://www.deathofclassical.com/angelshare/beethoven-violin-concerto-pocket-edition

--Andrew Ousley, Unison Media

Five Boroughs Music Festival Presents Oracle Hysterical and Hub New Music
Five Boroughs Music Festival and the Newhouse Center for Contemporary Art at Snug Harbor co-present the digital premiere of “Terra Nova,” a new concert-length song cycle created by the members of composer-collective Oracle Hysterical and performed in collaboration with the contemporary mixed-instrument quartet Hub New Music. Commissioned by Hub New Music and Five Boroughs Music Festival, Terra Nova is inspired by a range of ambitious, gritty (and sometimes naïve, cruel, and myopic) explorers, comprising songs that are by turns darkly ironic, heartrending, and straight-up fun (and occasionally a confounding mix of all three), coalescing into a powerful experience of both text and music. The ensemble recorded the cycle at the Newhouse Center for Contemporary Art at Snug Harbor in Staten Island and it received its in-person premiere on May 15 outdoors at the Brooklyn Public Library on Grand Army Plaza.

Five Boroughs Music Festival Presents “Terra Nova” (Digital World Premiere)
Filmed at and Co-Produced by the Newhouse Center for Contemporary Art at Snug Harbor
Watch Free on the 5BMF YouTube channel through December 31, 2021

Learn More: https://5bmf.org/events/terra-nova/

--Katy Salomon, Morahan Arts and Media

Heartbeat Opera Announces Company Changes
Heartbeat Opera proudly announces that starting July 1, 2021, bass-baritone Derrell Acon will become the company's first Associate Artistic Director. Acon will also serve part-time on the West Coast at Long Beach Opera as their Associate Artistic Director and Chief Impact Officer. Heartbeat audiences know Acon from his astonishing performances as Rocco in Fidelio, Kaspar in Der Freischütz, and a singer in “Breathing Free.” In addition to his illustrious career as a performer, Acon has established himself as a respected and sought-after thought-leader and Blacktivist in the opera industry.

Heartbeat Co-Founder Louisa Proske, who was Co-Artistic Director for its first seven seasons, will become the Associate Artistic Director of Oper Halle in Germany. She will remain on Heartbeat’s board of directors, maintain ongoing close communication with Heartbeat leadership, and return to direct individual Heartbeat productions, including the upcoming world premiere of The Extinctionist. Her new role at Heartbeat will be Co-Founder & Resident Director.

For details, visit https://www.heartbeatopera.org/

--Aleba Gartner, Aleba & Co.

Meet the Staff

Meet the Staff
John J. Puccio, Editor, Publisher, Reviewer

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

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

For more than 20 years I was the editor of The $ensible Sound magazine and a regular contributor to 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