Classical Music News of the Week, September 23, 2017

92nd Street Y Opening Night and "Russian October" Concerts

92Y's 17-18 season opens on October 5 with internationally renowned cellist Mischa Maisky joining the "amazing precision" (Huffington Post) of the notably conductorless Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, which returns to 92Y for the first time in 15 years, to celebrate the cellist's 70th birthday season. Together, they open 92Y's illustrious concert season.

Opening night:
Thursday, October 5, 2017 at 8PM
92Y - Kaufmann Concert Hall, NYC
Orpheus Chamber Orchestra
Mischa Maisky, cello

Saturday, October 21, 2017 at 8 PM
92Y – Kaufmann Concert Hall, NYC
Special Event: Paco Peña, flamenco guitar

Tuesday, October 24, 2017 at 7:30 PM
Chamber Ensembles
92Y – Kaufmann Concert Hall, NYC
Borodin Quartet

Sunday, October 29, 2017 at 3 PM
92Y – Kaufmann Concert Hall, NYC
Masters of the Keyboard
Nikolai Lugansky, piano

For complete information, visit www.92Y.org

--Hannah Goldshlack-Wolf, Kirshbaum Associates

American Classical Orchestra Presents First NY Period Performance of Mozart's Mass in C Minor
The American Classical Orchestra, "the nation's premier orchestra dedicated to period instrument performance (Vulture)," presents its first performance of Mozart's choral masterpiece, Mass in C Minor (Robert Levin edition), on Tuesday, November 7, 2017 at 8:00 p.m. at Alice Tully Hall, Lincoln Center, joined by sopranos Hélène Brunet and Clara Rottsolk, tenor Brian Giebler, bass Stephen Eddy, and the ACO Chorus, led by Music Director and ACO founder Thomas Crawford. The program also includes Cherubini's rarely performed Démophoon Overture, and Beethoven's Symphony No. 8.

Considered his finest choral work, Mozart's Mass in C Minor was left unfinished like his Requiem. American pianist-scholar Robert Levin, who also completed an edition of Mozart's Requiem that Gramophone Magazine describes as "arguably the most convincing realisation," was commissioned by Carnegie Hall to complete the Mass, which premiered there in 2006, followed by a worldwide tour. This is the first New York performance using period instruments, such as Mozart heard in his time.

New this season are concert previews with the full orchestra, led by Maestro Crawford, beginning a half hour prior to each concert. Audience members are invited to listen to musical excerpts from the concert and hear insights about the program. Concert previews are free to all ticket-holders.

Additional concerts in the ACO's 2017-18 season include a performance of CPE Bach's Magnificat and the Christmas portion of Handel's Messiah on December 4 with the ACO Chorus and soloists at St. Ignatius of Antioch Church; five Baroque concertos with violinist Stephanie Chase at Alice Tully Hall on February 8; and a program of works by Brahms, Schubert, and Ries with contralto Avery Amereau and the ACO Men's Chorus on March 24.

For more information, visit www.aconyc.org

--Katy Salomon, Morahan Arts and Media

Slavyanka Chorus Announces 2017 Festival of Russian Choral Music
Slavyanka Russian Chorus and Artistic Director Irina Shachneva today announced the second Festival of Russian Choral Music with performances on October 15, 20 and 22 throughout the San Francisco Bay Area.

Shining a light on the lesser-known choral masterworks of Russian music's "Silver Age" (late 19th and early 20th centuries), the festival will include three West Coast Premieres of works by Sergei Taneyev -- his monumental choral cantata Ioann Damaskin (John Damascus), Op. 1, and choral composition Sunrise performed by the Festival Chorus and Orchestra with Irina Schachneva conducting, and the aria from his last cantata At the Reading of the Psalm featuring the Festival Orchestra and guest conductor Eric Kujawsky, Founder & Music Director of Redwood Symphony.

Internationally acclaimed Russian countertenor Andrej Nemzer teams up with Elena Stepanova-Gurevich (soprano) and Donna Stoering (piano) for a showcase of works for voice and piano by Tchaikovsky, Taneyev and Rachmaninoff. Nine choral groups from the Bay Area and beyond will present a vast selection of Russian folk songs, and sacred music. These groups include the Festival Chorus of nearly 100 voices; Slavyanka Chorus; women's folk ensembles PAVA, KITKA, Kostroma and ISKRA; and three SF Bay Area Russian church choirs -- the choir of Church of All Russian Saints (Burlingame), Holy Virgin Cathedral Pontifical Choir (San Francisco), and the choir of St. Lawrence Orthodox Christian Church (Santa Cruz).

General admission is priced at $25 with discounted $20 tickets available for students with a valid ID. Free admission for children under the age of 12. Tickets are available for purchase through the Slavyanka Chorus website: http://www.slavyankachorus.org

--Brenden Guy, Media Relations

Concerts at Saint Thomas Presents a Pair of October 2017 Performances
Concerts at Saint Thomas will open its 2017-18 season with a pair of October performances at Saint Thomas Church, Fifth Avenue at West 53rd Street, NYC. The opening concert, Saturday, October 21 at 1:15pm, will feature award-winning carrillonneur Julie Zhu playing a carillon prelude on the twenty-six church bells that ring out over Fifth Avenue, followed immediately by Organist and Director of Music Daniel Hyde playing a program of North German and Dutch music by the precursors to J.S. Bach: Sweelinck, Scheidt, Buxtehude, Böhm, and Bruhns. The concert is part of the sixth bi-annual New York Early Music Celebration.

On Thursday, October 26 at 7:30pm, Daniel Hyde conducts The Saint Thomas Choir of Men and Boys, Orchestra of St. Luke's, and soloists Krista Bennion Feeney, Sara Cutler, Clara Rottsolk, and Adrian Timpau in Arvo Pärt's Cantus in Memoriam Benjamin Britten, John Rutter's Visions, Ralph Vaughan Williams's Five Variants of Dives and Lazarus, and Vaughan Williams's great plea for peace, Dona Nobis Pacem.

For tickets and information, visit www.SaintThomasChurch.org/music/concerts

--Andrew Ousley, Unison Media

Pianist Luca Buratto: Zankel Hall at Carnegie Hall
Italian pianist Luca Buratto, the Honens International Piano Competition's 2015 Prize Laureate, will make his New York debut at Zankel Hall at Carnegie Hall on Wednesday, October 11, 2017, at 7:30 p.m. His program features works by Adès, Janácek, Ligeti, Prokofiev and Schumann. The concert is presented by the Honens International Piano Competition.

Luca Buratto stated, "My program for Carnegie Hall juxtaposes five very different types of works—all great, each having its own perspective and expressiveness: the struggles depicted in the sonatas by Janácek and Prokofiev; music of phantoms, angels and hidden voices in the works by Adès and Ligeti; and the distinctive voice of Schumann in his Humoreske. The music of Schumann has, in fact, become almost an obsession with me. Schumann was a tender poet and a stormy romanticist; his work—passionate, intense, lyrical and revolutionary—heralded a new conception of what music could be. Performing and recording his music is always challenging and inspiring, intensely gratifying—a compelling journey into the mind and the art of my most beloved composer. I will be happy and grateful to share the works of all these composers in Zankel Hall."

For more information, visit carnegiehall.org

--Raphael Zinman, Nancy Shear Arts Services

Free K-8 Music Programs from Music Institute of Chicago
The Music Institute of Chicago will offer one free music performance or activity to every K–8 school in proximity to its campuses, located in Evanston, Downers Grove, Lake Forest, Lincolnshire, and Winnetka, IL, as well as on Chicago's Near North Side during the 2017–18 school year. Schools in these and adjacent communities can request or collaborate on performances, listen-and-learn classes, musical instrument petting zoos, band and orchestra section rehearsals, master classes, and other music education activities.

In addition, students, teachers, and parents from these schools will receive free tickets to concerts on the Music Institute's Faculty and Guest Artist Series, which take place at the historic Nichols Concert Hall, 1490 Chicago Avenue in downtown Evanston. A family-friendly concert opens the series on Saturday, September 23 at 7:30 p.m. A reception follows the performance, when all audience members are welcome to enjoy frozen treats generously provided by Andy's Frozen Custard.

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

--Jill Chukerman, JAC Communications

Telemann 360° in Philadelphia
The Telemann 360° festival takes place 11 - 14 October. It is the largest event in the U.S. devoted to the composer in the 250th anniversary year of his death.

The musical highlights are on Friday and Saturday, Oct. 13th and 14th, with Tempesta performing programs that encompass chamber and orchestral works that span Telemann's entire career. There will also be a live talk show on Wednesday, October 11, hosted by Fred Child of Performance Today and Live from Lincoln Center, a concurrent Telemann conference hosted by Temple University, and a variety of concurrent activities, exhibits and tours.

For complete information, visit http://www.musiccointernational.com/artist.php?view=news&nid=8879

--Melanne Mueller, MusicCo International

Buy One, Get One Free Ticket for The Judas Passion
There's no better time to get tickets to see the U.S. Premiere of Sally Beamish's provocative new work The Judas Passion. Experience modern composition on period instruments and feel the power of critically-acclaimed tenor Brenden Gunnell as Judas. Reconsider the old narrative about Judas Iscariot as the anti-hero. And see Nicholas McGegan and America's leading period instrument orchestra and choir, the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra and Chorale, in a whole new light. Buy tickets now and save 50%.

Buy one ticket and receive another ticket free!
Order online and use promocode: PBO2017
Program:
Telemann: Tafelmusik, Suite No. 1 in E minor
Beamish: The Judas Passion

Nicholas McGegan, conductor
Mary Bevan, soprano
Brenden Gunnell, tenor
Roderick WIlliams, baritone
Philharmonia Chorale, Bruce Lamott, director

Friday October 6 @ 8:00 PM
Herbst Theatre, San Francisco, CA

Saturday October 7 @ 8:00 PM
First Congregational Church, Berkeley, CA

Sunday October 8@ 4:00 PM
First Congregational Church, Berkeley, CA

For more information, visit https://philharmonia.org/1617-season/operatic-heroes/ or https://www.cityboxoffice.com/eventperformances.asp?evt=2350

--Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra & Chorale

Five Boroughs Music Festival Presents Rolston String Quartet on October 13
Five Boroughs Music Festival (5BMF) presents the Rolston String Quartet—winner of the 2016 Banff International String Quartet Competition and current Quartet-in-Residence at the Yale School of Music—on Thursday, October 13 at 7:30 p.m. at South Oxford Space in Fort Greene, Brooklyn. The quartet performs Beethoven's String Quartet Op. 18, No. 3, Debussy's String Quartet No. 10, and Schumann's String Quartet Op. 41, No. 3.

Additional concerts in Five Boroughs Music Festival's 2017-18 season include a performance of the Five Borough Songbook, Volume II on Thursday, November 16 at 7:30 p.m. at National Sawdust, completing the Songbook's borough-wide tour; the Lorelei Ensemble on Friday, February 9 at 7:30 p.m. at the Church of St. Luke in the Fields in Manhattan; a collaboration with International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE) and UpBeat NYC on Saturday, March 17 at 8:00 p.m. at Pregones Theater in the Bronx; and concerts by TENET on Friday, May 11 at 7:00 p.m. at King Manor Museum in Jamaica, Queens, and on Saturday, May 12 at 7:30 p.m. at Christ Church Riverdale in the Bronx.

For more information, visit www.5bmf.org or email info@5bmf.org.

--Katlyn Morahan, Morahan Arts and Media

Augustin Hadelich Returns to San Francisco Symphony
Grammy Award-winning violinist Augustin Hadelich returns to the San Francisco Symphony on October 6, 7 and 8, 2017, performing Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto with Polish conductor Krzysztof Urbanski at Davies Symphony Hall.

Augustin made his debut with the San Francisco Symphony in 2013, performing Beethoven's Violin Concerto under the orchestra's Conductor Laureate, Herbert Blomstedt. For his return he reunites with Urbanski following a 2016 collaboration with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, in which Augustin gave a "stylish, riveting performance" of Mozart's Violin Concerto No. 5 "Turkish", according to the Los Angeles Times, continuing, "Hadelich's lean, burnished tone was supremely graceful and communicative."

For more information, visit www.augustin-hadelich.com or http://sfsymphony.org

--Melanne Mueller, MusicCo International

American Opera Projects' Season Opening Benefit
Even the Score: Women Composers @ AOP
Tuesday, Oct 3 | 6:30 PM
Upper West Side home, NYC

Join composers Laura Kaminsky (As One), Missy Mazzoli (Breaking the Waves), Nkeiru Okoye (Harriet Tubman), and Sheila Silver (A Thousand Splendid Suns) for a lively discussion of their work, careers, and the state of contemporary opera, moderated by conductor Steven Osgood (Artistic Director, Chautauqua Opera, AOP's Composers & the Voice) in support of AOP's 2017-18 season.

Evening includes live music, wine and hearty hors d'oeuvres.
Tickets: $300, seating is limited.

For further information and tickets, visit https://www.eventbrite.com/e/aop-season-opening-benefit-tickets-37742190909?utm_source=Copy+of+10-3-17+invitation&utm_campaign=Even+the+Score+reblast&utm_medium=email

--American Opera Projects

Tchaikovsky: The Sleeping Beauty (CD review)

Mikhail Pletnev, Russian National Orchestra. DG 289 457-2 (2-disc set).

Tchaikovsky's Sleeping Beauty ballet has always lurked in the shadow of his other two great ballets, The Nutcracker and Swan Lake. I daresay, with the exception of the big first-act waltz, most people would be hard pressed to identify much of it without prompting. But in the past couple of decades, the work has received several good recordings (including a budget-priced one from Naxos) to accompany such old favorites as those from Previn (EMI), Dorati (Philips), and Rozhdestvensky (BBC). Since Mikhail Pletnev and his Russian National Orchestra provided us with such a splendid Tchaikovsky Sixth Symphony a few years before this 2000 release, I had high expectations for his Sleeping Beauty. I wasn't terribly disappointed.

The performance sounds as polished as one could hope for: refined, subtle, and especially expansive in the slower movements. It is a serious interpretation, generally taking the slow parts cautiously and slow paced and the faster sections a tad faster than most other conductors. Compared to my reference, Previn and the London Symphony Orchestra, Pletnev seems almost grave at times, yet he also takes some tempos at a clip that would challenge the most nimble of dancers. Previn, on the other hand, has the lighter, more lyrical, more dance-like touch.

Mikhail Pletnev
There is no denying that Pletnev's baronial approach is enjoyable, but it may be a little too urbane for music of such obvious sensual and emotional appeal. No reservations about the playing, however. The Russian National Orchestra perform the work with elegance and refinement in abundance.

DG's digital sound, recorded in 1997, is somewhat heavier and smoother than EMI's 1974 analogue sound for Previn, and the DG sonics are not quite as detailed through the midrange. Nor is there as much depth to DG's orchestral field or as much ambiance as from the older EMI. Indeed, the DG sounds a little flat and dry by comparison. However, I did like DG's slightly more resonant string tone than EMI's. The sound of neither recording is exactly state-of-the-art, but neither recording offers any real displeasure.

Of minor note: The Pletnev recording offers a total of sixty-three tracking points, the Previn seventy-seven. Both are plenty. Overall, I'd say the Previn rendering is a more balletic approach; the Pletnev is more of a concert performance. Although they're both satisfying, if I had to pick just one, it would still be the Previn.

JJP

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


R. Strauss: Elektra & Der Rosenkavalier Suites (SACD review)

Manfred Honeck, Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. Reference Recordings Fresh! FR-722SACD.

Over the past few years I've had the pleasure of listening to several recordings by Maestro Manfred Honeck and the Pittsburgh Symphony. While the performances have had strong competition in the catalogue, Honeck's interpretations have held their own; and while I have not always enjoyed the live sound from Pittsburgh as much as others have, it has always sounded better to me than most live recordings. With this Richard Strauss album, however, the performances seem stronger and the sound a bit more rounded and lifelike, making it clearly the best thing I've yet to hear from Honeck and company. It's worth a listen.

First up on the program is a symphonic suite from the opera Elektra by German composer Richard Strauss (1864-1949). Strauss collaborated with Austrian librettist Hugo von Hofmannsthal to adapt the work from a 1902 drama and to premiere it in 1909. Here, we get the world premiere of a suite from the work, the suite conceptualized by Mr. Honeck and realized by Tomas Ille.

The opera came at a time when the classical world was just beginning to embrace the atonality and dissonance so favored by modernist composers. As such, although Elektra may have found its roots in ancient Greek mythology, the music is decidedly modern and expressionist. In fact, the suite makes a striking contrast with the piece that follows it on the disc, a suite from Der Rosenkavalier, which more closely adheres to the Romantic traditions of the previous century.

Manfred Honeck
So, how does Honeck handle the score for Elektra, which he had a hand in writing? I have to admit here that Elektra is not among my favorite operas, and I had never heard just the orchestral music before. The suite under Maestro Honeck gives me a new appreciation for the piece. Although as a whole the piece sounds a tad disjointed, usual for a suite I suppose, there is a wonderful sense of ebb-and-flow to the score; and although Strauss was certainly experimenting with modern musical idioms, at least under Honeck it appears to take root in elements of the previous century as well. So the work swells with tensions without overflowing in discordances. In fact, Honeck is able to hold it all together for a little over half an hour in an amiable fashion. Conflicts and resolutions come and go, yet the score seems fairly cohesive, the conductor able to patch over any potential disconnects with admirable alacrity.

The second item on the program is a suite (arranged by conductor Artur Rodzinski in 1945) from Strauss's romantic opera Der Rosenkavalier, a piece that premiered in 1911. With its wealth of lush melodies and lavish waltzes, the music couldn't be more different from that of Elektra. Here, Honeck is as exuberant with the score as he was eloquent in Elektra. The music is justifiably popular, and Honeck presents it well; i.e., with unashamed enthusiasm for its late-flowering Romanticism. Moreover, the orchestra responds splendidly to both suites: disciplined, refined, keen, and glowing.

Producer Dirk Sobotka and engineer Mark Donahue of Soundmirror, Boston recorded the music live at the Heinz Hall for the Performing Arts, Pittsburgh, PA in May 2016. They made it for hybrid SACD playback, so one can listen to multichannel or two-channel stereo on an SACD player or two-channel stereo on a regular CD player. I listened in two-channel SACD.

There is an enormous dynamic range involved, which we might expect from this source and from the very slightly close-up live recording involved. Overall room ambience seems just a tad diminished, too, but the proximity of the microphones to the instruments definitely helps with clarity. Most important, things are not overly close, the sound is not at all bright or edgy, and there is a cozy warmth that accompanies it. One hardly notices the audience, and the engineers have thankfully removed any applause. The sonics are still not quite as realistic to my ears as most of Reference Recordings' studio projects, but they will undoubtedly satisfy and thrill most listeners.

JJP

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


John J. Puccio

John J. Puccio

About the Author

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

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

Mission Statement

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

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

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

Contact Information

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

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

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa