Classical Music News of the Week: Sept. 25, 2011

Hélène Grimaud to Release Mozart Piano Concertos 19 and 23 on November 8, 2011

New York, NY -- Pianist Hélène Grimaud will release a new album of Mozart concertos and a Mozart concert aria on November 8, 2011 for Deutsche Grammophon. In her 23-year career, Grimaud has recorded works by Rachmaninoff, Chopin, Brahms, Gershwin, Beethoven, and Bach, but this CD marks her first full-length foray into Mozart and her only recording of Mozart besides her fiery 2010 interpretation of Sonata No. 8 on her most recent disc, Resonances. Of Grimaud's interpretation of the Mozart sonata in live performance, The New York Times wrote, "Staccato passages were forbiddingly crisp, and shifts from ornamental passages back to the melody strongly emphasized." Known for her poetic sensibility and fiercely personal performances, Grimaud has been drawn to Mozart in recent years by the kinship she feels they share. She writes in the liner notes to this upcoming album, "This element of passion which gives sense to our existence is always there with him." The Mozart concertos disc was recorded live with the Bavarian Radio Chamber Orchestra in May, with an additional studio recording of the concert aria with soprano Mojca Erdmann.

After the successful release of Resonances, which featured music by Mozart, Liszt, Berg, and Bartok, in 2010, and the subsequent tour supporting the album, Grimaud will keep up another busy season during 2011-2012. She appeared with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra across Europe playing Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 4 on a tour that included an engagement at the famed BBC Proms. After recitals in Germany, Grimaud will perform Brahm's First Piano Concerto with the Orchestra dell'Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia.  She will also have the honor of playing one of her favorite composers, Bach, in her home country in November. On the heels of engagements in England playing Schumann come appearances throughout Europe performing the Resonances recital program. In November, she appears in recital in Santa Barbara, California, and in April, she will perform with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra to perform Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 4. She will play this piece again with the New World Symphony in Florida.

Hélène Grimaud is a French pianist of international renown. Grimaud appears regularly with the most important conductors and orchestras in the world, in addition to her chamber and solos recitals in prestigious festivals and venues. Performing and recording since her teens, she has made appearances at MIDEM in Cannes, and performed at the piano festival La Roque d'Anthéron at the age of 17. The New York Times described her playing thus: "The slow passages were intensely eloquent, building carefully to the crashing climaxes, and Ms. Grimaud brought rapt concentration to the piece's hushed ending." Grimaud is also known for her efforts to aid wolf preservation in America and is the author of two books. She records exclusively with Deutsche Grammophon.

--Amanda Ameer, First Chair Promotion

Ludovic Morlot Debuts with Seattle Symphony with Charisma and Substance
Seattle Symphony opened its new season with the traditional gala evening Saturday and welcomed new music director Ludovic Morlot. Morlot led the orchestra (and played, too) in Ravel's Bolero; also on the program was a Gulda work played by former SSO cellist Joshua Roman, plus works by Beethoven and Gershwin.

Saturday evening was Ludovic Morlot's first Benaroya Hall appearance as the Seattle Symphony's new music director. The gala occasion may have been more about charisma than about substance, but there was certainly plenty of the former in evidence, along with a refreshing absence of high-art stuffiness.

The young maestro opened the proceedings with words of thanks--in notably fluent English--to everyone he could think of, including the often-unheralded stage crew.

At the other end of the program, a fine performance of Ravel's Bolero sported a telling touch of showmanship. Here, for a few go-rounds of that hypnotic tune, Morlot exchanged the podium for a spell at one of the violin desks, before stepping up again to take charge of the final volcanic catharsis-- and the unwavering way the players, with Michael Werner starring on snare drum, held the pace on their own was indicative of the Seattle Symphony's excellent orchestral discipline. In this gala setting, he impressed hugely.

--Bernard Jacobson, special to the Seattle Times

Guitarist David Russell to Release New Recording of Baroque Music for Telarc
Following up on his successful "David Russell Plays Bach" recording, the master guitarist returns to baroque music on his upcoming Feb 2012 Telarc release.

In addition, the Steinway & Sons label continues to expand its roster of great talent with a new recording by the young Juilliard grads, the piano duo Anderson & Roe. The CD is entitled "When Words Fade…." and will feature their own arrangements of popular and classical songs including the Carmen Fantasy, The Erlking, and Rachmaninoff's Vocalise. The record is coming out on November 15 and will include four compelling music videos on a separate disc.

--Amanda Sweet, Bucklesweet Media

Music Director Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg and the New Century Chamber Orchestra Open 2011-2012 Season
Music Director Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg and the New Century Chamber Orchestra open their 2011-2012 20th Anniversary Season September 22-25 with concerts featuring the music of Bloch, Mendelssohn and Shchedrin. Ms Salerno-Sonnenberg has renewed her contract for an additional two years, with a third year option.

Since she joined as Music Director, ticket sales have hit all time highs with a 76% renewal rate, also an all time high. Total ticket sales have increased 67% and, coincidentally, the number of donors has increased by the exact same percentage. Total contributed income has increased by 114%. Other milestones include the release of two acclaimed recordings and the completion of one very successful tour with the booking complete for the second, which will take place this November.

Nadja has invited founding Music Director Stuart Canin returns to celebrate this important milestone in the orchestra's history with performances of Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto in D Minor. The season also includes the return of Krista Bennion Feeney.

Bloch's Concerto Grosso No. 1, first performed by the orchestra during Stuart Canin's final season, replaces Bartok's Music for Strings, Percussion and Celeste. Swiss-born American composer Ernest Bloch, who led the San Francisco Conservatory of Music 1925-30, often included various Jewish themes and subjects in his music. These Jewish influences can be heard in this work for string orchestra and piano obbligato, including a set of Swiss dances from the composer's childhood.

Shchedrin's Carmen Suite completes the program. This work was originally banned after its premiere in his native Soviet Union for being "insulting to Bizet's masterpiece." However, it has since become an American audience favorite, featuring all of the great melodies from the famous opera with imaginative writing for large percussion section.

The first program of the year will be given on four different evenings in four different locations around the Bay Area:  Thursday, September 22 at 8 p.m., First Congregational Church of Berkeley, Friday, September 23 at 8 p.m., First United Methodist Church of Palo Alto, Saturday, September 24 at 8 p.m., Herbst Theatre in San Francisco, and Sunday, September 25 at 5pm, Osher Marin Jewish Community Center in San Rafael. New Century offers an Open Rehearsal at 10:00 a.m. on Tuesday, September 20 in the Herbst Theater for a price of only $8.00. (Picture Right: Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg)

Single tickets range in price from $29 to $59 and are available through City Box Office: or (415) 392-4400. Discounted single tickets are available for patrons under 35. Open rehearsal tickets are priced at $8.

--Karen Ames, Karen Ames Communications

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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 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

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"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa