Mendelssohn: Violin Concerto (XRCD review)

Also, Bruch: Violin Concerto No. 1. Itzhak Perlman, violin; Andre Previn, London Symphony Orchestra. ARC ARCXRCD805, remastered.

Because the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto is one of the most-popular violin concertos ever written, maybe the most popular, practically every major violinist in the world has recorded it. So, there is a huge selection of recordings of it in the catalogue, most of them pretty good. Still, I have always found Itzhak Perlman's 1972 recording with Andre Previn and the London Symphony Orchestra as good as any and better than most. Now, we find it in a modern audiophile remastering, making it better than ever. At least, for those with deep pockets.

German Romantic composer Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847) premiered his Violin Concerto in E minor, Op. 64 in 1845, and it would be his final large orchestral work. Audiences pretty much loved it at the time, and it has continued to be one of the staples of the violin repertoire ever since.

Because the Mendelssohn concerto is "nobly poised between romantic and classic" as W.A. Chislett writes in a booklet note, that's the way Perlman plays it, with an expressive romantic flair and a classic restraint and refinement. And unlike many competing versions on record, the soloist and the orchestra are on equal terms, neither actually dominating the other. Previn is a fine interpreter of Mendelssohn, anyway, and the LSO provide a warm, illuminating, and thoroughly captivating accompaniment for Perlman. Yes, you will find more vigorous accounts of the music, more vivacious ones, and more sweetly flowing ones, but you will be hard pressed to find one that sounds more totally attuned to the charms of Mendelssohn. It simply sounds "right," as fresh and scintillating as the day Perlman and his fellow players recorded it.

Itzhak Perlman
As a coupling, Perlman chose to do the Violin Concerto No. 1 in G minor, Op. 26 by German composer and conductor Max Bruch (1838-1920). Bruch premiered a revised version in 1867, and it, too, like the Mendelssohn, has become a staple of the violin repertoire. Perlman and Previn play it in a traditional manner, with no exaggerated tempos, pauses, or contrasts. Perlman's playing is engaging, too, nuanced yet lively, giving the music all the enchantment and vivacity it needs. Moreover, the LSO were in peak form, providing Perlman a strong accompaniment.

The Bruch has a curious first movement, a Vorspiel (or Prelude) leading directly to the second movement. This Vorspiel is like a slow march, with some ornamental flourishes along the way. The second-movement is an Adagio, the heart of the work with its beautiful melodies, broadly sweeping themes, and graceful orchestral accompaniment. The piece ends with a Finale that begins quietly until the violin opens up with a vivacious theme in the form of a dance, which along with its lyricism reminds us of its Romantic origins, culminating in a grand climax. Anyway, as I say, Perlman, Previn, and the LSO do it up as well as anyone.

EMI producer Suvi Raj Grubb and engineer Robert Grooch recorded the concertos at Abbey Road Studio No. 1, London, in November 1972. Tohru Kotetsu remastered the original tapes at the JVC Mastering Center, Japan, for the Associated Recordings Company (ARC). The JVC team used meticulous XRCD24/K2 technology to assure the finest quality reproduction currently available for CD playback.

I had on hand for comparison another remastering of the same recording, this one also from Japan (Toshiba-EMI), though not in the XRCD format. The older Toshiba remaster seemed to me at the time marginally better, clearer and cleaner, than the regular EMI (currently Warner) product. Now, the JVC/ARC XRCD24 production is even clearer and cleaner than the older Japanese remastering, albeit at substantially higher cost. Is it for everyone? Of course not. It's for audiophiles who already love this particular recording and want the very best-sounding version of it. To that end, the JVC/ARC XRCD24 fills the bill.

Compared to the Toshiba-EMI product, the JVC/ARC disc sounds tighter, better defined, slightly more detailed, stronger, smoother, and fuller. Are the differences major? No, they're small but noticeable, at least in side-by-side comparison. Are they worth the extra money? That's up to the individual, not for me to decide. In any case, the sound in both versions revealed excellent balance, a superb reproduction of the soloist, well centered and not too far in front of the orchestra, with good response at both ends of the frequency spectrum. It's a fine recording made better by excellent processing.

You can find ARC products at some of the best prices at Elusive Disc:


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

Classical Music News of the Week, January 20, 2018

Scott Yoo and Friends at Festival Mozaic's February WinterMezzo Chamber Music Weekend

Musique Française:
Join Music Director Scott Yoo and friends for three days of chamber music and camaraderie in San Luis Obispo. French composers in the 20th century reinvented melody through impressionism and neo-classicism. The melodic works of Gabriel Fauré, Jean Cras and Albert Roussel were written when jazz sounds from the United States had crossed the pond. Rounding out this imaginative and evocative program is a jazz riff on the baroque style by living composer Noam Elkies. Click here to read the program notes.

Noam Elkies: E Sonata for flute and keyboard in E minor, op. 40
Albert Roussel: Serenade, op. 30
Jean Émile Paul Cras: Suite en Duo
Gabriel Fauré: Piano Quartet No. 2 in G minor, op. 45

Musicians: Alice K. Dade, flute, John Novacek, piano, Jessica Chang, viola, Meredith Clark, harp, Scott Yoo, violin, and Jonah Kim, cello.

Notable Encounter INSIGHT
Friday, February 23, 2018 5:30 p.m. $25
Mission San Luis Obispo Parish Hall
One hour program of Performance + Speaking
Exploring works by Cras and Roussel and featuring Alice Dade, Scott Yoo, Jessica Chang, Jonah Kim, and Meredith Clark.

Notable Encounter DINNER
Saturday, February 24, 2018 5:30 p.m. $135
Park Ballroom, Paso Robles
Dinner, Performance + Speaking
Exploring works by Cras and Roussel and featuring Alice Dade, Scott Yoo, Jessica Chang, Jonah Kim, and Meredith Clark.

Musique Française CONCERT
Sunday, February 25, 2018 at 3:00 p.m. $35-$65
Cuesta College Cultural and Performing Arts Center
The weekend culminates with a performance of all four works by Scott Yoo and the visiting musicians.

For complete information, visit

--Bettina Swigger, Festival Mosaic

West Edge Opera Announces Snapshot 2018
West Edge Opera's SNAPSHOT presents excerpts from new, previously unproduced operas by West Coast composers and librettists February 24 and 25, 2018. Inaugurated in 2017, the program is the first of its kind in the Bay Area and is a collaboration with Earplay, New Chamber Music Ensemble.

Performances will take place Saturday February 24, 2018 at 8:00PM at the Independent Order of Odd Fellows Hall, 2288 Fulton St, Berkeley, CA 94704 and Sunday February 25, 2018 at 3:00PM at the Taube Atrium Theater, 401 Van Ness Ave, San Francisco, CA 94102. Both venues are ideally suited to the intimate yet expansive demands of Snapshot and are conveniently close to BART. General admission tickets go on sale January 5 and will be available online at or by phone at 510-841-1903. Tickets are $40 each.

--Adam Flowers, West Edge Opera

2018 Young Musicians to Watch
The National YoungArts Foundation is proud to introduce the 2018 classical musicians to watch. On Thursday, January 11, 19 up-and-coming musicians performed, and two aspiring composers presented new works to audiences at New World Center in Miami as part of National YoungArts Week. These extraordinarily talented artists have been named 2018 YoungArts Finalists—one of the nation's most prestigious awards for aspiring artists 15 to 18 years old.

2018 standout performances included
Composer Benjamin Champion from Idyllwild, CA
Flutist Audrey Emata from West Chester, PA
Harpist Annette Lee Pasadena, CA
Pianist Anne Liu from San Diego, CA
Double Bassist William McGregor from West Chester, PA
Pianist Benjamin Rossen from Great Neck, NY
Violinist Adrian Steele from Seattle, WA
Pianist Ray Ushikubo from Riverside, CA
Composer Lauren Vandervelden from Mill Valley, CA

A complete list of the 2018 winners is available here at

--Megan V. Sprenger, Polskin Arts & Communications

San Francisco Girls Chorus Makes Carnegie Hall Debut
The San Francisco Girls Chorus (SFGC), led by Music Director and Principal Conductor Valérie Sainte-Agathe, will make its Carnegie Hall debut alongside the Philip Glass Ensemble on Friday, February 16, 8:00 p.m. with a rare performance of the composer's groundbreaking 1970 work Music With Changing Parts. The program will be repeated in San Francisco on Tuesday, February 20, 7:30 p.m. in Davies Symphony Hall under the auspices of San Francisco Performances.

Music with Changing Parts was originally composed for the Philip Glass Ensemble. This new performance, which will include SFGC and a brass section from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, was arranged by Philip Glass Ensemble Music Director Michael Riesman, SFGC Artistic Director Lisa Bielawa and composer Philip Glass.

Single tickets range in price from $14.50 to $95 and can be purchased through Carnegie Hall at and 212.247.7800.

For more information, please visit

--Brednen Guy, Marketing

Mirror Visions Ensemble Performs Of Beasts and Brutes
Mirror Visions Ensemble (MVE) -- an acclaimed vocal chamber ensemble dedicated to exploring the relationship between music and text -- presents its newest program, Of Beasts and Brutes, in the Loreto Theater at The Sheen Center on Monday, March 12, 2018 at 8:00 p.m.

Of Beasts and Brutes playfully and seriously shines light on the human and animal traits that might emerge in an uprising against totalitarianism, as seen in Orwell's Animal Farm. The songs reference animalized brutes since the early Romans, up to and including modern times. Curated by Yale Department of Music professor Richard Lalli, this concert of great music and texts includes three newly commissioned world premieres from Scott Wheeler, Francine Trester, and Christopher Berg, along with Tchaikovsky, Poulenc and Rachmaninoff, among others.

Monday, March 12, 2018 at 8:00 p.m.
Loreto Theater at The Sheen Center | 18 Bleecker Street | New York, NY
Tickets: General Admission $20.00, Students $15.00 (Plus $2 Facility Fee)

--Katy Salomon, Morahan Arts and Media

Berkshire Opera Festival Announces Its Third Season
Berkshire Opera Festival (BOF) is proud to present Giuseppe Verdi's masterpiece Rigoletto for its third season, with performances August 25, 28, and 31 at the historic Colonial Theatre in Pittsfield. The production is conducted by Artistic Director Brian Garman and directed by General Director Jonathon Loy. As with the first and second seasons, there will also be accompanying recitals and outreach events around the local Berkshire community.

A timeless story of love, betrayal, and vengeance, Rigoletto tells the story of the young Gilda suffering at the hands of self-entitled and abusive men — a theme never more relevant than in our present day. The production follows BOF's acclaimed first two seasons, which featured Puccini's Madama Butterfly and Strauss's Ariadne auf Naxos.

Rigoletto will be sung in Italian with projected English translations. Tickets are priced from $20 to $99. All tickets will go on sale January 15, 2018.  For more information, please visit

--Andrew Ousley, Unison Media

Tucson Desert Song Festival Opened January 16
The Tucson Desert Song Festival's (TDSF) sixth season opened January 16 and will run through February, 4th. The festival celebrates the life and music of Leonard Bernstein, the iconic conductor, composer, pianist and educator. Over the coming weeks TDSF, in partnership with Tucson's leading arts organizations, will present events honoring Bernstein at 100. The festival will provide a rich and unusual context in which to experience Bernstein's work.  Highlights include a fully-staged production of Bernstein's comic operetta Candide (in partnership with Arizona Opera); Trouble in Tahiti (in partnership with the Tucson Symphony Orchestra) featuring mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke and bass-baritone Kelly Markgraf; Mass, in a chamber version (in partnership with True Concord Voices & Orchestra) featuring Jubilant Sykes; the "Kaddish" symphony, narrated by Jamie Bernstein, and an evening with Broadway star Chita Rivera.

Jamie Bernstein, narrator, writer and broadcaster, will be TDSF's Artist-in-Residence, sharing insights and memories of her father and his work. Dr. Matthew Mugmon, the New York Philharmonic's Leonard Bernstein Scholar, will also be in residence. Ms. Bernstein and Dr.. Mugmon will provide context to help understand the complex life and career of Leonard Bernstein and will participate in symposia, "Leonard Bernstein's Impact on American Music," among them.

Tucson Desert Song Festival Presents "Bernstein at 100: A Celebration of the Life and Music of Leonard Bernstein"
January 16 - February 4, 2018
Tucson, AZ

For complete information, visit

--Raphael Zinman, Tucson Desert Song Festival

Cellist Alisa Weilerstein signs to PENTATONE
PENTATONE is delighted to announce that one of the most celebrated cellists of her generation, American cellist Alisa Weilerstein, has signed an exclusive, multi-album deal with the label.

Due for release in August this year, the first album pairs masterworks of the First and Second Viennese Schools – two Haydn concertos with Schoenberg's Verklärte Nacht – and marks the first collaboration of her new multi-season role as Artistic Partner of Norway's celebrated Trondheim Soloists.

"Pentatone's values are in line with mine. Our conversations about repertoire have demonstrated the depth of their knowledge and, perhaps even more importantly, their eagerness in encouraging me to expand my musical horizons. Our first recording together is a testament to that ethos – that artistic integrity and curiosity should always be the first priority. I feel completely at home." --Alisa Weilerstein

--Silvia Pietrosanti, PENTATONE Marketing & PR Manager

Chicago Gargoyle Ensemble to Offer Valentine's Concert Feb.10
The Chicago Gargoyle Brass and Organ Ensemble, with guest artists The Oriana Singers and City Voices, will present the world premiere of British-born composer Peter Meechan's "Love Songs (Shakespeare)" at a holiday-themed concert titled "Shakespeare Valentines" at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, February 10, 2018, at First United Church of Oak Park, 848 Lake St., Oak Park, Illinois.

Commissioned by the Chicago Gargoyle Brass and Organ Ensemble, "Love Songs (Shakespeare)" is a half-hour neo-Romantic work in four movements for brass quintet, organ, narrator, and choir, inspired by four of William Shakespeare's poems on love.

"The audience will develop a crush on this music,'" says Rodney Holmes, founder and music director of the Chicago Gargoyle Brass and Organ Ensemble.

For more information, visit

Nat Silverman, Nathan J. Silverman Co. PR

Musica Viva NY Presents "Voices In Motion" on Sunday, February 25
Musica Viva NY presents its third installment of "Voices In Motion," Sunday, February 25 at 5:00 p.m at All Souls Church on the Upper East Side (Lexington Avenue at 80th Street, NYC).

The concert features the Musica Viva NY Choir, led by Artistic Director Alejandro Hernandez-Valdez, with a guest appearance by founder Walter Klauss, together with organist Trent Johnson in an exploration of the relationship of sound and space through inspiring psalms, folk songs, and organ works from the Italian Renaissance to the 21st century with pieces by a diverse group of composers including G. Allegri, Holst, Eric Whitacre, Osvaldo Golijov, and more.

Tickets, priced at $40, are available by visiting or can be purchased at the door.

--Katlyn Morahan, Morahan Arts and Media

Pianist Stephen Hough and the Berlin Philharmonic Wind Quintet Make Debut at The Wallis
Hailed as "the best ensemble of its kind in the world," (Manchester Evening News), the Berlin Philharmonic Wind Quintet make its debut at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Art (The Wallis) with one of the most distinctive artists of his generation, pianist and MacArthur "Genius" Stephen Hough, in a one-night-only performance in the Bram Goldsmith Theater on Saturday, February 10 at 7:30pm. The evening concert includes works by W.A. Mozart, Samuel Barber, Jacques Ibert, Francis Poulenc, and an original work by multitalented Hough.

Single tickets are now available for $45 – $95. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit, call 310.746.4000, or stop by in person at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts Ticket Services located at 9390 N. Santa Monica Blvd., Beverly Hills, CA 90210.

For more information, visit

--Sarah Jarvis, The Wallis

Iceland Comes to Winnipeg - Additions Announced to Winnipeg New Music Festival
The Winnipeg New Music Festival's (WNMF) unique relationship with Iceland – its innovative composers and their uniquely evocative music – has evolved over a number of seasons.  This year is the 100th anniversary of an important milestone in Icelandic history: the Danish Icelandic Act, a pivotal point in Iceland's history and journey to independence. In celebration of that event, the 2018 Festival (running Jan. 27-Feb. 2, 2018) presents multiple world premieres by Icelandic composers including a major new work for orchestra and choir by Hilmar Örn Hilmarsson on January 31.

Also featured is a premiere choral work by two-time Academy Award nominee and Golden Globe winner for Best Score Jóhann Jóhannsson (Jan 29), and a Canadian premiere of music by Björk (Jan. 27). The world premiere live music score and film of "Dawson City: Frozen Time" by film director Bill Morrison (The Miners Hymns with Jóhann Jóhannsson) and Sigur Ros producer, collaborator, and composer Alex Somers (of Jonsi and Alex, and Riceboy Sleeps) takes place Feb. 3. In addition, Björk's pianist and collaborator Jonas Sen will be performing his own music (Jan. 25) as well as performing with Philip Glass (Jan. 28, The Complete Piano Etudes), and there will be a sneak preview of a new film by Guy Maddin (Jan. 25).

For complete information, visit

--Shira Gilbert PR

Mahler: Symphony No. 4 (CD review)

Also, Four Early Songs. Ruth Ziesak, soprano; Daniele Gatti, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. RCA 75605 51345 2.

Although by the time he wrote the Fourth Symphony Mahler had begun giving up trying to link descriptive titles to his music, he did leave us two designations for the Fourth, "The world as eternal present" for the first movement and "Friend Death--strike up" for the second. As the first movement begins with sleigh bells, it isn't hard to imagine programmatic content wherein we are journeying toward immortality. The second movement's Death may be seen as a welcoming character leading us to Heaven, the third movement as the final ascent, and the conclusion as our eternal resting place of sweetness and bliss.

Conductor Daniele Gatti continues his Mahler cycle, leading the Royal Philharmonic through the Fourth Symphony's trek with more fervor than one usually associates with this piece. Whether one responds to Maestro Gatti's more idiosyncratic-than-usual treatment of the score may depend on one's view of the symphony as a whole or, simply, what one has gotten used to in the past.

Daniele Gatti
Mahler is a composer of contrasts, to be sure, but in the Fourth the differences are less extreme than in the man's other symphonies. The Fourth is the most idyllic, the most pastoral, the most restful of his nine numbered symphonies. However, that isn't quite how Gatti sees it. Instead of a smooth and freely moving tempo and rubato as adopted by most conductors, Gatti chooses to indulge in a series of starts and stops, never quite adopting a steady pace. There are numerous hesitations, shortenings and elongations, and new tempo changes, devices that may work in the more spectacular of Mahler's symphonies but here tend to impede some of the sweetness of the work's forward progress. Still, Gatti's reading is his own, and for many listeners it may inject new life into an old favorite.

For purposes of comparison I had five other Mahler Fourths on hand at the time of this review: Bernard Haitink, Franz Welser-Most, Otto Klemperer, George Szell, and Sir Colin Davis. I chose Davis for my comparison listening because his was the most recent recording of the bunch and because RCA had recorded him, as they did Gatti. In this comparison, the older conductor came off the more musically mature. Davis is more direct, more velvety smooth in his transitions, and less given to dramatic pauses. The biggest differences I heard were in the third movement where Davis comes into his own, the refined assuredness of his approach adding to the section's general repose. I must admit that in the finale, however, Haitink's soloist in his 1983 recording, Roberta Alexander, sounds the most innocent of all the contenders on hand, more so than Ruth Ziesak in Gatti's ending.

In terms of sound, the Gatti disc is very clear but a bit edgy and needing in warmth. In essence, it lacks much conviction in the upper-bass department. Again by comparison, the Davis recording is darker, less airy or open, but, overall, more realistic. I'd say Gatti's is more the young person's interpretation, more impetuous and impulsive than the others in my collection. The differences are not extreme, in any case, and those who appreciated Gatti's youthful realizations of other Mahler symphonies will find much satisfaction here as well.


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

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