Classical Music News of the Week: August 28, 2011

Successful Summer Festival Tour Kicks Off 2011-2012 Season for Music Director Nicholas McGegan and the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra and Chorale

San Francisco, CA, August 23, 2011--Music Director Nicholas McGegan and the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra and Chorale began the 2011-2012 Season in August of 2011 with a prestigious Summer Festival Tour including performances of Handel's Orlando at the Ravinia Festival, Lincoln Center's Mostly Mozart Festival (a sold-out show), and Tanglewood to critical acclaim in all venues. Audiences gave standing ovations each night, and critics raved. The New York Times called the Orchestra "superb" and praised the "invigorating performance," while the Boston Globe said "their playing laced precision with a heady dose of abandon."

In advance of the Ensemble's first Bay Area performances, Philharmonia Baroque will return to the local radio airwaves on Sunday, September 11, at 9 p.m. with the first broadcast of a new series of monthly programs on KDFC. The first broadcast features the music of Mozart, with performances and interviews recorded last season with pianist Robert Levin and Music Director Nicholas McGegan. And on September 13, Philharmonia Baroque Productions will release an all-Vivaldi disc featuring Philharmonia Baroque Concertmaster Elizabeth Blumenstock, the third disc in the new project marking the institution's return to commercial recording.

Conducted by Mark Morris, the Orchestra and Chorale's first performances in the Bay Area take place September 16, 17, and 18 at Zellerbach Hall with the Mark Morris Dance Group in of Purcell's Dido and Aeneas featuring mezzo-soprano Stephanie Blythe and baritone Philip Cutlip.

Music Director Nicholas McGegan, who begins his twenty-sixth season as Music Director, leads the Orchestra in five of the seven concert sets in addition performances of Handel's Messiah in Berkeley's Zellerbach Hall and at Disney Hall in Los Angeles. Five artists make their debuts in the 2011-2012 season including internationally acclaimed mezzo-soprano Stephanie Blythe in Dido and Aeneas; Italian conductor Ottavio Dantone, music director of Ravenna's Accademia Bizantina; British conductor and harpsichordist Richard Egarr, who serves as music director of the Academy of Ancient Music; mezzo-soprano Vivica Genaux in a program featuring arias written for famed castrato Farinelli; and Houston tenor James Taylor, currently one of the most sought after tenors for Baroque music.

Nicholas McGegan is known for innovative programming and a passionate commitment to discovering new and rarely performed works from the Baroque repertoire. Of the forty works scheduled for performance during the 2011-2012 season, more than half will be first performances by the ensemble.  Musical highlights of the season include a newly completed Mozart Horn Concerto featuring Principal Horn player R.J. Kelley; an orchestral suite from Rameau's La Guirlande, a one-act ballet that spurred the current Rameau revival when performed in 1903; the return of internationally acclaimed recorder specialist Marion Verbruggen in concertos by Vivaldi and Sammartini for alto and soprano recorder, respectively;  Bach's monumental B Minor Mass, conducted by Nicholas McGegan for the first time with Philharmonia Baroque; an English Baroque program featuring theater music of native sons Matthew Locke, Henry Purcell, Thomas Arne, and William Lawes in addition to England's beloved imported son, George Frideric Handel; and the return of acclaimed cellist Steven Isserlis in a musical program that confirms Philharmonia Baroque's embrace of music beyond the confines of the 17th and 18th centuries, including Schumann's Cello Concerto, Mendelssohn's The Fair Melusine, and Brahms' Serenade No. 2. The season will end with Handel's rarely performed masterpiece Alexander's Feast, also known as "The Power of Music," conducted by Nicholas McGegan and featuring the Philharmonia Baroque Chorale and soloists Dominique LaBelle, James Taylor, and Philip Cutlip.

Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra has a presence throughout the Bay Area with regular season performances at San Francisco's Herbst Theatre, Berkeley's First Congregational Church, and at two venues on the Peninsula: The Menlo/Atherton Performing Arts Center in Atherton, and the First United Methodist Church in Palo Alto.  Single tickets to Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra are now on sale through City Box Office:, (415) 392-4400.

To subscribe to Philharmonia Baroque or to request a season brochure, call 415-252-1288 or e-mail

--Karen Ames, Philharmonia Baroque

Paul McCartney Announces Ocean's Kingdom, His First Orchestral Score for Dance to be Released October 4, 2011

Marking his first foray into the world of dance, Paul McCartney has announced the general release of Ocean's Kingdom, commissioned by the New York City Ballet. The recording will be released by Hear Music/Telarc in US on Oct. 4 and by Decca in UK on Oct. 3, and is conducted by John Wilson, produced by John Fraser and performed by the London Classical Orchestra.

Ocean's Kingdom is the first time Paul has written an original orchestral score or any kind of music for dance and is the result of a collaboration between Paul and New York City Ballet's Master in Chief Peter Martins, who have worked together to present the world premiere of a new ballet for the company's 2011/2012 season this September.

Though the work is Paul's first ballet, he approached the project in the same way he writes all other music, driven by his heart rather than his head and inspired by feeling rather than specific technical knowledge. While this may have been another new turn for his staggeringly varied career to take, Paul knew it had to be influenced by his own personal experience and that he needed to create a story the audience would find equally compelling and moving.

An hour-long score featuring four stunning movements--"Ocean's Kingdom," "Hall of Dance," "Imprisonment," and "Moonrise"--the ballet tells of a love story within the story of an underwater world whose people are threatened by the humans of Earth. A potently expressive and richly varied work, the score is Paul's most challenging and emotionally complex yet. As he explains: "What was interesting was writing music that meant something expressively rather than just writing a song. Trying to write something that expressed an emotion--so you have fear, love, anger, sadness to play with--and I found that exciting and challenging."

The premiere of the ballet Ocean's Kingdom will take place at NYCB's Fall Gala on Thursday, September 22, 2011, while the release of the orchestral score will follow on October 4, available digitally, on CD, and on vinyl. It was recorded in June in London.

--Amanda Sweet, Concord Music Group

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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