Classical News of the Week: May 29, 2011

Frederick Historic Piano Collection News
The folks at the Frederick Historic Piano Collection inform us that Chinese pianist Yuan Sheng, there last fall to record Chopin with the 1845 Pleyel piano, asked permission to get Edmund Michael Frederick's article "A Different Perspective on Piano History" from their Web site, translated into Chinese for publication in China.

Not only did the article appear in the February, 2011, issue of the Chinese magazine Piano Artistry, subtitled in English "Inspecting the Piano History from Another Point of View," a few pages later Yuan Cheng's own article, "Inspirations from the Early Piano," describes his experience as a pianist, rediscovering the works of various composers in the context of pianos in the Frederick collection, from the composers' own lifetimes. In July, when Yuan returns to the United States for the International Keyboard Institute and Festival in New York, he will record a video interview of Edmund Michael Frederick, with illustrative selections on various pianos, for a Chinese Public TV broadcast series premiering in the fall.

The staff of the Frederick Collection are looking forward eagerly to the eventual release of the two-disc CD album Yuan recorded there. He is one of the finest interpreters of Chopin in the world today. Their Web site has a rave review of Yuan's recent Chopin recital: http://www.frederickcollection.org/.

Spring Symphony at "Bach and Beyond," Vancouver Symphony Orchestra
The Vancouver Symphony's "Bach and Beyond" programs at the Chan Centre offer a niche series for a substantial audience that prefers music written before the Romantic and Modern eras. As such, the chamber orchestra programs inevitably raise a number of performance decisions, and become a laboratory for exploring style.

Certainly this year's season-ender featuring conductor/harpsichordist Kenneth Slowik had to wrestle with three distinct issues: how to present Bach on modern instruments; how to deal with a high Classical symphony; and, perhaps of greatest interest, how to present a work from the early Romantic era with chamber orchestra forces.

Slowik is artistic director of the Smithsonian Chamber Music Society and has directed the Baroque Performance Institute at Oberlin. No stranger to the VSO, he is deservedly building a following. His reading with just eight performers of Bach's Fifth Brandenburg Concerto, featuring VSO associate concertmaster Joan Blackman and principal flute Christie Reside, was stylish and elegant.

Haydn's Symphony #94 (The "Surprise") opted for humour and vitality. With about 40 players (almost exactly the same number Haydn used himself when the work was premiered in 1792), the winds/strings/percussion balance was altered significantly. Slowik's flexibility and understanding of Haydn's wit made for a decidedly amusing interpretation: It may well be the first time I've heard actual guffaws at the eponymous "surprise" in the second movement.

However, the real surprise of the program was Robert Schumann's Spring Symphony. It is conventional wisdom that Schuman's orchestral works have their challenges and flaws; many conductors don't give them the time of day. Slowik's approach was telling, and one feels that his years of lieder work with singers informed his extraordinarily poetic approach. He's certainly prepared to take risks—big ones— and, given some of the infelicities of Schumann's scoring, there were moments that courted disaster. But Slowik's sense of the emotional truth of the work, and his obvious joy in its exhilarating drive, coupled with a genuine feeling of spontaneity, made for a delightful performance that vindicated Schumann's idiosyncratic symphonic vision.

--David Gordon Duke, Vancouver Sun

Philharmonia Baroque Expands Distribution with Harmonia Mundi
May 26, 2011, San Francisco, CA – Philharmonia Baroque Productions announces distribution deals with Harmonia Mundi that will bring its releases to the UK, Germany, and Austria. The debut CD release, a live recording of Berlioz: Les Nuits d'été and Handel arias featuring mezzo soprano Lorraine Hunt Lieberson, entered the Billboard Classical Albums chart at Number 7 for the week ending May 21.

Harmonia Mundi distributes all releases in the United States and now also in the UK, Austria and Germany as part of a three-disc distribution arrangement for Europe. The next title, a collection of three Haydn symphonies conducted by music director Nicholas McGegan, is scheduled to be released on Tuesday, June 14. The third of the initial group of CD releases this year will be a studio recording of Vivaldi's beloved Four Seasons, as well as three other concerti, featuring principal violinist Elizabeth Blumenstock.

For a complete biography, visit www.philharmonia.org/about/history/.

--KarenAmes.com

Spring Sale at HDTT
The audiophile folks at HDTT (High Definition Tape Transfers) have announced a Spring Sale, offering 15% discounts on all of their music products. Although the sale does not include HQCD Blanks or Symposium Acoustic Products, it does include all of their CD transfers and downloads.  The sale ends June 5, 2011:  http://www.highdeftapetransfers.com/storefront.php.

JJP

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Meet the Staff

Meet the Staff
John J. Puccio, Editor, Publisher, Reviewer

Understand, I'm just an everyday guy reacting to something I love. And I've been doing it for a very long time, my appreciation for classical music starting with the musical excerpts on The Big John and Sparkie radio show in the early Fifties and the purchase of my first recording, The 101 Strings Play the Classics, around 1956. In the late Sixties I began teaching high school English and Film Studies as well as becoming interested in hi-fi, my audio ambitions graduating me from a pair of AR-3 speakers to the Fulton J's recommended by The Stereophile's J. Gordon Holt. In the early Seventies, I began writing for a number of audio magazines, including Audio Excellence, Audio Forum, The Boston Audio Society Speaker, The American Record Guide, and from 1976 until 2008, The $ensible Sound, for which I served as Classical Music Editor.

Today, I'm retired from teaching and use a pair of bi-amped VMPS RM40s loudspeakers for my listening. In addition to writing the Classical Candor blog, I served as the Movie Review Editor for the Web site Movie Metropolis (formerly DVDTown) from 1997-2013. Music and movies. Life couldn't be better.
Karl W. Nehring, Contributing Reviewer

For more than 20 years I was the editor ofThe $ensible Soundmagazine and a regular contributor to its classical review pages. I would not presume to present myself as some sort of expert on music, but I have a deep love for and appreciation of many types of music, "classical" especially, and have listened to thousands of recordings over the years, many of which still line the walls of my listening room (and occasionally spill onto the furniture and floor, much to the chagrin of my long-suffering wife). I have always taken the approach as a reviewer that what I am trying to do is simply to point out to readers that I have come across a recording that I have found of interest, a recording that I think they might appreciate my having pointed out to them. I suppose that sounds a bit simple-minded, but I know I appreciate reading reviews by others that do the same for me -- point out recordings that I think I might enjoy.

For readers who might be wondering about what kind of system I am using to do my listening, 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 Onkyo C-7030 CD player, Legacy Audio StreamLine preamplifier, Legacy Audio PowerBloc2 amplifier, and a pair of Legacy Audio Focus SE speakers augmented by a Legacy Point One subwoofer. 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 LG G7 ThinQ cell phone, which features surprisingly sophisticated audio circuitry. 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.

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

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"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa