Mendelssohn: Piano Concerto No. 2 (CD review)

Also, Symphony No. 1 and The Fair Melusine overture. Kristian Bezuidenhout, piano; Pablo Heras-Casado, Freiburger Barockorchester. Harmonia Mundi HMM 902369.

Most of us are familiar with Mendelssohn's Second Piano Concerto, but I wonder how many of us can say the same of his First Symphony, the companion piece on this disc? While the composer's Third and Fourth Symphonies rightly get the lion's share of performances and recordings and his Fifth sits in the shadows, the poor First hardly gets mentioned at all. Indeed, when I thought about it, I couldn't recall ever having owned a recording of it and, worse, having only heard it maybe once in my lifetime.

Is it fair the First Symphony gets so little respect? Not really. Even though it is a relatively immature work, Mendelssohn having written it when he was only fifteen, that doesn't make it any less interesting than his overture to A Midsummer Night's Dream, written just two years later. In fact, there are already hints of the overture in the earlier symphony. But all that is beside the point, which is that South African-born pianist Kristian Bezuidenhout and conductor Pablo Heras-Casado have chosen to pair the concerto and symphony together on this Harmonia Mundi disc. Moreover, they've chosen to present the music as closely as possible to what the composer might have heard some two hundred years ago: using a fortepiano and a period-instruments band.

First up is the early piece, the Symphony No. 1 in C minor, Op. 11, which Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847) completed in 1824 and premiered publicly in 1827 with the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra (an orchestra still going strong, by the way). Mendelssohn arranged it in standard symphonic form: Allegro (fast), Andante (moderately slow), Menuetto-Allegro molto (in the tempo of a minuet and then becoming increasingly faster and more lively), and ending with an Allegro con fuoco (with energy and emotion).

As is appropriate to the nature of a relatively immature work, Maestro Heras-Casado takes it at a fairly brisk, almost rambunctious pace. This is especially true of the allegro parts, which are never breakneck but certainly brisk. Tempos appear well chosen and spring to life with graceful gusto, not overwrought exertion. Throughout the score, there are hints, as I say, of A Midsummer Night's Dream and even the Scottish Symphony, something the conductor does nothing to hide or highlight. If you haven't heard it, which I hadn't in years, it's a delightful, if lightweight, piece of old-fashioned music making.

Kristian Bezuidenhout
Moreover, for those listeners worried that this is another period-instruments recording where the string players appear to be fiddling on solid steel wires and performing at such a reckless speed they're in danger of setting their instruments on fire, not to fret. The orchestra sounds smooth and sonorous, and the performance is invigorating but never breathless.

Next up is the better-known of the two works, the Piano Concerto No. 2 in D minor, Op. 40, composed in 1837, a follow-up to several other piano concertos Mendelssohn had written. Although it would never compare in popularity to his Third or Fourth Symphonies or his Midsummer music, the Concerto has its fair share of admirers, too. A long-held criticism of the concerto is that Mendelssohn didn't seem interested in making it a virtuoso affair for the pianist, so it finds itself generally eclipsed these days by the more flamboyant Romantic showpieces of Beethoven, Schumann, Liszt, Grieg, Tchaikovsky, and the rest. Still, it's a fun piece of music, and it's especially intriguing to hear Kristian Bezuidenhout play it on a vintage 1837 fortepiano (the same age as the composition) with Heras-Casado leading the Freiburger Barockorchester, also playing on historical instruments.

Despite the criticisms through the years about Mendelssohn's Second Piano Concerto not being much of a tour de force for pianists, Bezuidenhout certainly makes it seem more formidable than it probably is. His playing is elegant yet forceful, vigorous yet careful, energetic yet polished. And, needless to say, it's virtuosic, whether the composer intended it so or not. It's still a Romantic work, and Bezuidenhout plays it with a felicitously passionate vigor and reflective longing as the moods demand.

The disc ends, oddly, with the tone poem Die Schone Melusine ("The Fair Melusine"). I say oddly because as a short concert overture, one might have expected it to open the program. Nevertheless, it's a fine interpretation of the piece by Maestro Heras-Casado and company and makes a grand statement to end the show.

Artistic Director and editor Martin Sauer and engineer Tobias Lehmann, both of Teldex Studio Berlin, recorded the music at Ensemblehaus Freiburg, Germany in September 2018. The sound spreads widely across the speakers, with a lovely bloom. While it is not so closely miked that detail is all important, it is nicely realistic in a more natural sense. There is a pleasantly rich glow to the acoustic, the instruments coming together in a realistic whole. Depth perception is good; dynamics are lifelike; and the frequency responses is more than adequate.


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

Classical Music News of the Week, May 18, 2019

The Angel's Share Presents Purcell's Dido & Aeneas, June 4-8

Death of Classical and The Green-Wood Historic Fund will present a fully-staged production of Henry Purcell's Dido & Aeneas in the Catacombs of the Green-Wood Cemetery, with performances June 4, 5, 7 & 8. The run will launch the second season of their acclaimed The Angel's Share series, which continues through October.

Dido & Aeneas will be directed by Alek Shrader, and will incorporate spoken dialogue from Christopher Marlowe's play Dido, Queen of Carthage. The added speeches re-introduce the characters of King Iarbus and Dido's Sister Anna, among others, and serve to restore a sense of agency and purpose to the Queen and her decisions.

Daniela Mack will sing the role of Dido, with Paul La Rosa as Aeneas, Molly Quinn as Belinda, and Vanessa Cariddi as the Sorceress. Additional performers include Marc Molomot (Achates), Brooke Larimer (Anna), Alyssa Martin (Witch Crone), Erin Moll (Witch Maiden), Kannan Vasudevan (Misenus/Ilioneus), and Blake Burroughs (King Iarbas).

The performances will feature a Baroque string ensemble led from the harpsichord by Music Director Elliot Figg, with Jude Ziliak (Violin), Isabelle Seula Lee (Violin), Danika Paskvan (Viola), Anthony Albrecht (Cello), and Arnie Tanimoto (Viola da Gamba).

Each performance will begin with a pre-concert reception with food, drinks, and a whiskey tasting overlooking the Manhattan skyline and the New York Harbor at sunset. At dusk, guests will then follow a candle-lit pathway down to the Catacombs for the performance.

The Catacombs are one of the oldest structures in Green-Wood, a 478-acre National Historic Landmark (500 25th St, Brooklyn, NY). They were built in the 1850s, and are normally closed to the public. The series takes its name--The Angel's Share--from the distiller's term for whiskey that evaporates while maturing in the barrel, thus going to the angels.

For more information, visit

--Andrew Ousley, Unison Media

SF Girls Chorus
The San Francisco Girls Chorus's season concludes performances "From East to West" on Saturday, June 8 in San Francisco and Sunday, June 9 in Berkeley.

Exploring texts from Eastern and Western poets and visionaries, SFGC will present two world premiere commissions including "The Love of Thousands" by Reena Esmail and "Three Parables" by Richard Danielpour. Persian vocalist Mahsa Vahdat and harpist Bridget Kibbey make their debuts with the ensemble in a program that also features works by Eric Banks, Sarah Kirkland Snider and Frank Ferko.

San Francisco Girls Chorus presents "From East to West"

Saturday, June 8, 2019, at 7:30 p.m. at Mission Dolores Basilica, San Francisco
Sunday, June 9, 2019, at 4:00 p.m. at First Congregational Church, Berkeley

Valérie Sainte-Agathe, conductor
Mahsa Vahdat, vocalist
Bridget Kibbey, harp

--Brendon Guy PR

American Bach Soloists: Thank You for Our First 30 Years
On behalf of Music Director Jeffrey Thomas and all of our amazing musicians, thank you for an incredible 30th season of performances. From last summer's Festival & Academy to this past weekend's four Brandenburg Concertos, and the multitude of concerts, special events, Messiah in Grace Cathedral, the "Solidarity Concert" with Notre Dame, and two new recordings in between, our 2018-2019 season was one for the record books. We couldn't have done any of this without you, our patrons and our family.

We are quickly refocusing our efforts on our 10th celebratory Festival & Academy, July 28-August 11, featuring works by Boismortier, Couperin, Geminiani, Handel, Lotti, Pergolesi, Telemann, Vivaldi, and of course our annual performances of Bach's Mass in B Minor. Details can be found at It's going to be an amazing 15 days of programs at San Francisco's Summer Bach Festival; purchase your tickets today.

--American Bach Soloists

Los Angeles Master Chorale to Open the 2019 Salzburg Festival
The prestigious honor of performing the opening concerts of the 2019 Salzburg Festival in Austria on July 20 and 21 will be one highlight of the Los Angeles Master Chorale's Spring/Summer tour of its acclaimed production of Orlando di Lasso's Lagrime di San Pietro directed by Peter Sellars. The tour will feature 21 Master Chorale singers conducted by Grant Gershon, Kiki & David Gindler Artistic Director.

The 2019 Salzburg Festival, the internationally-renowned performing arts festival known for presenting daring and historically important classical music and opera productions, runs July 20 through August 31. The Los Angeles Master Chorale's performances of Lagrime di San Pietro (Tears of St. Peter) will mark the choir and Gershon's debut at the Festival. Peter Sellars--who made his debut in 1992 with Messiaen's Saint François d'Assise--will also direct a new production of Mozart's Indomeneo at this year's Festival.

"An American choir being invited to perform the opening concerts at the Salzburg Festival is a capital-letter Big Deal," says Grant Gershon. "It is extremely gratifying to see that this production, created with such heart by Peter Sellars with our amazing singers, is being recognized worldwide as offering audiences something truly special. We continue to be honored and humbled by the places Orlando di Lasso's music is taking us."

For more information, visit

--Jennifer Scott, LA Master Chorale

Vocal Resolutions: "Balancing Bubbles"
YPC's third annual Vocal Resolutions concert is highlighted by the world premiere of  "So Much on My Soul," a YPC commission from 2019 Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Ellen Reid. The concert, in partnership with Newfoundland's Shallaway Youth Choir on the theme of "balance," features guest artist Mantra Percussion.

Tickets on sale now at $15- $25

For more information, visit

--Young People's Chorus of New York City

Moab Music Festival - The Ultimate Chamber Music Experience
It's almost here... the magnificent, magical, musical Moab Music Festival -- from August 26th through September 12 -- invites you to experience the ultimate chamber music festival nestled in the embrace of "nature's concert hall" in Moab, UT.

Ride the rapids of the mighty Colorado to a concert on its sandy banks. Hike through the breath-taking Moab canyons to find our musicians waiting to perform an outdoor recital of masterpieces from the classical to the contemporary. Hit up the boutique shopping, nearby Moab winery, Sorrel River Ranch and Spa, enjoy gourmet meals at concerts in luxiourious private homes, not to mention the newly renovated Star Hall and secret locations prepared just for musical adventurers.

This season our musical palatte is diverse and colorful from the fiery rhythms of South America, to the vintage-inspired salons of the early 20th century, to the classical masterpieces of Bach and Stravinsky-this season MMF has it all. With the red sand as the stage and the vibrant canyons as our backdrop, we want to see you in our theatre like none other.

I hope you will consider a preview of the concert, photo journal, interview with some of the outstanding artists, perhaps a tie to a one of the many outdoor activities that accompany our concerts (hiking, biking, rafting, yoga, etc).

For complete information, visit

--Dworkin & Company

Other Minds Concludes Festival 24
Other Minds concludes Festival 24 with two June performances at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Theater in San Francisco.

On Saturday, June 15, 2019 at 8:00 p.m., a large-scale commissioned work by Oakland-based composer Brian Baumbusch, entitled "The Pressure," will receive its world premiere featuring the composer's own Lightbulb Ensemble, San Francisco-based Friction Quartet, two organists, four singers, and narrator.

On Sunday, June 16, 2019 at 7:00 p.m., Other Minds will present its second showcase of music by Franco-Russian microtonal composer Ivan Wyschnegradsky. A program of the composer's selected piano works will be highlighted by three U.S. premieres including Cosmos, op. 28 for four pianos and two solo piano works, Three Pieces for Piano, op. 3 and Étude sur le carré magique sonore, op. 40.

Tickets range in price from $28 to $55 and can be purchased online at or by calling 415.978.2700. $30 student tickets are available with a valid student ID.

For further information on Other Minds, please visit

--Brenden Guy PR

NYFOS Revives Its Hit Program "Manning the Canon: Songs of Gay Life"
New York Festival of Song--the group that "charms audiences with programs that combine meticulous research with an infectious strain of vocal hedonism" (The New York Times)--joins forces with Five Boroughs Music Festival to present "Manning the Canon: Songs of Gay Life" at The LGBT Community Center (The Center), NYC, on Tuesday, June 25 at 7:30 p.m. A preview performances takes place Saturday, June 22 at 8:00 p.m. in Orient, NY.

This musical portrait of life, love and loss in the world of gay men returns after its celebrated 2010 premiere, which garnered a rave review in The New York Times.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019, 7:30 p.m.
LGBT Community Center
208 West 13th Street between 7th Ave and Greenwich Ave, NYC

Tickets: $15 students / $25 general / $50 preferred seating

For more information, visit

--Aleba Gartner, Aleba & Co.

Nokia Bell Labs Experiments in Art and Technology
The International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE) today announces its selection as the first ever ensemble-in-residence by the Nokia Bell Labs Experiments in Art and Technology (E.A.T) program. As a continuation of the ICE's previous partnership with Nokia Bell Labs, the residency will further the Ensemble's commitment to the exploration and redefinition of how music is made and experienced. The Ensemble's inaugural performance as ensemble-in-residence happens on Sunday, May 19 at 4pm in New York City's Times Square, part of NYCxDESIGN 2019. The free program will feature award-winning Icelandic composer and frequent Ensemble collaborator Anna Thorvaldsdottir's Fields.

In 2018, the International Contemporary Ensemble and Nokia Bell Labs E.A.T. established a collaborative relationship to explore how music enables shared emotions, expressions, and empathic communication. As centuries of musical modes of expression deepen technological thought, new technology inspires parallel innovation in music, and Nokia Bell Labs and the International Contemporary Ensemble form a symbiotic relationship dedicated to exploring the visceral and emotional language of music. Over the course of a year, the Nokia Bell Labs E.A.T. program has explored which aspects of music offer special modes of communicative expression, and how those modes might be integrated in technological user interfaces.

For more information, visit

--Katy Salomon, Morahan Arts and Media

Le Grand Chœur du Centre-Sud: Free Concert By and For the Community
On June 7, Voies culturelles des faubourgs will present the very first edition of a great citizen concert, Le Grand Choeur du Centre-Sud. This unifying event will begin outside at Espace Pierre-Bourgault (corner of Plessis and Ontario), Monreal, and will end with a grand concert at Sacré-Coeur Church.

This great collective work, directed by André Pappathomas, composer, musician and winner of the 2017 artist award in the community, will bring together a hundred choristers from the Centre-Sud community. The choir will be accompanied by soloists, musicians and the great organ of the Sacré-Coeur Church.

Le Grand Choeur du Centre-Sud is more than just a choir concert, it's a community and artistic project that aims to break isolation and put the community back at the heart of our lives. "Through this inclusive event, we want to promote social cohesion and generate pride and joy in taking part in a common project," says Claudine Khelil, general coordinator of Voies culturelles des faubourgs.

For more information, visit

--France Gaignard PR

Free Memorial Day Screening of "They Shall Not Grow Old" in Beaver Creek
Experience history as you've never see it with a free community Memorial Day screening of 'They Shall Not Grow Old' at Vilar Performing Arts Center, Beaver Creek, Colorado on May 27th

The First World War ended 100 years ago. Today, an extraordinary new documentary tells the story of the Great War — directly from the people who experienced it. Produced and directed by three-time Academy Award-winner Peter Jackson (Lord of the Rings trilogy), "They Shall Not Grow Old" is an incredible feat of storytelling and cinematography. Using state-of-the-art technology, the filmmakers took original footage from WWI and audio interviews with soldiers and transformed the past into the present, resulting in an astonishing, 3D documentary.

The groundbreaking computer restoration technology creates a moving real-to-life depiction of the WWI, in restored, vivid colorizing and retiming of the film frames, in order to honor those who fought and more accurately depict this historical moment in world history.

"Peter Jackson has taken a mass of World War I archival clips from Britain's Imperial War Museum and fashioned it into a brisk, absorbing and moving experience," praised The New York Times.

The Vilar Performing Arts Center will present a free community screening of "They Shall Not Grow Old" for Memorial Day on Monday, May 27 at 4 p.m. Attendees can reserve tickets in advance by calling the VPAC box office at 970-845-8497 or visiting The VPAC is located under the ice rink in Beaver Creek Village (68 Avondale Lane, Beaver Creek, Colorado).

--Ruthie Hamrick, Vilar Performing Arts Center

The Angel's Share Presents "Epilogues and Epitaphs"
The Angel's Share continues its second season June 24-26, with fast-rising Baroque violinist Augusta McKay Lodge leading her ensemble Voyage Sonique and countertenor Daniel Moody. The group will perform a program entitled "Epilogues and Epitaphs," an extended meditation on death and rememberance that features chamber works and arias by Rebel, Handel, Vivaldi, Corelli, Dowland and more.

Most people wouldn't  equate "historically-informed Baroque chamber music" with "soul-blasting, face-melting hot sauce fire"... at least not until they hear Augusta McKay Lodge. She and her ensemble Voyage Sonique, plus singer Molly Netted, will perform a program of Baroque chamber works and arias, centering around musical monuments and remembrances by Rebel, Handel, Vivaldi, Corelli, Dowland and more.

"Epilogues and Epitaphs"
June 24, 25, & 26
7:30 - 10:30 PM
Green-Wood Cemetery, Brooklyn, NY

For more information, visit

--Andrew Ousley, Unison Media

On “Hi-End” AC Line Cords…

By Bryan Geyer

I always wonder if anybody using esoteric “high end” AC power line cords has paused to consider the household wiring on the other side of their own listening room wall. That wire is ordinary AWG 12 Romex if it's for a 20 ampere circuit breaker, or (more likely) AWG 14 Romex if it’s for a 15 ampere circuit breaker. And what about that other ~ 10 miles of power line cable that extends back to the local distribution yard? Hey, can your AC power line purity really be improved by adding that last few feet of costly “audiophile grade” power cord?

The short answer is: Who cares? All of those alternating current pulses, however fine or fuzzy, are going to be converted into a smooth, flat stream of direct current. It's only this strained and purified DC, not any spurious AC, that will operate the ensuing electronic circuits. A modern solid state linear power supply utilizes full wave AC-to-DC rectification with very heavy filtering. Active components are added to enhance DC stability. Zener diodes clamp voltage levels and chop ripple. Precise series regulator stages are implemented where there’s justifiable merit, and high capacity electrolytic filter capacitors are used throughout, to assure good inter-stage isolation and smooth DC reserve. The consequent supply is scrubbed free of extraneous AC artifacts--it’s just plain/pure/smooth/steady direct current, and you can view and verify that flat DC waveform on an oscilloscope.

While every audio component has its own unique DC power supply, every supply draws its AC fuel from the same source, so it’s vital to provide enough AC current to run all the DC engines--refer paper “On Assuring Adequate AC Power.”  The latter addresses cumulative AC line current drain.

AC power line cords serve as pipelines that route the required AC fuel to each DC engine. There’s no benefit served by making the pipe fatter than needed. Every DC engine has a basic design task, and it can’t store or utilize any excess AC fuel. Power line cord delivery capacity is defined by its conductor diameter. The original circuit designer selects a wire diameter gauge (AWG) that’s appropriate for the AC current required. If you have need for a shorter or longer cord, or perhaps one with an angled C13 connector (to reduce rear clearance—see photos), simply let the designer’s original AWG be your guide. Increase the diameter if you have to extend the cord (by some appreciable amount) beyond its original reach. Technically, there’s no harm incurred by moving to the next fatter gauge--I personally favor utilizing AWG 14 for a stereo power amplifier that was shipped with AWG 16 wire—but nothing whatever is gained by moving to grossly oversized cordage like AWG 10 or 12. Such cords serve no benefit, and become awkward handling and routing annoyances that invite problems.

With respect to AC line cord construction and insulation, the heavy-duty commercial standard for prime quality is type SJT, with molded construction. It’s quite excellent, and all that you’ll ever need.

Be aware that you can buy top quality SJT molded AC line cords, in AWG 14, 16, or 18, that’s made to any desired length--refer The price for such custom cord will be quite low when compared to a high-end “audiophile grade” line cord, but it will be functionally equivalent and of optimum length, with no need to hide coiled excess. Do utilize AC surge protection at the feed socket; it might help if there’s some aberration on the power line.


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 over 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 simple-minded, 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, as of right now it comprises an Onkyo C-7030 CD player, Legacy Audio High Current preamplifier, AVA FET Valve 550hc or Legacy Audio PowerBloc2 amplifier, and a pair of Legacy Audio Focus SE speakers augmented by a Legacy Point One subwoofer.
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.

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

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"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa