Alla Zingarese (CD review)

A fusion of Western classical and gypsy music. Civitas Ensemble; Pavel Sporcl and the Gipsy Way Ensemble. Cedille CDR 90000 179 (2-CD set).

First things first: Who are the two ensembles involved? The Civitas Ensemble are, according the booklet note, four of Chicago's top musicians--Yuan-Quig Yu (violin), Kenneth Olsen (cello), Winston Choi (piano), and Lawrie Bloom (clarinet)--who formed in 2011 as a chamber music group dedicated to presenting "engaging live performances of new and traditional works, inspiring a young generation of classical musicians, and bringing the healing power of music to those with limited access to live performances."

Pavel Sporcl "is one of the world's most prolific violinists and high-profile recording artists." In 2008, "he started playing with Gypsy musicians and later formed Gipsy Way Ensemble, who have stayed in its current formation since 2012, with Ensemble members Zoltan Sandor, viola; Jan Rigo, double bass; and Tomas Vontszemu, cimbalom." Together, they have played all over the world, and in 2015 Sporcl's civic-minded approach and advocacy for classical music earned him the Czech Republic's Medal of Merit.

And what's with the title, "Alla Zingarese"? Well, "All Gypsy," for starters, or, better, "In the Style of Gypsy Music." However, the selections aren't quite all gypsy, as we hear many of them in arrangements by various non-gypsy people, thus making them as the inside cover notes "a fusion of Western classical and gypsy music...an exploration of what happens when distinct cultural and musical traditions join together."

Here's a rundown on the program:

Disc One:
(Civitas and Gipsy Way Ensembles)
1. Johannes Brahms (arr. Lukas Sommer):
Hungarian Dance No. 1 in G minor
2. Georges Boulanger (arr. Lukas Sommer):
Sérénade Tzigane
3. Jeno Hubay (arr. Pavel Sporcl and Lukas Sommer):
"Hullámzó Balaton," Scène de la Csárda No. 5, Op. 33
4. Pablo de Sarasate (arr. Lukas Sommer):
Zigeunerweisen
5. Lukas Sommer:
Gipsy Odyssey
6. Pavel Sporcl:
Gipsy Fire
7. Brahms: Rondo alla Zingarese

Disc Two:
(Civitas Ensemble)
1. Sylvie Borodova:
Dža More for Solo Violin
2. Franz Liszt:
Hungarian Rhapsody No. 12 in C- sharp minor
3. Lukas Sommer:
Cigi-Civi
4. Leó Weiner:
Peregi Verbunk for Clarinet and Piano
5. David Popper:
Hungarian Rhapsody, Op. 68 for Cello and Piano
6. George Enescu (arr. Cliff Colnot):
Romanian Rhapsody No. 1

Civitas Ensemble
As noted above, the music is a blend of traditional gypsy tunes and classical instruments and playing techniques. The opening arrangement of the Brahms Hungarian Dance No. 1 is a good example. One can sense both its classical and folk roots, with instrumentation to complement both sides. Of course, whether this kind of crossover material will appeal to either camp is open to question. The point is that the music can be infectious and highly entertaining if you give it a chance. I'm not sure it's trying to make any point, except, perhaps, that every musical medium can be fun, even when they're mixed.

Anyway, I found the entire album captivating, and I especially liked the use of the cimbalom, a type of zither or dulcimer. I found myself wanting to hear more of it. If I really had to choose, though, I think I enjoyed the selections by the two groups together best of all, if only for the added richness of the sound they produced. Still, all of this music is addictive, rollicking, yet sensitively performed by musicians who obviously cherish what they're playing.

Producers Steve Rodby and James Ginsburg and Cedille's ace engineer Bill Maylone recorded the album at the Chicago Recording Company in May 2017 and the Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts at the University of Chicago in August and September 2017. The resultant sound is smooth and warm, with enough resonance for comfortable listening and enough transparency for good detailing. These are small ensembles, so each player stands out in clear relief, yet not so vividly as to seem unreal. As always with Cedille, the sound is natural, realistic, as opposed to overtly audiophile.

JJP

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


Classical Music News of the Week, January 12, 2019

Daniel Hope in First Appearances as Music Director of New Century

New Century Chamber Orchestra continues its 2018-2019 season February 7 through 10 with the return of British violinist Daniel Hope in his first appearances as the ensemble's new Music Director.

Exploring the theme of "recomposition," Hope will appear as soloist for the San Francisco Premiere of Max Richter's complete Recomposed: Vivaldi – The Four Seasons from his 2012 bestselling Deutsche Grammophon album. Continuing as soloist, Hope will perform the 2nd Movement from Robert Schumann's Violin Concerto arranged by Benjamin Britten alongside a second Britten arrangement of Henry Purcell's Chacony in G minor. Rounding out the program are two popular Renaissance inspired works: Peter Warlock's 1926 work Capriol Suite based on dances by Thoinot Arbeau and Ralph Vaughan Williams's Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis.

This program will be presented as part of New Century's subscription series on four evenings in different locations around the Bay Area: Thursday, February 7 at 7:30 p.m., First Congregational Church, Berkeley; Friday, February 8 at 7:30 p.m., Oshman Family JCC, Palo Alto; Saturday, February 9 at 7:30 p.m., Wilsey Center for the Arts, San Francisco and Sunday, February 10 at 3 p.m., Osher Marin JCC, San Rafael. New Century offers an Open Rehearsal Wednesday, February 6 at 10 a.m., Trinity St. Peter's Church, San Francisco with free admission. The Open Rehearsal offers a sneak preview of the concert repertoire while allowing audiences to experience the musical democracy of a rehearsal without a conductor.

Single tickets range in price from $29 to $61 and can be purchased through City Box Office: http://www.cityboxoffice.com and (415) 392-4400. Discounted $15 single tickets are available for patrons under 35 and $10 single tickets for Students with a valid ID.

Admission to the Open Rehearsal is free and can be reserved by contacting tickets@ncco.org or (415) 357-1111.

--Brenden Guy PR

PBO Welcomes Violinist Rachel Barton Pine in February
Music Director Nicholas McGegan and Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra & Chorale start the second half of their season with a visit to the early Romantic period in February when they welcome violinist Rachel Barton Pine who will reprise her deeply-researched performance of Franz Clement's Violin Concerto in D major. The program titled "Viennese Pivot" also features works by Mozart and Schubert and takes place February 6–10 in four performances throughout the San Francisco Bay Area.

Pine was the first in the world to record the Clement Violin Concerto in D major in 2008 and wrote her own cadenzas for the recording and live performances. Clement, also a virtuosic violinist, premiered his own Violin Concerto in D Major at the Theater an der Wien on April 7, 1805, on the same bill as the first public performance of Beethoven's Third Symphony (Eroica), conducted by the composer. Clement later commissioned what would be the only violin concerto from Beethoven who noted on the manuscript, "Concerto par Clemenza pour Clement" (Concerto with compassion, for Clement) and premiered it a year after he premiered his own. Interestingly, both works are in the same key, the same length, and use the same instrumentation.

Wednesday February 6 @ 7:30 pm | First United Methodist Church, Palo Alto, CA
Friday February 8 @ 8 pm | Herbst Theatre, San Francisco, CA
Saturday February 9 @ 8 pm | First Congregational Church, Berkeley, CA
Sunday February 10 @ 4 pm | First Congregational Church, Berkeley, CA

Tickets:
City Box Office: (415) 392-4400 or cityboxoffice.com
Price range: $32–$120

For more information, visit https://philharmonia.org/2018-2019-season/viennese-pivot/

--Dianne Provenzano, Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra & Chorale

Pianist Christopher O'Riley at the VPAC Jan 17
Pianist and longtime host of NPR's "From the Top" Christopher O'Riley to play solo concert at Vilar Performing Arts Center on Jan. 17

Rarely is a pianist's voice as familiar to audiences as their playing style. But for Christopher O'Riley, former host of NPR's "From the Top," listeners may first recognize his soothing, radio-friendly voice before picking up on his masterful piano skills.

Christopher O'Riley will perform a solo concert at the Vilar Performing Arts Center (VPAC), Beaver Creek, Colorado on Thursday, Jan. 17 at 7 p.m.

Tickets are $58 for adults and $10 for students and are available now at the VPAC box office (970-845-8497; ). This show is part of the VPAC Pick 5 Ticket Package, where you can get 1 ticket to 5 different shows for $150. Contact the box office for a list of available shows or visit the VPAC website. The VPAC is located under the ice rink in Beaver Creek Village (68 Avondale Lane, Beaver Creek, Colorado).

To learn more, visit https://vvf.org/

--Ruthie Hamrick, Vilar Performing Arts Center

Don't Miss Out on the 50th Anniversary Cruise!
Reminder: The commitment deadline for the 50th Anniversary Danube Cruise is January 15!
Join your fellow Festival Mozaic enthusiasts in this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to take part in an itinerary that is designed especially for classical music lovers. Amadeus Cruises has scheduled their May 22 – June 1, 2020 cruise with private classical concerts that will be exclusive to our group. We will attend these performances in many spectacular venues along the cruise route, such as the Salzburg Mozarteum, Melk Abbey, and Duna Palace.

Because this is an exclusive itinerary, Amadeus Cruises will only hold space for our group on Amadeus II for a limited time. To guarantee your spot for this unique opportunity, you must commit with a $500 expression of interest deposit. Please make your expression of interest deposit of $500 per person directly with Happy Pilgrims Travel by January 15, 2019. (This deposit is fully refundable until 9/1/19.)

Join us in this unique fundraising opportunity to honor our beginnings as the Mozart Festival and to celebrate Festival Mozaic's 50th Anniversary.

Learn more at www.festivalmozaic.com/cruise; and contact Happy Pilgrims Travel at todd@happypilgrimstravel.com or 805-835-2545.

--Festival Mosaic

The CMIM Nominated for the Grand Prix of Conseil des Arts de Montréal
Earlier this week, the Conseil des arts de Montréal announced that the CMIM (Concours musical international de Montréal) is one of the finalists nominated for its 34th Grand Prix, to be held on March 21, 2019.

Every year, since 1985, the Grand Prix du Conseil des arts de Montréal has been awarded in recognition of the excellence and outstanding contribution of a particular artistic organization. "This nomination confirms that the CMIM contributes to defining the culture that permeates Montreal today: creative, innovative and geared towards excellence. We are delighted and honored for this recognition," declared Christiane LeBlanc, CMIM's Executive and Artistic Director.

For complete details, visit concoursmontreal.ca

--France Gaignard, CMIM Media Relations

Opera Maine Announces Auditions for The Magic Flute
Opera Maine announces auditions for its July 2019 production of Mozart's The Magic Flute. We seek local singers for comprimario roles and chorus in a fully-staged production sung in German with English dialogue.Live auditions will be held on Friday, February 1,between 5:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. at Williston Immanuel – 156 High Street, Portland, Maine.

To request an audition, email operamainechorus@gmail.com, subject "Magic Flute auditions." Please include a resume and/or tell us about your musical training. If you cannot attend the auditions but would like to be considered, please include a high-quality video to act as your audition.
Auditions are by appointment. There is no fee to audition. Accompanist provided.
Audition requirement: One German language aria or art song; one English aria or art song.

For more information, visit https://www.operamaine.com/2016/01/23/chorus-auditions-magic-flute/

--Kristen Levesque, Opera Maine

Music For Life International Presents "Beethoven For the Rohingya"
Music for Life International continues its decade-long tradition of global humanitarian concerts with "Beethoven for the Rohingya," a benefit concert featuring Beethoven's monumental Ninth Symphony, presented in the Stern Auditorium/Perelman Stage at Carnegie Hall, NYC on Monday, January 28, 2019.

"Beethoven for the Rohingya" is an urgent call to the global community to raise awareness for the nearly 1 million Rohingya refugees fleeing what the United Nations have defined as genocide in Rakhine State in Myanmar.  Refugees, who are seeking safety in Bangladesh, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, and other nearby locations, are grossly lacking access to healthcare when it is needed most; net proceeds from this performance will benefit Doctors Without Borders/Médécins Sans Frontières (MSF), which provides medical aid to those who are among the world's most vulnerable.

For more information visit www.beethovenfortherohingya.org

--Hannah Goldshlack-Wolf, Kirshbaum Associates

YPC Performs with The Chamber Music Society and the NY Phil
Following a very active holiday season, the Young People's Chorus of New York City is keeping up the pace with four performances this month alone on Lincoln Center stages beginning Sunday.

January 13 at 2:00 p.m. | Alice Tully Hall
Young People's Chorus of New York City will be featured in the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center's production of the The Girl Who Loved Wild Horses, based on the enchanting tale of a Native American girl with a mystical connection to wild horses by Paul Goble. Recommended for kids ages 6 & up and their families.

January 24, 25, 26 | David Geffen Hall
In one of the city's most anticipated events this season, 110 female singers from the Young People's Chorus of New York City join Jaap Van Zweden, the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, and The Crossing in three world premiere performances of Julia Wolfe's Fire in My Mouth, based on New York City's catastrophic Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire of 1911, an immersive production complete with scenic lighting, video, and projections.

For complete information, visit www.ypc.org

--Young People's Chorus of New York City

WinterMezzo Is Around the Corner
Festival Mosaic's next WinterMezzo weekend, February 22-24, 2019, is just around the corner! Join music director Scott Yoo, along with visiting cellist Bion Tsang and pianist Anna Polonsky, for an immersive weekend of musical experiences.

Tickets are still available for the Notable Encounter Insight and the Chamber Music Concert.
PLUS: on February 21st we have added a special Encore Insight and Performance of Bach's Violin Partita No. 2 by Scott Yoo, which was previously performed at the WinterMezzo weekend in October 2018.

Tickets are going quickly, so act now to get the best seats. We look forward to seeing you at these events in San Luis Obispo, CA.

For complete information, visit http://www.festivalmozaic.com/

--Festival Mosaic

Mirror in Mirror (CD Review)

Works by Ciupinski, Corigliano, Glass, Lauridsen, Pärt, and Ravel. Anne Akiko Meyers, violin; Akiro Egushi, piano; Elizabeth Bridges, keyboard; Jakub Ciupiñski, luthéal reproduction;  Kristjan Järvi, Philharmonia Orchestra. Avie Records AV 2386.

Welcome back a guest reviewer, Karl W. Nehring. For over twenty years Karl was the editor of "The $ensible Sound" magazine and a regular contributor to its classical review pages. Take it, Karl:

This new album by violinist Anne Akiko Meyers is a delightful combination of interesting music, splendid playing, excellent engineering, and even -- as an added and unexpected bonus -- thoughtful, helpful, and intelligent liner notes. If only more music releases were so thoughtfully produced!

Although on the whole I have never been a big fan of the music of Philip Glass, I have found some of his smaller-scale works to be enjoyable. Meyers opens her program with an arrangement for violin and piano by Glass's frequent collaborator Michael Reisman of the composer's Metamorphosis II. Pianist Akira Eguchi and Meyers make this piece soar and sing. Indeed, the expression and passion these musicians bring to this music belie the reputation for boringly repetitious minimalism that Glass's music has accrued among many music listeners.

Interestingly enough, the liner notes mention that Metamorphosis II was influenced by Arvo Pärt's Fratres, the next cut on this CD. I have heard many performances of various arrangements of Fratres, including some for violin and piano as on this recording, but never have I heard a performance as strikingly virtuosic as this one. I would never have thought of Pärt as composing gypsy music, but there is a hint of that here, at least to these ears. Fascinating!

Next up is the title track, Spiegel im Spiegel ("Mirror in MIrror"), also by Pärt. Although simple on the surface, this truly is a composition with great depth of feeling, a deeply reflective piece, as implied by its title. Meyers mentions in the liner notes that she had worked closely with Pärt a few years ago while recording several of his compositions, an experience that provided her with an insight into both the composer and his music. Meyers and Eguchi play this music in a loving but straightforward way, allowing listeners to find their own reflections as they gaze into the music.

Anne Akiko Meyers
Although Meyers somehow managed to find a gypsy thread in the music of Part, she somehow manages to overlook the gypsy element in Ravel's Tzigane, which she plays in a straightforward manner that strikes these ears at least as lacking in the necessary passion and flair. An interesting aspect of this performance, though, is the inclusion of a digital recreation of the sound of a luthéal, which the liner notes explain is an optional piano attachment – now virtually extinct – that Ravel indicated could be used in performance. The percussive sound of the luthéal does add an intriguing dimension to the sound, but overall, this performance of the Tzigane is the least appealing track on this CD. It just sounds out of place, not quite consonant with the overall pensive, introspective mood of the rest of the program.

That more introspective mood is restored, however, with the next cut, a moving piece titled Lullaby for Natalie, which was written by composer John Corigliano at the request of Meyers's husband to play in honor of their at that time yet-unborn child. In Corigliano's liner note, he mentions that Meyers sent him a video of her playing the lullaby for baby Natalie, who was indeed asleep by the end of the piece: "The baby, awake at first, was asleep at the end, so either the 5-minute lullaby had bored her to sleep or I had lived up to the promise of my title. I will never know." Those who listen to this cut will not be bored to sleep but will rather be enchanted by its charms.

The next cut, Edo Lullaby, based on the traditional Japanese folk song "Edo No Komori Uta," is a composition for violin and electronics by Jakub Ciupiñski, who explains in his liner note that the opening quotes the original melody while the rest of the piece "represents my subjective interpretation of its spirit." The end result does not sound like a traditional lullaby – there are lots of electronic effects going on in the deep bass that would shake your woofers, not to mention your baby, wide awake. Perhaps this is what Ciupiñski has in mind when he writes, "it is my personal nod to the Zen tradition, which I think of as an ancient lullaby that makes you wake up." In any event, it is an interesting piece of music that fits well into the overall arc of the program.

The next cut, Wreck of the Umbria, is also by Ciupiñski, who explains that the title came from an underwater wreck in Sudan that he had explored back in 2005. The violin has a haunting sound, a mood augmented by electronic effects that truly do allow the listener to conjure up the mental image of a mysterious underwater realm. Although my brief description might give the impression that this is bizarre, forbidding music, it is actually quite enticing and eminently listenable.

Although the previous pieces on this album have been at chamber music scale, the program concludes with an arrangement for violin and orchestra (in this performance, the Philharmonia Orchestra under the baton of Kristjan Järvi) by composer Morton Lauridsen of his oft-recorded (e.g., as led by the late Robert Shaw on a marvelous Telarc recording with the same title) choral piece, O Magnum Mysterium. The sound of Meyers's violin floating above the orchestral cushion is a grand and fitting way to conclude this beautiful production, which is first-class in every respect.

KWN

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