Classical Music News of the Week, January 19, 2019

American Opera Projects Names New Leadership Beginning 2019-2020

American Opera Projects' (AOP) Board of Directors announced today the appointment of two new inspiring, artistic leaders who will continue the organization's 30-year legacy of creating contemporary opera in the US. Effective July 1, 2019, Matt Gray, who currently serves as AOP's Producing Director, will become General Director, and Mila Henry will join the company as Artistic Director.

Sarah Moulton Faux, of the AOP Board of Directors, said, "It was a unanimous decision on the part of the Board to appoint Matt as the next General Director both for continuity of AOPs mission but also for his innovative vision to keep the organization at the cutting edge as we move into the future. Both he and Mila have been incredible assets to the AOP team under Charles Jarden's skilled leadership, and we look forward to continuing AOP's legacy of groundbreaking new works."

Matt Gray will be the third General Director in the Brooklyn non-profit's 30-year history, following Grethe Barrett Holby, who founded AOP in 1988, and current General Director Charles Jarden who has led the company since 2002. Jarden will help guide the organization's leadership transition in the newly-created role of Director of Strategic Partnerships. Mila Henry will be the company's first Artistic Director since Steven Osgood held the position from 2002-2008.

For more information, visit www.aopopera.org

--American Opera Projects

Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra & Chorale Announces New Music Director Richard Egarr
Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra & Chorale (PBO) Board President Kay Sprinkel Grace and Executive Director Courtney Beck announced today that Richard Egarr has signed a five-year contract to be the next Music Director of the ensemble. Egarr will be the second Music Director in PBO's nearly 40-year history; he succeeds Nicholas McGegan, who will have held the position for 35 years at the end of the 2019/20 season. Egarr will join PBO at the start of the 2020/21 season, at which time his title will be Music Director Designate, due to his continuing work as Music Director of the Academy of Ancient Music. He will assume the title of Music Director beginning in the 2021/22 season.

"I am delighted to name Richard Egarr as Philharmonia's new Music Director," said Executive Director Courtney Beck. "Nic McGegan has laid an extraordinary foundation from which Richard can build. Richard is an exceptional and unique conductor who has incredible command of the baroque, classical, and early romantic repertoire and enthusiastically embraces PBO's new music initiative. Audiences will sometimes see Richard conducting from the harpsichord; I am certain we will also see him in recital in coming seasons, perhaps with other well-known collaborators.

For more information, visit https://philharmonia.org/press-release-richard-egarr-named-music-director/

--Amanda Sweet, Bucklesweet

New Century Chamber Orchestra Presents "Recomposed": February 7 through 10
New Century Chamber Orchestra presents upcoming performances of "Recomposed" February 7 through 10, featuring Daniel Hope in his first appearances as Music Director. Four performances will be given around the San Francisco Bay Area in Berkeley, Palo Alto, San Francisco, and San Rafael.

Exploring the theme of "recomposition," Hope will appear as soloist for the San Francisco Premiere of Max Richter's Recomposed: Vivaldi – The Four Seasons from his 2012 bestselling Deutsche Grammophon album. Also featured are Britten arrangements of works by Schumann and Purcell, as well as Vaughan Williams's Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis.

Performances:
Thursday, February 7, 2019, 7:30 p.m., First Congregational Church Berkeley, Berkeley, CA
Friday, February 8, 2019, 7:30 p.m., Oshman JCC, Palo Alto, CA
Saturday, February 9, 2019, 7:30 p.m., Taube Atrium Theater at Wilsey Center for the Arts, San Francisco, CA
Sunday, February 10, 2019, 3:00 p.m., Osher Marin JCC, San Rafael, CA

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

--Brenden Guy PR

Saratoga Performing Arts Center Announces 2019 Classical Season
Saratoga Performing Arts Center announces 2019 classical season, featuring the New York City Ballet, the Philadelphia Orchestra, and the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center.

The New York City Ballet residency is highlighted by three SPAC Premieres from 21st century choreographers; story ballet Coppélia, and a Gala program featuring Balanchine's Apollo.

The Philadelphia Orchestra season features nineteen SPAC premieres of iconic masterpieces including works by Copland, Piazzolla, and Debussy and innovative newer works including compositions by Higdon, Clyne, Lopez, and Bates.

Music Director Yannick Nézet-Séguin will return to lead the orchestra for two weeks, including the season finale featuring the SPAC premiere of Mozart's Requiem.

The "Cinema Series at SPAC" returns with "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets in Concert," Disney/Pixar's "Up in Concert," and Charlie Chaplin's "City Lights in Concert."

The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center performs six programs with twenty-three works never before performed by CMS at SPAC.

For complete information, visit www.spac.org

--Rebecca Davis Public Relations

Yo-Yo Ma Debuts New Music Video from Bach
Kicking off 2019 with the announcement of new locations for his globe-spanning Bach Project, YO-YO MA has premiered a music video that explores the enduring resonance of Bach through user-generated footage. The new video integrates Ma's performance of the Prélude from Cello Suite No. 1 with footage contributed in response to the prompt "Show the world how you express yourself and what brings your community together." It is another step towards answering the question posed by the Bach Project: how does culture connect us, and help us to imagine and build a better future?

Watch here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1prweT95Mo0&feature=youtu.be

The new video marks the start of the next chapter of Ma's two-year-long Bach Project, which brings his performance of Bach's suites for solo cello to 36 places around the world, locations that provide a window on our cultural heritage, our current creativity, and the issues of peace and understanding shaping our future. Alongside each concert, Ma and his team partner with artists and culture makers, cultural and community organizations, and leaders from across sectors to design Days of Action — conversations, collaborations and performances that ask how culture can help us to imagine and build a better future.  At the heart of the undertaking is Ma's unwavering faith in culture—expressed viscerally for him in Bach's music—as a powerful uniting force during divisive and difficult times.

For more information, visit http://bach.yo-yoma.com/

--Larissa Slezak, Sony Music

American Bach Soloists Return to Their Roots with a Program of Favorite Bach
Nearly 30 years ago, the American Bach Soloists established their initial and primary focus on the rich repertoire of Bach's more than 200 cantatas. Each one is an amalgam of dramatic rhetoric and musical inventiveness, flawlessly and expertly combined by the genius composer who is still, to this day, the most important influence on generations of composers since.

For decades, ABS has invited audiences to participate in their performances of cantatas by encouraging all to sing the final chorales of each cantata, the movement that was meant to capsulize the essence of each cantata's meaning and purpose.

We've been thrilled to see other San Francisco Bay Area musical organizations take up the same idea, and in February we invite you to join us again through your own musical contribution as we celebrate 30 years by looking back to the beginning (or, "Bach" to the beginning!) with a program of four cantatas that helped establish the solid reputation of ABS as California's leading Bach ensemble. In fact, ABS's acclaimed recording of "Favorite Cantatas" is at the core of February's programs, complemented by Bach's German setting of the Magnificat text, "Meine Seel erhebt den Herren" ("My soul magnifies the Lord").

Friday February 15 2019 8:00 p.m. • St. Stephen's Church, Belvedere, CA
Saturday February 16 2019 8:00 p.m. • First Congregational Church, Berkeley, CA
Sunday February 17 2019 4:00 p.m. • St. Mark's Lutheran Church, San Francisco, CA
Monday February 18 2019 7:00 p.m. • Davis Community Church, Davis, CA

For complete information, visit americanbach.org

--American Bach Soloists

Aida Kicks off Season 13 of "Great Performances at the Met"
"A Symphonic Winter" with Great Performances continues with the season 13 premiere of Great Performances at the Met featuring Verdi's grandest of grand operas, Aida. Conducted by Nicola Luisotti, catch the opera this Sunday, January 20 at 12 p.m. on PBS (check local listings).

Aida stars vocal powerhouses Anna Netrebko in the title role and Anita Rachvelishvili as Amneris as they go toe to toe in this classic love story featuring a number of Verdi's most celebrated arias. Aleksandrs Antonenko, Dmitry Belosselskiy, and Ryan Speedo Green round out the cast. Isabel Leonard hosts.

--Dorean Rose Pugh, WNET

Nu Deco Ensemble to Perform Program of All Female Composers
Nu Deco will continue their fourth season with a program of all female composers at The Light Box, 404 NW 26 St., Miami, FL, February 14–16.

The concerts will feature new works by Nu Deco violist Jessica Meyer and Nu Works Initiative winners Holly Harrison and Tanner Porter, as well as a collaboration with special guest artist Colombian-Canadian singer-songwriter Tei Shi, a mercurial artist whose multimedia approach to music-making has turned heads in recent years. The new symphonic suite explores the music of "High Priestess of Soul" Nina Simone, who challenged societal norms and musical compartmentalization through her highly political, categorically ambiguous works.

For complete information, visit https://www.nu-deco.org/concert-4-feb-1416/

--Andrew Ousley, Unison Media

World Premiere of Eric Whitacre's "The Sacred Veil"
Three years ago, after a visit from his longtime collaborator and friend, lyricist and poet Charles Anthony (Tony) Silvestri, composer Eric Whitacre found a poem Silvestri had left for him sitting on his piano. Silvestri had lost his wife to cancer 12 years previously, losing his soul mate and leaving him to bring up their two young children. He had not been able to write about the experience for a long time. The poem he left for Whitacre was called "The Veil Opens," and Whitacre immediately sat down and began to set it to music.

The resulting piece is part of a broader work based on Silvestri's poetry addressing all stages of life and death called "The Sacred Veil" that will receive its world premiere by the Los Angeles Master Chorale conducted by Whitacre in Walt Disney Concert Hall,111 S Grand Ave, Los Angeles, CA, Saturday, February 16 at 2 PM and Sunday, February 17 at 7 PM.

For more information, visit https://lamasterchorale.org/eric-whitacre-the-sacred-veil

--Jennifer Scott, Los Angeles Master Chorale

Richardson Chamber Players Celebrates PUC's 125th Anniversary
The Richardson Chamber Players, Princeton University Concerts' ("PUC") resident ensemble of performance faculty, pay tribute to PUC's 125th anniversary season in a special Sunday afternoon chamber recital on February 10, 2019 at 3PM in Richardson Auditorium, Alexander Hall, Princeton, NJ.

The program will feature mixed chamber works written during PUC's inaugural season (1894-1895) paired with contemporary compositions. Performance faculty pianists Geoffrey Burleson and Margaret Kampmeier, cellist Susannah Chapman, soprano Rochelle Ellis, violinist Anna Lim, and clarinetist Jo-Ann Sternberg will offer works by Camille Saint-Saëns, Richard Strauss, Johannes Brahms, Eric Nathan, and Anton Arensky. This concert will be the last in the Richardson Chamber Players' 2018-19 season.

Tickets are $15 General/$5 Students, available by phone at 609-258-9220, in person two hours prior to the concert at Richardson Auditorium, or online at princetonuniversityconcerts.org.

--Dasha Koltunyuk, Princeton University Concerts

The Summer Festival Mosaic Pre-Sale for Donors Is Coming Soon
It's a new year! And that means the annual Festival Mosaic Summer Festival subscription pre-sale period, exclusively for donors, is almost here. Early ticket-buying privileges is one of the most popular and valuable benefits of becoming a Festival Mozaic donor. Consider making a contribution of $100 or more to gain access to this perk. Purchasing your Summer Festival subscription as a donor during the pre-sale period provides you with a number of exclusive benefits, including:

Early ordering access in advance of the general public.
The best selection of events and seats.
15% discount when you purchase 6 or more events.

On top of this, all donors of $100 or more are acknowledged in our souvenir program book.

Make a donation today at http://www.festivalmozaic.com/donate

--Jeri Corgill, Interim Executive Director, Festival Mosaic

Miller Theatre Early Music Series Presents "Music from Over the Alps"
The four voices of the celebrated ensemble New York Polyphony return to take audiences on a journey over the Alps to explore the Flemish composers who traversed the mountains to work in Italy. Encompassing works by well-known composers Orlande de Lassus and Palestrina, alongside gems by Philippe Verdelot, Cipriano de Rore, and others, the rich and varied program highlights the flourishing of the polyphonic style in the region.

Saturday, February 16, 2019, 8:00 p.m.
Church of St. Mary the Virgin, NYC

Tickets $30–$45; Students with valid ID: $7–$27

For more information, visit https://www.millertheatre.com/events/new-york-polyphony

--Aleba Gartner, Aleba & Company

The Chelsea Symphony's January Concert Features Jean Sibelius's Symphony No 2
The Chelsea Symphony, featured in the hit Amazon show "Mozart in the Jungle," begins 2019 with a concert on January 25 and 26 featuring Jean Sibelius's Symphony No 2, famously called by the composer "a confession of the soul."

Also on the concert is the World Premiere of Four Miniatures for a Dark Age by Aaron Dai, Ballade for Flute and Orchestra by Frank Martin with flutist Kim Lewis (1/25 only), Violin Concerto in D minor by J.S. Bach with violinist Béa Naumann (1/25 only), and Carl Nielsen's Clarinet Concerto with clarinetist Sarah Koop McCoy (1/26 only). This concert is conducted by Matthew Aubin and Nell Flanders.

Friday, January 25 and Saturday, January 26 at 8:00 PM
The Chelsea Symphony, conducted by Matthew Aubin and Nell Flanders
St. Paul's Church, New York, NY

For more information, visit www.chelseasymphony.org

--Elizabeth Holub, Chelsea Symphony

World Encores (CD review)

Mariss Jansons, Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra. EMI Classics CDC 7243 5 56676 2 6.

Every so often a major label puts out a collection like this one of short, famous pieces of classical music, perhaps to interest beginners in the field who don't already have six or eight versions of each work. Nevertheless, I found a few new things among the old favorites from Jansons and his Oslo Philharmonic that might make this 1998 release a worthwhile investment even to older collectors.

The theme of the album is world travel, encores from different composers of different nationalities. The program starts with Bernstein's Overture from Candide, then goes on to Tchaikovsky's Pas de deux No. 14 from the Nutcracker, Sibelius's "Valse triste," Bizet's "Farandole," Bach's "Air" from Orchestral Suite No. 3, etc.

Mariss Jansons
A few less-recognizable bits are Kim's "Elegy," Alfven's "Vallflickans Dans," Toyama's "Dance of Celestials," Dinicu's "Hora Staccato," and Chapi's "Prelude." My own favorites, though, were Jansons' softly sweet versions of Grieg's "Morning" and Mascagni's "Intermezzo"; Villa-Lobos's delightful little steam train from Bachianas brasileiras No. 2; Gade's "Tango: Jealousy," an accompaniment to a silent Doug Fairbanks film; and the concluding Zorba suite by Theodorakis.

The recordings are all digital, dating from 1993-97, and the sound is agreeable throughout. It is quite natural in tonal balance and resonant ambiance, with excellent dynamics and a reasonable sense of depth. There is some slight veiling, however, and bass is only moderately deep. In other words, we are more than a few steps removed from front row seats, but the effect is fairly realistic and pleasing in any case.

With twenty items in all and a total time of over seventy-nine minutes, there ought to be something here for everyone, even if the listener may find most of the material familiar.

JJP

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


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:


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