Classical Music News of the Week, October 23, 2011

Hilary Hahn Tours "In 27 Pieces: The Hilary Hahn Encores"

New York, NY--After two sold-out CD launch concerts at The Stone in New York City's lower east side on Monday night, and the release of Charles Ives: Four Sonatas, Hilary Hahn embarked on her U.S. recital tour in October. At the events--which served to both celebrate Charles Ives: Four Sonatas  and to raise money for The Stone--Hahn played Ives's Sonatas 1 and 4, hosted a conversation with composer John Zorn and Ives biographer Jan Swafford, accompanied the crowd in hymn-singing, and led the audience in singing Happy Birthday to Charles Ives, who would have turned 137 on October 20. Charles Ives: Four Sonatas is available on iTunes and Amazon.

For more information on Ms. Hahn, her recordings, and the tour, visit

--Amanda Ameer, First Chair Promotion

Music Institute of Chicago Presents Blair Thomas & Company
Theatre, Puppetry, and Music Combine for Family Concert December 10
The Music Institute of Chicago presents the puppet theatre company Blair Thomas & Company in A Kite's Tale, Saturday, December 10 at 10 a.m. at Nichols Concert Hall, 1490 Chicago Avenue, Evanston. The 40-minute interactive performance, appropriate for ages four through twelve, combines theatre and puppetry and is set to Modest Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition, which will be performed by Music Institute faculty pianist Sung Hoon Mo.

In A Kite's Tale, a little girl sets out to fly her kite and takes a magical journey through her own imagination. Every time her kite goes up, it crashes down, and her fear and anger transform her. When she calms down and returns to herself, she is able to see magic in the clouds overhead. But when playing with a balloon that suddenly pops, her anger returns. Trapped in an oversized world, she encounters two tricksters. Though they play with her, she's not sure if they are being mean or nice. Her fear blinds her, and she doesn't know what to do. When she feels most alone, a magical rabbit appears and offers simple tricks to help her overcome her fear and anger. With these gifts she is able to rescue herself from the storm clouds.

The Music Institute welcomes families to Nichols Hall an hour before the performance at 9 a.m. for an instrument petting zoo, refreshments, early childhood demonstrations, student performances, and more.

--Jill Chukerman, JAC Communications

Robert Spano, Conductor, Pianist, Educator, in Four New York Performances
New York, NY - Robert Spano is known worldwide for the depth and intensity of his artistry, as well as his unique communicative abilities.  This season he gives four New York performances; highlighting his distinguished abilities as a conductor, educator and pianist.

This fall, he conducts the U.S. premiere of Esa-Pekka Salonen's Nyx in both Atlanta (Oct 27, 29) and at New York's Carnegie Hall (Nov 5).  The November 5 performance marks Spano's sixth Carnegie Hall appearance with the Orchestra.  He joins Orchestra of St. Luke's at Carnegie Hall (Dec 15) for a program of Messiaen and Bach, which includes Messiaen's Six Petites Liturgies de la Presence Divine and Bach's Magnificat featuring Atlanta Symphony Orchestra's Chamber Chorus.  Respected as a collaborative pianist and composer, Spano joins bass-baritone Eric Owens in recital at Carnegie Hall's Zankel Hall (Feb 21). As an educator who finds inspiration through his work with young musicians, Maestro Spano will lead the Juilliard Symphony Orchestra at Alice Tully Hall (May 3) with a program of Vivier, Bartók and Sibelius.

In ten seasons as music director of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra he has enriched and expanded its repertoire and elevated the ensemble to international prominence and acclaim. Mr. Spano conducts three world premieres in Atlanta during the 2011-2012 season; an ASO commission by Atlanta School of Composers member Adam Schoenberg and works by Alvin Singleton and Marcus Roberts.  He also oversees two Theater of a Concert performances: Bach's St. Matthew Passion and John Adams' A Flowering Tree.

In February 2011, the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra partnered with Naxos to create the ASO Media label. The unanimously praised premiere recording introduced new works by Atlanta School of Composers members Jennifer Higdon and Michael Gandolfi conducted by Robert Spano.  June 2011's release featured Mr. Spano leading the Orchestra in Atlanta School of Composers member Christopher Theofanidis's Symphony No. 1 and the late Peter Lieberson's Neruda Songs with mezzo-soprano Kelley O'Connor.  This fall, the Orchestra and Spano released its third recording for ASO Media featuring Rachmaninov's Symphonic Dances and Piano Concerto No. 3 with Garrick Ohlsson.

Spring 2011 marks the third, and final, year of Spano's three-year residency at Emory University, a testament to Spano's communicative abilities and passion for education. In its 165-year history, Emory University has honored only seven other individuals with such expansive residencies, including the Dalai Lama, President Jimmy Carter and author Salman Rushdie. In September 2011, Robert Spano became Music Director of the Aspen Music Festival and School and was named a Fellow of the prestigious Aspen Institute as part of the Harman-Eisner Artist in Residence Program.

--Kirshbaum, Demler & Associates

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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