Classical Music News of the Week: Sept. 11, 2011

Piatigorsky International Cello Festival
Friday, March 9 - Sunday, March 18, 2012
Ralph Kirshbaum, Artistic Director

The USC Thornton School of Music and the L.A. Philharmonic in partnership with The Colburn School and the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra bring together masters of the cello and young cellists from around the world for the inaugural Piatigorsky International Cello Festival, a unique celebration of the cello, its music and its musicians. Twenty-two outstanding artists, representing twelve countries, converge on Los Angeles for ten days, March 9 through 18, 2012, to share their artistry and teaching experience through orchestral concerts, chamber music performances, master classes and interactive events. The Festival is led by Artistic Director and USC Thornton School of Music Piatigorsky Chair, Ralph Kirshbaum, in honor of Gregor Piatigorsky , one of the legends of the cello whose tenure at USC heralded a period of incredible vibrancy in the cultural life of Los Angeles.

The opening concert features the American premiere of Thomas Demenga's Double Concerto performed by the composer and his brother Patrick, and the appearance of 2011 Tchaikovsky Competition Gold Medalist Narek Hakhnazaryan performing Saint-Saëns' Cello Concerto No. 1 with the Festival Orchestra. In addition to the American premiere of Demenga's Double Concerto, the Festival presents the American premiere of Miklós Perényi's Scherzo with Introduction, continuing the tradition of great cellist/composers exemplified by Piatigorsky. Other highlights include the unique opportunity to hear the six solo suites of Bach performed consecutively by six different cellists, and an evening of film and discussion celebrating the life and career of Gregor Piatigorsky enlivened by a panel that includes his grandson, Evan Drachman, and six of Piatigorsky's esteemed former students. Master Recital programs highlight an exciting diversity of works ranging from contemporary compositions to seldom performed masterpieces. Three of the Festival's concluding concerts, a Los Angeles Philharmonic subscription series conducted by Neeme Jä rvi, showcase outstanding soloists performing Dvorák, Shostakovich, and Tchaikovsky. The Festival's finale features over 100 cellists on the stage of Walt Disney Concert Hall for the West Coast premiere of Rapturedux by Christopher Rouse.

This ten day gathering of diverse musical values and points of view will strive to provide an inspirational showcase that will resonate throughout the world. The rich and varied kaleidoscope of master classes, recitals and concerts given by some of the greatest cellists of our time provides a unique opportunity to bring together the leading musical institutions of Los Angeles with representatives of the broader international music community.

Cellists will include Patrick Demenga, Thomas Demenga, Evan Drachman, Narek Hakhnazaryan,
Frans Helmerson, Gary Hoffman, Steven Isserlis, Terry King, Ralph Kirshbaum, Ronald Leonard, Laurence Lesser, Antonio Lysy, Mischa Maisky, Miklós Perényi, Jean-Guihen Queyras, Nathaniel Rosen, Andrew Shulman, Jeffrey Solow, Peter Stumpf, Raphael Wallfisch, Jian Wang, Alisa Weilerstein, and members of the L.A. Cello Society.

Pianists will include Ayke Agus, Bernadene Blaha, Rina Dokshitsky, Kevin Fitz-Gerald, Jeffrey Kahane, Antoinette Perry, and Connie Shih.  The narrator will be John Rubinstein, and the conductors
Neeme Järvi, Courtney Lewis, and Hugh Wolff.

--Nate Bachhuber, Kirshbaum Demler & Associates

Strathmore Announces Musicians in 2011-2012 Artists in Residence
AIR program expands with acceptance of first electronica, Gypsy jazz, R&B
North Bethesda, MD: Strathmore's burgeoning Artist in Residence (AIR) program continues to grow in its seventh season with the induction of its first electronica, Gypsy jazz and R&B musicians. Since its inception in 2005, Strathmore's AIR program has helped to support the local music community by nurturing the careers of 34 emerging musicians. 2011-2012 AIR participants are Gypsy Jazz vocalist Mary Alouette, singer-songwriter ellen cherry, soul electric guitarist Nate Foley, R&B vocalist Jay Hayden, electronica musician Yoko K and clarinetist Rob Patterson. AIR participants will be mentored by established local musicians Dan Hovey, Seth Kibel and Connaitre Miller.

AIR concerts in the Mansion begin on Wednesday, September 14, 2011 at 7:30 p.m. with clarinetist Rob Patterson in the Shapiro Music Room. All AIR concerts in the Mansion begin at 7:30 p.m. Admission to Artists in Residence concerts is $12 for the general public and $10.80 for Strathmore Stars. Admission to AIR mentor concerts is $15 for the general public and $13.50 for Strathmore Stars.

Strathmore's AIR program cultivates local musical talent in the Washington, D.C. area. Emerging talents hone their craft through intense mentor relationships with established performers. Artists in Residence build their business acumen through professional development workshops, create school outreach programs and perfect their stage presence and expand their audiences during live performances. Each Artist in Residence is a featured performer in the Mansion at Strathmore for one month, in which they present salon-style concerts. The AIR experience culminates in the premiere of a new work commissioned by Strathmore, reflecting each musician's growth during the program. AIR graduates include Grammy nominated hip hop artist Christylz Bacon, celebrity jazz harmonicist Frédéric Yonnet, Saddle Creek recording artist Laura Burhenn and her band, the mynabirds, and ukulele chanteuse Victoria Vox.

--Michael Fila, Strathmore

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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