Whitacre: The Sacred Veil (CD Review)

Los Angeles Master Chorale, Grant Gershon, Artistic Director; Eric Whitacre, conductor; Lisa Edwards, piano; Jeffrey Zeigler, cello. Signum SIGCD630.

Composer Eric Whitacre (b. 1970) is a gifted composer and choral conductor whose work always seems to be bursting with energy, imagination, and beauty. His style is a mixture of the simple and the complex, with melodies that are beguiling and straightforward on the surface but often expressed in harmonies that can stretch, soar, and bedazzle. His energy does not confine itself to his composing, as he also is active as a conductor. With the rise of the internet and technologies for interacting electronically, he has recently been active in assembling “virtual choirs” that feature singers from throughout the world joyfully blending their voices under his direction and stewardship.

Whitacre composed The Sacred Veil in with his friend and frequent collaborator Charles Anthony Silvestri, who wrote the lyrics, which revolve around the death from cancer of his late wife, Julia Lawrence Silvestri. As you might surmise from those circumstances, The Sacred Veil is an intensely personal, deeply moving work of art; moreover, this Signum CD is rewarding in many different ways.

One of the interesting qualities of The Sacred Veil is the way it balances intimacy with expression. The lyrics focus on the really private story of Julia’s passing, told from the perspective of her husband, Charles. At the same time, the lyrics are used to evoke Silvestri’s concept of a thin veil that separates the past from the future, the living from the dead, the temporal from the eternal. A simple concept intellectually, but packed with mystery and complexity as a lived experience. Whitacre’s musical setting of the lyrics uses simple melodies played by the piano and the cello to provide a ground for the sometimes straightforward, sometimes soaringly complex choral parts.

Just listen to the opening measures, with a simple melody on the piano soon joined by a tone from the cello, the choir then joining in with some exquisite harmonizing that draws the listener right into the lyrics and thus into the story. By the time the final movements arrive, the vocal harmonies have become more layered, more complex, but the piano and cello still are there to provide a solid foundation for the harmonic structure of the voices. A particularly moving choral device that Whitacre uses to great effect are sliding harmonies in the voices as the lyrics reflect Silvestri’s thoughts and emotions in the immediate aftermath of his wife’s passing in the penultimate movement, “You Rise, I Fall,” an incredibly moving portrait of grief built upon love and hope.

Following the music there is a recorded interview with Silvestri and Whitacre. Such appendices to a musical performance can be annoying, but Silvestri and Whitacre offer an explanation of the meaning of the work and the creative process that the two of them used to bring the piece to fruition. The interview provides insights into The Sacred Veil that makes the listener want to listen to the music again, and again, and again.

Insight into the recording is also provided by the liner notes, which include a brief foreword by Grant Gershon, an introduction to the background story underlying the lyrics by Silvestri, and a movement-by-movement essay on the music by Whitacre. The liner notes also include background information and photographs for not only Whitacre and Silvestri, but also for the Los Angeles Master Chorale, pianist Lisa Edwards, and cellist Jeffrey Ziegler. Seeing information provided for all involved just seems to add to the cooperative, supportive, intimate, indeed loving feeling engendered by both the music and the interview contained in this generously filled (nearly 80 minutes) compact disc. Even the austere but expressive black-and-white cover art feels perfectly appropriate for this release.

Last but not least, the recorded sound is of such excellent quality (Fred Vogler was the recording engineer) that the listener is not likely to really even think about it. The music is just there, sounding utterly natural and unstrained. This is a magnificent CD that I cannot recommend too highly. I hope you find it as moving and inspiring as I do.

Bonus Recommendations: Whitacre has several commercial CD recordings available, notably Light and Gold (2010) and Water Night (2012) on the Decca label. The former is all-choral, while the latter also feature some orchestral compositions. Another fine all-choral collection is Cloudburst and Other Choral Works (2007) on Hyperion. A release easy to overlook but wonderful to hear is The Complete A Cappella Works 1991-2001 (2007) performed by the Brigham Young University Singers on the Arsis label. They may be an amateur group, but both the performances and the engineering are first-class. Finally, a work by Whitacre that is a must-hear is Deep Field, orchestral music that Whitacre composed based on images of deep space from the Hubble space telescope. It is not available on CD as of this writing, but you can find links at Whitacre’s website, ericwhitacre.com.

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

Beethoven: Piano Concerto No. 4 (CD review)

Also Coriolan and The Creatures of Prometheus Overtures. Kristian Bezuidenhout, fortepiano; Pablo Heras-Casado, Freiburger Barockorchester. Harmonia Mundi HMM 902413.

By John J. Puccio

Another Beethoven Fourth Piano Concerto? So, what sets this one apart from the other 800 recordings of the concerto in the catalogue? Well, for starters, this one is played by a period-instrument ensemble, the Freiburg Baroque Orchestra, and they’re pretty darn good. Second, the soloist is Kristian Bezuidenhout, and he, too, is pretty darned good. And to cap off a good thing, Bezuidenhout plays the piece on a copy of an 1824 Graff fortepiano, one that might have been used in Beethoven’s own time. If it’s authenticity you’re after, this issue might be the ticket.

Beethoven wrote his Piano Concerto No. 4 in G, Op. 58 between 1805 and 1806 (around the same time he wrote the Fourth Symphony and parts of the Fifth Symphony) premiering it in 1807 with the composer himself as soloist. The opening movement is melodic, with the piano part often sounding improvisatory. Beethoven scored the slow movement for piano and strings, keeping it fairly poetic with a slightly agitated orchestral accompaniment, leading quietly into the finale. Then, we get a passionate, tempestuous, yet gracefully rhythmic third movement. Here, you name it; Beethoven goes for broke.

The fortepiano had its heyday in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, so it’s the instrument that Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven would have written for until the fortepiano evolved into the modern grand piano. The sound of the fortepiano isn’t quite as well-rounded as a modern piano, not as rich, mellow, or resonant. The highs of a fortepiano still sound a little tinkly or ringing, and the lows don’t sound as plush. Nevertheless, Bezuidenhout coaxes some luxurious sounds from it, and the Freiburg ensemble accompany him with an easy precision, Maestro Heras-Casado ensuring that the playing never sounds hectic or rushed.

Bezuidenhout performs the piece with a combination of poetic refinement and virtuosic zest. In the first movement he handles the lyricism of the opening beautifully and moves gracefully into moments of inspired spontaneity. In the Andante con Moto, Bezuidenhout takes advantage of the music’s contrasts to create a highly volatile slow movement, the perfect vehicle to transition into the music’s vivacious finale. So, while the performance as a whole may not quite displace my favorite recording on modern instruments by Stephen Kovacevich, it is among the very best period-instrument versions now available.

For companion pieces, Harmonia Mundi fill out the disc with two more Beethoven works, the Coriolan and The Creatures of Prometheus Overtures (1807 and 1801). Again, it’s nice hearing them played by a period-instrument band and sounding probably close to what Beethoven might have heard in his day if he weren’t going deaf. Incidentally, the program opens with the more dramatic Coriolan Overture, which makes a good curtain raiser.

Producer and editor Martin Sauer and engineer Tobias Lehmann, both of Teldex Studio Berlin, recorded the music at the Ensemblehaus Freiburg in December 2017. The piano is well placed, not too far out in front of the orchestra, and the orchestra is well spread out around the soloist. Dynamics are quite good, and detailing is more than adequate. The lower treble/upper midrange can at times seem a trifle forward, especially during moments of loudest expression, but it is not a worrisome issue. In all, the recording is quite realistic and enjoyable.

JJP

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

Classical Music News of the Week, October 17, 2020

Sparks & Wiry Cries Annual songSLAM Festival January 11-22
 
From January 11 to 22, 2021, the New York-based global art song platform Sparks & Wiry Cries will present their flagship songSLAM Festival with twelve days of song. The Festival will include the annual songSLAM competition for up to fifteen emerging composer/performer teams to present new art song compositions. Because audiences cannot meet in person at this time, all songSLAM teams will be professionally recorded in November at the Blue Building in New York City, with performances available online beginning January 11. Audiences will text to vote for as little as $1 per vote, and the top three teams to generate the most funds will win cash prizes.
 
Two additional prizes have been added for the songSLAM awardees this season. Firstly, the composer for the team earning the most unique votes will receive mentorship from “one of New York’s favorite song composers” (The New Yorker), Tom Cipullo. Second, a panel of judges will choose their favorite composer from the pool of submissions and commission an additional 15-minute work for voice and piano to be premiered during the 2022 songSLAM festival. The panel will include mezzo-soprano Stephanie Blythe, bass-baritone Eric Owens, composer Reinaldo Moya and Sparks’ Co-Artistic Directors Erika Switzer and Martha Guth.
 
For complete information, visit http://www.sparksandwirycries.org/
 
--Rebecca Davis PR
 
New Video: SOS VOTE!
SOS VOTE! is the title of our next EXO: VOTE videos, which Mark Dover, Ben Willis and I created using morse code.
 
Watch and listen here on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0sESd8xPwzw&feature=youtu.be
or here on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=692289824718597
 
Election Day is coming, and registration is still open in several key states. If you are already registered and have a plan for how to vote, encourage others to do so as well!
 
This week's resource is www.vote.org where you can find lots of resources about registration, early voting, and vote-by-mail. And here is our lineup for the final three videos in this series:
 
Video #3: October 20
Animation: Lembit Beecher
Music: Joseph Bologne and Lembit Beecher
Performers: Lembit Beecher, Brad Balliet, Ben Roidl-Ward, Maddy Wildman and Karen Ouzounian
 
Video #4: October 27
Video: Lynne Rosenberg
Composer: Patrick Castillo
Performer: Karen Kim, Violin
 
Video #5: November 3 (Election Day)
Animation video: Ayane Kozasa
Composer: Judd Greenstein
Audio editing: Paul Wiancko
Performers: Ayane Kozasa, Viola & Paul Wiancko, Cello
 
--James Blachly, Experiential Orchestra
 
Through the Eyes and Lens of the Beholder
SOLI Chamber Ensemble launches its new season at the San Antonio Botanical Garden with a program that looks at the idea of a work within a work. Included are the Texas premiere of Jennifer Jolley’s Recomposed Scriabin, a new arrangement for SOLI by San Antonio composer James Scott Balentine, and the world premiere of till our bodies into the night slip by Michael Matthews, a featured artist in FOTOSEPTIEMBRE 2020.
 
Concerts will be staged from the new Betty Kelso Center as you, the audience, engage in SOLI's exciting and imaginative performances from the comfort and safety of the Greehey Lawn - LIVE in an outdoor, safe, natural setting. Seating is limited and tickets are on sale now - secure your seat today!
 
Purchase tickets: https://www.solichamberensemble.com/concerts/
 
--Anne Schellenge, SOLI Chamber Ensemble
 
West Edge Opera Announces the First Round of Aperture Projects
West Edge Opera announces a varied and diverse line-up of 22 projects to be included in the first round of Aperture, their online program dedicated to creating new works of opera and music theater.
 
These pieces make up a portfolio of projects available to Aperture's subscribing members to discover and explore in the months to come. Each proposal is driven by an artistic team, some of whom have several fully produced operas under their belts, while others have little more than a rough concept, promising talent, and a lot of optimism. A handful of these pieces will be selected for an intensive three-month residency in early 2021. During this “sprint,” Aperture subscribers will follow along as teams work on their projects and create regular video updates about their progress. At least one of the pieces will receive a $60,000 commission and a concert production in early 2022.
 
For complete information, visit http://www.westedgeopera.org/
 
--Press, West Edge Opera
 
Young People’s Chorus of New York City Kicks Off New Season
Welcome to YPC's 33rd Year: “In the Key of Love!” We are thrilled to kick off a season packed with virtual rehearsals, recordings, and performances, and filled with dynamic new and ongoing projects. We are so happy to see our choristers active, engaged, and singing with us each week. This year, we are taking it a step further and launching a virtual platform, coming soon -- a place you will be able to visit anytime to experience many of our new and past performances.
 
During a time when everything is different for our choristers, the Young People’s Chorus of New York City is still here serving our community through our world-renowned musical afterschool and in-school programs, and we need your support. YPC is committed to artistic excellence by providing our children with consistency, hope, joy, and a place to sing and perform.
 
For more information, visit https://ypc.org/
 
--Francisco J. Núñez, Founder and Artistic Director, Young People's Chorus of NYC
 
Announcing the Winners of the 2020 CAG Competition
Congratulations to the winners of the 2020 Concert Artists Guild Victor Elmaleh Competition.
 
Gabriel Martins and Geneva Lewis are this year's CAG/YCAT Grand Prize Winners, and Britton-René Collins, Empire Wild and Ariel Horowitz are the inaugural winners of the Ambassador Prize!
 
Stay tuned in the coming weeks for more information on these amazing young artists. In case you missed it, you can watch the full Winners Announcement below, which includes clips of all the finalists and a message from CAG President Tanya Bannister.
 
Read more about the CAG winners and CAG here: http://www.concertartists.org/
 
--Tanya Bannister, CA
 
What's Streaming: Classical (Week of October 19–25)
Wednesday, October 21
Davóne Tines featured on Philadelphia Orchestra’s Hear Together podcast
https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/hear-together-podcast/id1533149053
 
Wednesday, October 21 at 7:30 p.m. GMT
Stephen Hough performs Brahms’s Piano Concerto No. 2, with Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra
https://bsolive.com/events/viennese-masters-digital/
 
Thursday, October 22 at 7:00 p.m. PT
James Conlon joins astronomer Laura Danly in “A Return to Venusberg,” presented by LA Opera
https://www.laopera.org/community/learn-at-home-grown-up-edition/play-on-salons/a-return-to-venusberg/
 
Friday, October 23 at 9:00 p.m. ET (check local listings)
Michael Tilson Thomas: “Where Now Is,” an American Masters documentary
https://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/
 
Friday, October 23 at 8:00 p.m. CT
Minnesota Orchestra performs music by Beethoven, Valerie Coleman, Paquito D’Rivera, and Jennifer Higdon
https://minnesotaorchestra.org/
 
--Shuman Associates News
 
Recital: Visions cosmiques
Accustomed to large ensembles, the Société de musique contemporaine (SMCQ) is adapting to the new health standards this season by exploring the form of the recital. Visions cosmiques, a webcast concert on October 25 at 3 p.m., will allow the public to hear works from the repertoire for two pianos, performed by Brigitte Poulin and Jean Marchand.
 
"Historically, the repertoire for two pianos was used, among other things, for the reduction of orchestral works or large works for rehearsals, and then the form developed at the request of pianists who appreciated the wide range of possibilities," says Walter Boudreau, SMCQ Artistic Director.
 
The Poulin-Marchand pianist duo places the infinite possibilities of the repertoire for two pianos at the service of a program in search of the infinite! Les Visions de l'Amen, Olivier Messiaen's monumental work, will be presented 50 years after the composer himself performed it in Montreal with his wife, pianist Yvonne Loriod, at the invitation of the SMCQ. Jean Marchand was in the hall at the time.
 
Sunday, October 25,2020, 3 pm:
Simultaneous live webcast free on Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L7PfAW-ngeI&feature=youtu.be
And Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/events/5071089812988067
 
--France Gaignard, Publicist
 
International Contemporary Ensemble Announces Leadership Transitions
The pioneering International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE) announces bassoonist Rebekah Heller’s transition from Co-Artistic Director to Board Member, and welcomes a new cohort of Board Members with close ties to the Ensemble: Marcos Balter, David Byrd-Marrow, and Du Yun. Eddy Kwon joins the Ensemble’s staff as Director of Individual Giving.
 
For further information, visit https://www.iceorg.org/
 
--Katy Salomon, Morahan Arts and Media
 
Bang on a Can's OneBeat Marathon
Bang on a Can is excited to present the OneBeat Marathon – Live Online – on Sunday, November 15, 2020 from 12-4pm ET, curated by Found Sound Nation, its social engagement wing. Over four hours the OneBeat Marathon will feature live-streamed multimedia performances by musicians from 14 countries stretching over five continents to transport audiences to a paradigm-bending sonic universe.
 
For more inforation, visit https://bangonacan.org/
 
--Maggie Stapleton, Jensen Artists
 
Colburn School and LA Opera Present Joseph Bologne's The Anonymous Lover
The Colburn School has partnered with LA Opera to present the company premiere of The Anonymous Lover (L'Amant Anonyme), a 1780 opera by Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges (1745-1799), who is widely regarded as the first Black classical composer known to history. Conducted by James Conlon, LA Opera's Richard Seaver Music Director, and directed by Bruce Lemon, Jr., in a socially distanced stage setting, the performance will be streamed online for free on Saturday, November 14th, 2020.
 
To ensure a socially distant and safe environment to stage and produce the opera, the Colburn School digitized the campus, enabling the cast and crew to stay connected while performing and working from different locations. Fred Vogler of Sonitus Consulting and Francesco Perlangeli, Colburn School’s AV Manager, developed plans to connect a number of spaces in the school’s Grand Building via data, video, and fiber optic cables, expanding the existing video network. For rehearsals and the performance of The Anonymous Lover, the singers will perform in Zipper Hall while the orchestra will perform in the nearby Grand Rehearsal Hall.
 
For more information, visit https://www.laopera.org/performances/updated-2021-season/the-anonymous-lover/
 
--Lisa Bellamore, Crescent Communications
 
“Mozart’s Own Violin” Featuring Christoph Koncz
QChamberStream.com, the premier platform for high-quality broadcast concerts founded by Tanja Dorn’s Dorn Music and producer Bernhard Fleischer’s BFMI in April 2020, announces its next concert Mozart’s Own Violin on Sunday, October 25, 2020 at 12pm ET, featuring violinist and conductor Christoph Koncz with Les Musiciens du Louvre, broadcast from the Mozarteum Salzburg in Austria. This is QChamberStream.com’s first concert in partnership with Ticketmaster’s Universe ticketing platform.
 
Christoph Koncz will perform Mozart's Violin Concertos No. 4 and No. 5 on Mozart’s violin--the same violin on which Mozart had played as concertmaster in the Salzburg Hofkapelle; a Baroque instrument that was carefully preserved after Mozart’s death.
 
For details, visit https://qchamberstream.com/
 
--Christina Jensen, Jensen Artists
 
Young Concert Artists Announces 60th Anniversary Programming
Young Concert Artists (YCA) is proud to announce its Fall 2020 season of programming, that both reaffirms its core commitment to discovering and launching the careers of exceptional young musicians, while also offering an array of creative solutions towards managing and presenting artists amidst the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.
 
The 60th Anniversary Season programming opens with an October 21 livestreamed performance from Merkin Hall, featuring current YCA artists, alums, and a world premiere. YCA’s world-renowned artist auditions will continue with a Final Round on November 8, and a Winners Concert on November 9--both livestreamed on YCA’s Facebook page and YouTube channel. Later in the season, on December 9, pianist Aristo Sham will have his YCA debut concert livestreamed from Merkin Hall.
 
For complete details, visit https://yca.org/
 
--Andrew Ousley, Unison Media
 
Lisa Bielawa's Election Year Musical Work Voters' Broadcast Premieres Live
Voters’ Broadcast is a broadly participatory musical performance for an unlimited number of voices and instruments made up of choral and instrumental ensembles. The work is produced, conceived and composed by Rome Prize and American Academy of Arts & Letters Award-winning composer Lisa Bielawa, with text excerpted from celebrated artist Sheryl Oring’s I Wish to Say.
 
Voters’ Broadcast will be premiered live in one day of three socially distanced, outdoor performances presented by Kaufman Music Center and Brooklyn Public Library at the main entrance to BPL’s Central Library on Grand Army Plaza on Saturday, October 24 at 11am, 12:30pm, and 2pm ET, as part of the Library’s crowd-sourced 28th Amendment Project. In addition, the complete work will be premiered virtually on Wednesday, October 28 at 3pm ET, co-presented online by University of Michigan, Ann Arbor and Kaufman Music Center. All events are free and open to the public.
 
About Voters’ Broadcast: http://www.lisabielawa.net/voters-broadcast
 
Watch Parts One and Two Online: http://bit.ly/VotersBroadcastYouTubePlaylist
 
--Christina Jensen, Jensen Artists
 
New NPR Music Video Series "Amplify With Lara Downes"
NPR Music and Lara Downes announce the launch of AMPLIFY With Lara Downes, a new bi-weekly series of intimate and deeply personal video conversations with visionary Black musicians who are shaping the present and future of the art form, premiering Saturday, October 17 on NPRMusic.org, YouTube, and social media platforms.
 
Created and hosted by pianist and artist/citizen Lara Downes, and co-produced by NPR Music’s Tom Huizenga, this series invites viewers to experience raw, revealing, and open-hearted conversations reflecting on how artists are responding and creating in this time of profound challenge and change. Downes and her guests—initially including MacArthur Fellow vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Rhiannon Giddens, 2020 Avery Fisher Prize-winning clarinetist Anthony McGill, multidisciplinary artist Helga Davis, and boundary-breaking vocalist Davóne Tines, with other guests such as Sheku Kanneh-Mason and family to follow—connect and reflect on highly relevant themes ranging from music and mission, legacy and lineage, to transformation and change.
 
Learn more: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w_HtZoDWXQM&feature=youtu.be
 
--Shuman Associates News

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 Jon 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 more than 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 simpleminded, 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, I should probably point out that I do a LOT of music listening and employ a variety of means to do so in a variety of environments, as I would imagine many music lovers also do. Starting at the more grandiose end of the scale, the system in which I do my most serious listening comprises an Arcam CDS50 CSD/SACD CD player, Goldpoint SA4 Passive Preamp, Legacy Audio PowerBloc2 amplifier, and a pair of Legacy Audio Focus SE loudspeakers. I also do a lot of listening while driving in my 2016 Acura RDX with its nice-sounding ELS Studio sound system through which I play CDs (the ones I especially like I rip to the Acura's hard drive so that I can listen to them whenever I want) or stream music through the system using my cell phone. For more casual listening at home when I am not in my listening room, I often stream music through the phone into a Vizio soundbar system that has remarkably nice sound for such a diminutive physical presence. And finally, at the least grandiose end of the scale, I have an Ultimate Ears Wonderboom Bluetooth speaker for those occasions where I am somewhere by myself without a sound system but in desperate need of a musical fix. I just can't imagine life without music and I am humbly grateful for the technology that enables us to enjoy it in so many wonderful ways.
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.

Visitors that view my technical papers on this site may wonder why they appear here, rather than on a site that features audio equipment reviews. My reason is that I tried the latter, and prefer to publish for people who actually want to listen to music; not to equipment. My focus is in describing what's technically beneficial to assure that the sound of the system will accurately replicate the source input signal (i. e. exhibit high accuracy) without inordinate cost and complexity. Conversely, most of the audiophiles of today strive to achieve sound that's euphonic, i.e. be personally satisfying. In essence, audiophiles seek sound that's consistent with their desire; the music is simply a test signal.

William (Bill) Heck, Contributing Reviewer

Among my early childhood memories are those of listening to my mother playing records (some even 78 rpm ones!) of both classical music and jazz tunes. I suppose that her love of music was transmitted genetically, and my interest was sustained by years of playing in rock bands – until I realized that this was no way to make a living. The interest in classical music was rekindled in grad school when the university FM station serving as background music for studying happened to play the Brahms First Symphony. As the work came to an end, it struck me forcibly that this was the most beautiful thing I had ever heard, and from that point on, I never looked back. This revelation was to the detriment of my studies, as I subsequently spent way too much time simply listening, but music has remained a significant part of my life. These days, although I still can tell a trumpet from a bassoon and a quarter note from a treble clef, I have to admit that I remain a nonexpert. But I do love music in general and classical music in particular, and I enjoy sharing both information and opinions about it.

The audiophile bug bit about the same time that I returned to that classical music. I’ve gone through plenty of equipment, brands from Audio Research to Yamaha, and the best of it has opened new audio insights. Along the way, I reviewed components, and occasionally recordings, for The $ensible Sound magazine. Recently I’ve rebuilt--I prefer to say reinvigorated--my audio system, with a Sangean FM HD tuner and (for the moment) an ancient Toshiba multi-format disk player serving as a transport, both feeding a NAD C 658 streaming preamp/DAC, which in turn connects to a Legacy Powerbloc2 amplifier driving my trusty Waveform Mach Solo speakers, supplemented by a Hsu Research ULS 15 Mk II subwoofer.

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

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

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

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa