Classical Music News of the Week, October 30, 2011

Eric Owens Resumes Role as Alberich in Siegfried, Hosts Satyagraha HD Broadcast 11/19, and Tours Nationally

New York, NY – Eric Owens's work as Alberich in the Metropolitan Opera production of Das Rheingold last season was met with universal acclaim: The Philadelphia Inquirer lauded, "Owens alone is worth the ticket"; the New York Times noted his voice was filled with "stentorian vigor"; Manuela Hoelterhoff of Bloomberg cheered, "Eric Owens, now one of the greatest bass-baritones in the world, was sublime as crazy Alberich"; and Alex Ross of The New Yorker proclaimed, "Owens's portrayal is so richly layered that it may become part of the history of the work." It is not without a great deal of excitement, then, that audiences anticipate Owens's appearance in The Met's first full cycle of Robert Lepage's new production. Owens also embarks on a busy recital tour of his own this season, and appears in concert with the Cleveland Orchestra and the Boston and Atlanta symphony orchestras.

The Metropolitan Opera's production of Siegfried opened on October 27 and will be performed on November 1 and November 5 (HD broadcast). Götterdämmerung will be performed on January 27, 31, February 3, 7, and 11. The first complete cycles of Der Ring des Nibelungen will take place in spring 2012. Owens will sing the role of Alberich in two complete cycles: Das Rheingold on April 7 and 26; Siegfried on April 21 and 30; and Götterdämmerung on April 24 and May 3.

In addition to his on-stage duties, Owens will host his first Metropolitan Opera's HD broadcast, Philip Glass's Satyagraha on November 19 at 12:55 p.m. EST. This matinee performance will be transmitted worldwide as part of The Met: Live in HD series, which reaches 1600 movie theaters in 54 countries.

Opera News understands that for many just seeing their favorite performers on stage and in print is not enough for audiences to connect with great artists. To give fans more access to the world of opera, the magazine hosts "The Singers' Studios: Candid and Casual Conversations." In this intimate interview series, opera singers chat with of Opera News editors and writers. Last season's series was held in front of a completely sold-out audience. On November 2 at 6 p.m., Eric Owens will sit down to talk with Adam Wasserman at the Opera Learning Center of the Metropolitan Opera Guild. Tickets are $25 and can be purchased here.

Also this season, Owens embarks on a significant recital tour with pianists Robert Spano and Craig Rutenberg. With engagements in Washington, D.C., Berkeley, Portland and Philadelphia, Owens will notably perform February 21 at Carnegie Hall's Zankel Hall. He will sing Bach Cantatas with the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center on December 6.  Owens will perform Beethoven's Missa solemnis with the Boston Symphony Orchestra in Boston and at Carnegie Hall, one of three appearances at the New York cultural institution in 2011-2012. Appearing as Jochanaan in Strauss' Salome with the Cleveland Orchestra, Owens assumes the role in both Cleveland and at Carnegie Hall in May. Summer 2012 begins with Owens reprising the role of The Storyteller in A Flowering Tree by John Adams with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. Owens will continue his summer at Glimmerglass Festival 2012 as the Artist-in-Residence. There, he will appear in Aida and Lost in the Stars, and will perform a cabaret evening.

--Amanda Ameer, First Chair Promotion

Orion String Quartet at Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center
Dedicated to Haydn: Nov. 4, 2011, 7:30pm
Great Clarinet Quintets: Mar. 30, 2012, 7:30pm

New York, NY - The Orion String Quartet, one of the most sought-after ensembles in the United States and Artist Members of Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, perform complimentary selections of quartets by Mozart and Haydn at Alice Tully Hall on November 4 at 7:30pm. After hearing young W.A. Mozart's six quartets dedicated to him, Franz Joseph Haydn said to Mozart's father, Leopold, "Before God and as an honest man, I tell you that your son is the greatest composer known to me." On March 30, 2012 the Quartet is joined by estimable clarinetist David Shifrin for quintets by Weber, Neikrug and Mozart at Alice Tully Hall.

Over the past 24 seasons the Quartet has been consistently praised for the fresh perspective and individuality it brings to performances. With over fifty performances each year, the members of the Orion String Quartet - violinists Daniel Phillips and Todd Phillips (brothers who share the first violin chair equally), violist Steven Tenenbom and cellist Timothy Eddy - have worked closely with such legendary figures as Pablo Casals, Rudolf Serkin, Isaac Stern, Pinchas Zukerman, Peter Serkin, members of TASHI and the Beaux Arts Trio, as well as the Budapest, Végh, Galimir and Guarneri String Quartets.

Orion String Quartet
Friday, November 4, 2011 at 7:30pm
Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center
Alice Tully Hall

Haydn: Quartet in D minor, Op. 76, No. 2 "Fifths"
Mozart: Quartet in D minor, K. 421
Haydn: Quartet in C Major, Op. 74, No. 1
Mozart: Quartet in C Major, K. 465 "Dissonance"

Orion String Quartet
Friday, March 30, 2012 at 7:30pm
Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center
Alice Tully Hall with David Shifrin, clarinet

Weber: Quintet in B-flat Major, Op. 34
Neikrug: Quintet (New York Premiere)
Mozart: Quintet in A Major, K. 581

--Kirshbaum Demler & Associates

Naxos Announces New Digital Products, Including iPad App of Best-Selling "My First Classical Music Book"
Naxos is proud to release several new digital products including an exciting new iPad application aimed at children aged five and above. Naxos has always been a market leader within the classical music industry and the launch of these new products cement Naxos' role as the leader in the classical, digital music field.

iPad App:
On October 11, 2011, Naxos released its first App designed for the iPad. An interactive version of the hugely successful My First Classical Music Book, this app is the perfect introduction to classical music for children. Find out where classical music is used, meet the great composers, visit the sections of the orchestra and hear each instrument in action. The cost of this app is $2.99. For a video demonstration of the app, visit

--Raymond Bisha, Naxos USA

National Philharmonic Performance Celebrates Women Pioneers in Law and Music
North Bethesda, MD, October 25, 2011 – The National Philharmonic, under the direction of Music Director and Conductor Piotr Gajewski,  presents Women Pioneers, a concert dedicated to women pioneers in law and music, on November 12 at 8 pm at the Music Center at Strathmore. The program includes as its centerpiece, Amy Beach's rarely performed masterpiece for chorale and orchestra, Grand Mass in E-flat Major, composed in the late-19th century when Beach was just 19. It pairs Joan Tower's Fanfare for the Uncommon Woman and the work that inspired it, Aaron Copland's Fanfare for the Common Man. The concert also includes a performance of Saint-Saens' Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso, Op. 28, featuring the world-renowned violinist Chee-Yun.

The Honorable Madeleine Albright, the first woman to serve as U.S. Secretary of State, hosts this evening and opens the concert with a brief welcome, after being introduced by Maryland's former First Lady, Francis Hughes Glendening. All concert proceeds will go toward the Maryland Women's Bar Association Foundation's (MWBAF) scholarships and the Finding Justice Project, which documents the history of women lawyers in Maryland.

Andrea Leahy, the managing partner of the law firm Leahy & DeSmet who coordinates the work of the Finding Justice Project of the MWBAF, explains that although much has changed, women's struggle to gain equality in the professions of law and music is far from over. "Less than one-third of American lawyers are women and their pay is only three fourths of that of their male colleagues," she says, citing figures from a New York Times editorial. "Women musicians face similar struggles," Leahy adds. "It's rare to see a woman at the podium of a major orchestra, and even rarer to find women composers' works featured on the program."

Last summer, Leahy approached Maestro Gajewski to partner with the Finding Justice Project to produce a concert to showcase works by women composers and to help the Project raise funds to expand its law school scholarships.  Gajewski (who is, coincidentally, a lawyer as well as a musician) embraced the idea and set to work to turn it into an exciting, innovative concert program.  "For the National Philharmonic this is a great chance to introduce our audiences and our musicians to beautiful music by Amy Beach and Joan Tower that they rarely, if ever, have a chance to hear or perform anywhere else," Gajewski said. "At the same time, it enables us to support a great organization that is doing important work and to introduce the National Philharmonic to the audiences that support that work."

At the heart of the program is Amy Beach's Grand Mass in E-flat Major, with the National Philharmonic Orchestra and Chorale.  Ms. Beach, the first American woman composer of large-scale works, wrote the heartfelt and uplifting Grand Mass while still a teenager. The piece reflects the late Romantic period in its long melodies and breadth of conception.

Aaron Copland's noble Fanfare for the Common Man, a piece commissioned during World War II to honor soldiers fighting in the ranks, as well as those working on the home front, is paired with Joan Tower's Fanfare for the Uncommon Woman (1986).  The latter, written "to honor women who are adventurous and who take risks," uses Copland's Fanfare as its musical model.

Violinist Chee-Yun, whose tone is like "butter, smooth, rich and flawless" (Strings Magazine), joins the Philharmonic for the dazzling Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso by Camille Saint-Saëns, one of the greatest child prodigies in the history of music.

A free pre-concert lecture will be offered in the concert hall at 6:45 pm on November 12, 2011 at the Music Center at Strathmore. To purchase tickets to Women Pioneers on  November 12, 2011 at 8pm at the Music Center at Strathmore, please visit or call the Strathmore ticket office at (301) 581-5100. Tickets are $32-$79; kids 7-17 are FREE through the ALL KIDS, ALL FREE, ALL THE TIME program (sponsored by The Gazette).  ALL KIDS tickets must be purchased in person or by phone. In addition, parking is free.

--Deborah Birnbaum, National Philharmonic

Music Institute of Chicago Announces Winners of Inaugural Chicago International Duo Piano Competition
Russian, German, and U.S. competitors awarded $16,000 in cash prizes

After three days of preliminary competition and an intense seven-hour final round, the Music Institute of Chicago announced the winners of the inaugural "Liszt 200" Chicago International Duo Piano Competition, in celebration of Franz Liszt's 200th birthday:

Grand Prize "Liszt 200 Chicago" ($8,000): Duo Vis à Vis, Polina Grigoreva and Yulia Yurchenko (St. Petersburg, Russia)
2nd prize ($4,000): Tsuyuki & Rosenboom, Chie Tsuyuki and Michael Rosenboom (Hannover, Germany)
3rd prize ($2,000): Liang-He Duo, Xiaomin Liang and Jue He (Chicago, Illinois, United States)
"Norman Pellegrini Schubert Prize" ($2,000): Duo Vis à Vis, Polina Grigoreva and Yulia Yurchenko (St. Petersburg, Russia)
Judges' Discretionary Honorable Mention: Yamamoto Piano Duo, Ayaka and Yuka Yamamoto (Vienna, Austria)

From an initial field of 28 duos, seven advanced to the final round. In addition to the prize winners above, other finalists included 4HandsLA (Los Angeles, California, U.S.), Steven Vanhauwaert (Belgium) and Danny Holt (U.S.); Duo Fortin-Poirier (Montreal, Canada), Amélie Fortin and Marie-Christine Poirier (both Canada); and Susan and Sarah Wang Piano Duo (Rostock, Germany), Susan Wang and Sarah Wang (both U.S.).

The competing piano duos ranged from 20 to 35 years old and came from around the world, including China, Japan, Indonesia, Korea, Taiwan, Russia, Germany, Canada, and throughout the U.S. Each duo performed 45–60- minute programs of at least three works, including a work by Mozart and a piano duo by Franz Liszt; more than half the competitors performed a work by Schubert to compete for the Pellegrini Prize.

The three days of preliminary competition (expanded from the two originally planned due to demand and the caliber of competitors) took place October 20, 21, and 22, followed by the final round and prize presentation Sunday, October 23, all at Nichols Concert Hall, 1490 Chicago Avenue, Evanston. Portions from the final round will air on 98.7/WFMT, Chicago's classical radio station, at a later date.

--Jill Chukerman, JAC 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