Classical Music News of the Week, October 9, 2011

UK Chamber Choir - Tenebrae - Announces Three-City U.S. Tour
Philadelphia, PA - Harrisonburg, VA - New York, NY - November 4-6, 2011
Tour features U.S. premiere of Paul Mealor's Now sleeps the crimson petal

Revered by critics and audiences as Britain's finest chamber choir, Tenebrae, makes a rare visit to the U.S. for a three-city tour November 4-6, 2011. Founded and directed by former King's Singer and choral expert Nigel Short, the twenty-voice choir blends the passion of a large cathedral choir with the precision of a chamber ensemble to create a unique and enchanting sound, one which is as effective in medieval chant as in contemporary works. With an impressive discography of fifteen critically acclaimed recordings, Tenebrae recently completed its first recording project for Decca Classics.  The CD is slated for release November 7 in the UK and early 2012 in the U.S. and features the music of composer Paul Mealor, whose moving Ubi Caritas was performed at the recent royal wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton.

The first concert of Tenebrae's tour, 8 p.m. on November 4 at the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul in Philadelphia, as well as the 8 p.m., November 5 performance at James Madison University's newly opened Forbes Center, features works by Vaughan Williams, Holst, Tavener, Parry and Joby Talbot as well as Paul Mealor's sublime Ubi Caritas. Mealor, the renowned British composer, praised the choir following their recent collaboration: ''Tenebrae is one of the world's finest chamber choirs. Working with them and their fabulous conductor, Nigel Short on my new album, 'A Tender Light' for Decca Records has been a dream experience! Every second of their consummate professionalism and delicacy of sound, matched with flawless intonation and innate musical shaping, takes me deeper into the very purest, most spiritual place.''

The final concert of the tour, at 8 p.m. on November 6 at St. Mary the Virgin (Smokey Mary's) in New York's Times Square, brings the U.S. Premiere of Mealor's Now sleeps the crimson petal. A delicately transcendent setting of Lord Tennyson's poem of the same name, Now sleeps the crimson petal opens from soft unison into a spectrum of warm sonorities exploring the intimacy of the work.

Click for complete concert and ticket information:

--Kirshbaum Demler & Associates

Remarkable Theater Brigade Presents Its Third Year of "Opera Shorts"
Unique Evening of 10-Minute Operas by Living Composers - at Carnegie's Weill Recital Hall on November 4.
Opera Shorts 2011 features works by William Bolcolm, Jake Heggie, Tom Cipullo, Marie Incontrera, Mike McFerron, Anne Philips, Patrick Soluri, Davide Zannoni, and Christian McLeer, including six world premieres.

In its tenth season, New York's Remarkable Theater Brigade hosts its third annual night of Opera Shorts on November 4, 2011 at 8 p.m., at Carnegie's Weill Recital Hall. Earning renown as one of the most delightful presentations of contemporary music around, Opera Shorts produces a full evening of ten-minute operas by living composers, and, in the process, puts a fun face on what is often considered the most serious of art forms. For the first time, Opera Shorts will feature works by the Pulitzer Prize-winning William Bolcom, acclaimed vocal composer Jake Heggie (Dead Man Walking), Davide Zannoni and Mike McFerron, along with pieces by previous Opera Shorts composers Tom Cipullo, Marie Incontrera, Anne Dinsmore Phillips, Patrick Soluri and Remarkable Theater Brigade co-founder/artistic director Christian McLeer. The evening will present ten operas, six of them world premieres.

"Opera is usually considered this Very Serious Thing, but Opera Shorts is fun and irreverent and infectious," says Monica Harte, co-founder and general director of the Remarkable Theater Brigade. "It's not suits and gowns; it's much more laidback. I mean, our logo is a pair of boxer shorts, after all!"

Among the vast cast of performers for Opera Shorts on November 4 are Metropolitan Opera baritone Chris Trakas, as well as soprano Danya Katok and mezzo-soprano Amanda Crider of New York City Opera. The instrumentation ranges from string quartet to colorful chamber ensembles.

--Amanda Sweet, Bucklesweet Media

Pianist Piotr Paleczny to Perform Beethoven's "Emperor" Concerto with National Philharmonic at Strathmore
North Bethesda, MD, September 27, 2011 – Prominent Polish pianist Piotr Paleczny will perform  Beethoven's  Piano Concerto No. 5 in E-flat Major ("Emperor") with the National Philharmonic, under the direction of Music Director and Conductor Piotr Gajewski, on Saturday, November 5, 2011 at 8 p.m. and on Sunday, November 6, 2011 at 3 p.m. at the Music Center at Strathmore. The concert will also showcase Beethoven's Prometheus Overture and Symphony No. 6 in F Major ("Pastoral").  At the helm of the orchestra will be the Philharmonic's new concert master, Justine Lamb-Budge, who replaces Jody Gatwood, concert master for the past twenty-five years.

Born in 1946, Polish pianist and professor Paleczny graduated from the Frederick Chopin Music Academy in Warsaw and was a prizewinner at five international piano competitions. He is famous for his interpretations of works by Chopin and other composers of the Romantic era. He has appeared as a soloist with such world-class orchestras as Warsaw's National Philharmonic Orchestra, the Polish Radio National Symphony Orchestra, the Chicago Symphony, the Royal Philharmonic and the BBC London Orchestra.

Since 1993, Mr. Paleczny has been the Artistic Director of the oldest music festival held in Poland -- the International Chopin Piano Festival in Duszniki Zdrój. He currently heads the piano performance class at the Chopin Academy of Music in Warsaw and serves on the juries of the Chopin International Piano Competition in Paris, Tokyo, Prague, Cleveland and Warsaw.

A free pre-concert lecture will be offered at 6:45 pm on Saturday, November 5 and at 1:45 pm on Sunday, November 6 in the Concert Hall at the Music Center at Strathmore. To purchase tickets to the All Beethoven concerts, please visit or call the Strathmore box 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.

--Deborah Birnbaum, National Philharmonic

Orpheus Chamber Orchestra Begins Landmark 2011-2012 Season
The season opens on October 13, 2011, at Carnegie Hall and featured artists include Gil Shaham, Albrecht Mayer, Jean-Yves Thibaudet, Chris Thile, and Viviane Hagner.
New York, NY-- After nearly four decades of bringing artistry and innovation to concert audiences in New York and around the world, Orpheus Chamber Orchestra begins its landmark 39th season this October. With two international tours, the first year-long Orpheus Institute residency, the first collaboration between Orpheus and a Composer-in-Residence, the world premiere of four Project 440 commissions by emerging composers, and the return of its famed Carnegie concert series, the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra will carry out one of its most exciting seasons to date.

Orpheus's Carnegie Hall season program is a delicate balance of favorites such as Brahms, Haydn, Tchaikovsky, Mozart and Bach with undiscovered repertoire such as Thile, Tippett, Hindemith, Schreker, Honegger, and the works by the Project 440 winners. Orpheus is unique in its drive to explore new works in relation to the old, finding surprising resonances and fruitful contrasts.  The 11-12 season also features top soloists Gil Shaham, Albrecht Mayer, Jean-Yves Thibaudet, Chris Thile and Viviane Hagner. A special thread running through the season is Project 440, an initiative to commission four composers in celebration of the orchestra's upcoming fortieth anniversary. The commissioned composers—Alex Mincek, Clint Needham, Andrew Norman and Cynthia Wong—represent different backgrounds and styles, but they all share an uncanny sensitivity to colors and textures. These young composers are redefining the very fabric of the orchestra, and Orpheus, always a fearless ambassador for new music, welcomes the stretch. All except one Carnegie Hall concert date in the 2011-12 season will feature a piece by one of the Project 440 composers. A full schedule of Orpheus' Carnegie season can be found at the end of this release.

--Amanda Ameer, First Chair Promotion

The Callas Effect: The Greatest Opera Singer of All Time - A Profile of the Impact and Influence of Maria Callas Through CD's, a Newly Produced DVD, and a Lavishishly Illustrated Book
International release: September 26, 2011

"I would like to be Maria, but there is La Callas who demands that I carry myself with her dignity."
--Maria Callas

Widely regarded as the greatest opera singer and performer of all time, Maria Callas is the original diva, the ultimate opera icon. Her life story, voice and performances intrigued, thrilled and inspired audiences during her lifetime and continue to do so today. Thirty-four years after her death, Maria Callas is not only the world's bestselling soprano but also EMI Classic's bestselling artist of all time.

Diva, artist, style icon.  Who was the real Maria? The Callas Effect is a deluxe presentation bringing together two CD's of her finest, most-personal recordings, a new documentary DVD featuring fresh insight from those closest to her, and a lavishly illustrated 124-page hardcover book with an essay illuminating and honouring the essence of Maria Callas, the woman and the myth.

Callas dévotées will find new material and food for thought in The Callas Effect. Those less familiar with her personal and musical allure will find an attractive and compelling introduction.  Callas is an artist whose music sounds as unique and inspired today as it did in her lifetime and has been named as a musical influence by such diverse popular artists as Celine Dion, Linda Ronstadt, Patti Smith, Emmylou Harris, Jason Mraz and Rufus Wainwright.

The CDs contain exquisitely interpreted arias from nearly 30 operas, including such favourites as "O mio babbino caro," "Vissi d'arte," and "Casta diva."

The newly-produced DVD documentary-memoir features performance footage, recordings and still photos combined with powerful first-hand accounts of Maria Callas's genius from witnesses of all walks of life. Opera singers, stage directors, actors/actresses, backstage theatre crews, recording staff, impresarios and opera fans who queued for days to buy tickets to her performances all describe how Maria Callas exerted a unique and extraordinary effect on them. Among the interviewees are singers Mirella Freni, Joyce DiDonato and John Dobson, former General Administrator of the Royal Opera House John Tooley, stage director John Copley, EMI Classics Callas biographer Tony Locantro, critic and broadcaster John Amis – and Maria Callas herself, in conversation with Lord Harewood.

The glossy, hardcover book contains a new article by Ira Siff, translated into German, French, Spanish and Italian. Siff suggests that Maria Callas, without doubt the most influential opera singer of the 20th century, had such a far-reaching impact on opera that her influence is still gaining momentum today. Her timeless, universal appeal captures the imagination, not only of opera lovers but of people who have never set foot in an opera house.

Her career was short but, as Tito Gobbi's daughter, in the DVD documentary, quotes her father as saying, "Maria is immortal." And she is.

--Doreen D'Agostino, Doreen D'Agostino Media

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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