Classical Music News of the Week, December 18, 2011

Le Casse-noix Moderne - The Modern Nutcracker

The Timeless Holiday Classic Re-Envisioned with Modern Music and Dance.
Thursday, December 29 at 7:00 p.m., one night only: Gerald W. Lynch Theater at John Jay College, New York City.

Bidding adieu to 2011 with sparkle, splendour and swing, Distinguished Concerts International New York (DCINY) presents "Le Casse-noix Moderne - The Modern Nutcracker" on Thursday, December 29 at 7:00 p.m. at the Gerald W. Lynch Theater at John Jay College (899 Tenth Avenue). This delectable holiday treat from Alabama's Etowah Youth Orchestras and Downtown Dance Conservatory will be seen in its New York City debut for one night only.

Composer and arranger Mike Gagliardo and choreographer Linze Rickles McRae's "Casse-noix Moderne" is a version of the famous holiday classic like no other -- a retrospective of modern music and dance, encompassing every form of popular music from the 1920's to the present. Featuring selected music from Tchaikovsky's original, Gagliardo and McRae's new take on the show transforms each selection into a different style: "Trepak" becomes a swinging big band number, while the "Sugar Plum Fairy" becomes a soulful ballad; "Mirlitons" turns into a western swing number, while the Overture is straight-ahead rock and roll. "Le Casse-noix Moderne" enthrals with its original, modern interpretations, while maintaining all of the magic and familiarity of the timeless holiday classic.

Founded in 1990, the Etowah Youth Orchestras (EYO) provides students from Northeast Alabama with major musical and educational experiences in the US and beyond. Under Music Director and Conductor Michael R. Gagliardo, EYO has presented concerts at Carnegie Hall, the Lincoln and Kennedy Centers, Stratford-Upon-Avon (UK), and in Costa Rica, and has been honoured with eleven ASCAP Youth Orchestra Awards. Over 250 dedicated students train at The Downtown Dance Conservatory, based in Gadsden, Alabama, under the direction of Artistic Director Linze Rickles McRae.

Distinguished Concerts International New York, now in its fourth season, was founded by Iris Derke (General Director) and Jonathan Griffith (Artistic Director and Principal Conductor). With an unwavering commitment to bring forth unforgettable audience experiences, DCINY is driven by passion and innovative vision.

Tickets ($50) at or or by calling 1.800.838.3006.

--Shira Gilbert PR

Music Institute of Chicago Concert Raises Funds and Awareness About Food Insecurity
The Music Institute of Chicago donated funds to two Evanston charities today using proceeds earned from a November 13 benefit concert at Nichols Concert Hall featuring its historic E.M. Skinner Organ.

The Music Institute contributed $400 each to Connections for the Homeless, an organization dedicated to preventing people from losing their homes, re-housing those who have, and helping each person reach the greatest possible level of self-sufficiency, and Hillside Food Pantry, part of the Greater Chicago Food Depository network, which provides food for more than 2,000 people each week.

The November 13 benefit concert, intended to raise awareness about the issue of food insecurity, highlighted three elite organists from Chicago area houses of worship: Robert Horton, director of music at St. Mark's Episcopal Church in Evanston, performed an arrangement of Franz Schubert's Fantasia in F Minor, D. 940. John Sherer, organist and director of music at Fourth Presbyterian Church in Chicago, played works by Edward Elgar, Gerre Hancock, and Henri Mulet. Eric Budzynski, organist and music associate of Alice Millar Chapel at Northwestern University in Evanston, concluded the program with Felix Mendelssohn's Sonata in F Minor, Op. 65.

Music Institute of Chicago President and CEO Mark George said, "As a community music school, we have an obligation to bring attention to important issues and there is no more pressing issue than hunger." Sherer described playing the E.M. Skinner at Nichols Concert Hall as, "like driving a vintage 1930s Rolls Royce, simply beautiful." George added, "It is a wonderful thing to play great music on a great instrument for a great cause."

--Jill Chukerman, JAC Communications

Jean-Yves Thibaudet Featured as Soloist for the "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close" Score
New York Philharmonic New Year's Eve Concert
LA Philharmonic January Performances
Jean-Yves Thibaudet is one of the most poetic and emotionally aware pianists alive today. His ability to craft intensely passionate experiences on the piano has led him to become not only a respected performer, but also an in-demand soloist for film scores. Thibaudet was featured on the Oscar- and Golden Globe-award winning scores of Universal Pictures' Atonement and the Oscar-nominated Pride and Prejudice. This winter, Thibaudet can be heard on the score of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, which opens on December 25, 2011 in New York and Los Angeles, and in January 2012 nationwide. Director Stephen Daldry's previous work includes The Hours, The Reader, and Billy Elliot. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close was filmed and the score was recorded in New York City.

As part of the recording sessions, Thibaudet spent four days working closely with Daldry, composer Alexandre Desplat, and the production crew. "I loved working with Alexandre Desplat," Thibaudet says. "He's so much in control of everything: he knows exactly what he wants, which is both helpful and inspiring." Thibaudet's time in the studio involved painstakingly watching scenes from the movie in order to produce just the right musical atmosphere. The emotions of the music and images had to be in sync in order to create a perfect artistic unity.

Based on the critically-acclaimed novel by Jonathan Safran Foer, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close stars Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock, and introduces young actor Thomas Horn. It tells the story of nine-year-old Oskar Schell, a precocious and sensitive Manhattanite. After Oskar's father dies in the 9/11 World Trade Center attacks, Oskar set outs to find the meaning of a key he discovers in his father's closet. His adventures will take him throughout the five boroughs as he meets a kaleidoscope of characters and searches for meaning in a healing city. Thibaudet describes the score: "You have to create an entire mood, feeling and atmosphere, with your music. You need to tell a story with your notes at the the piano. It's a huge challenge, but I love doing it. The score has a great atmosphere.  The piano is a little bit the voice of Oskar, the boy, so it changes with his moods. It's reflective and nostalgic - not sad, but moody. The music kind of hangs there, very quietly. I find it timeless and quite magical."

On December 31, 2011, Jean-Yves Thibaudet will perform with the New York Philharmonic for its PBS-televised New Year's Eve Gala. He will play the Gershwin Concerto in F and Rhapsody in Blue, works he recorded on his most recent album, "Gershwin," for Decca. Both Concerto in F (arr. Ferde Grofé, 1928, for the Paul Whiteman Orchestra) and Rhapsody in Blue (arr. Ferde Grofé, 1924, for the Paul Whiteman Orchestra) are presented on this live recording with the Baltimore Symphony in their "jazz band" orchestrations, as opposed to the more familiar versions performed by traditional orchestras. "People ask if the piece is jazz, classical or both," writes Thibaudet of Rhapsody in Blue, "but the underlying jazz element really belongs to this great work, and this Grofé orchestration gives the Gershwin piece the flavor that it should have." Gershwin's own orchestration of Variations on 'I Got Rhythm' completes the disc.

On January 5-8, 2012, Thibaudet returns to the Los Angeles Philharmonic at Walt Disney Concert Hall. With Miguel Harth-Bedoya conducting, the orchestra will play Dvorak's Hussite Overture and Symphony No. 3, "Organ" by Saint-Saens. Thibaudet will join for Liszt's Piano Concerto No. 2. Thibaudet began this season with a series of striking summer appearances at Tanglewood in which he played the complete piano works of Ravel in a week. He then embarked on a European tour with Charles Dutoit and the Philadelphia Orchestra. Continuing his love of exploring individual composers, Thibaudet performed a program of Liszt lieder and Brahms lieder with mezzo-soprano Angelika Kirchschlager in Europe, Boston and New York. Thibaudet also tours Europe with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, and the U.S. with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, playing Saint-Saëns. After a performance with the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra at Carnegie Hall on February 11, 2012, Thibaudet will conclude his season with Debussy recitals in Europe. These Debussy evenings celebrate the 150th anniversary of the composer's birth.

--Amanda Ameer, First Chair Promotion

Metropolis Ensemble's Inaugural Resident Artists Series Concert
Metropolis Ensemble is thrilled to announce the inaugural concert of its new Resident Artists Series - concerts, musical events, and social gatherings that feature the Ensemble's leading artists as solo instrumentalists in creative collaborations with composers from diverse genres and styles.

Metropolis Ensemble's virtuoso harpist Bridget Kibbey kicks-off this series with a multi-media concert presentation entitled Music Box at Le Poisson Rouge January 11 & 15, 2012 at 7:30pm. Music Box features six world premiere and newly commissioned works for solo harp by composers from around the world who now call the United States home.

Moved by both their individual stories and their music, Kibbey commissioned works whose inspiration is based in folk idioms from each composer's country of origin as well as from their own personal narratives.

The contributing composers are
    Kati Agocs, Canada (world premiere)
    Kinan Azmeh, Syria (world premiere)
    David Bruce, representing Venezuela
    Susie Ibarra, representing the Philippines (world premiere)
    Bridget Kibbey, representing Ireland
    Paquito d'Rivera, Cuba (world premiere)
    Ricardo Romaniero, Brazil (world premiere)
    Du Yun, China (world premiere)

The harp is an instrument emblematic of storytelling and folklore. Music Box allows the harp to carry this tradition forward into the 21st century, giving expression to the diverse voices that make up contemporary American culture.

Possessing a special connection with her instrument that captivates audiences across the United States and abroad, harpist Bridget Kibbey's passionate performances display the unique abilities of this fantastic instrument, with genre-bending performances ranging from baroque to world music, to collaboration with singer/songwriters, to commissioning new works from today's composers.  An Avery Fisher Career Grant recipient, a winner of Concert Artist Guild's 2007 International Competition and Astral Artist Auditions, Ms. Kibbey's performances have been broadcast on NPR'sPerformance Today, on New York's WQXR, WNYC's Soundcheck, and A&E's Breakfast with the Arts. Bridget's debut album, Love is Come Again,was named one of 2007's Top Ten Releases by Time out New York. She may also be heard on Deutsche Grammaphon with Dawn Upshaw on Berio's Folk Songs and Osvaldo Golijov's Ayre. As hailed by the New York Times, harpist Bridget Kibbey "…made it seem as though her instrument had been waiting all its life to explode with the gorgeous colors and energetic figures she was getting from it."

Ms. Kibbey is a graduate of the Juilliard School, where she studied with Nancy Allen. She is on the harp faculties of Bard Conservatory, New York University, and the Juilliard Pre-College Program.  Ms. Kibbey has collaborated with an array of artists in repertoire new and established, including Ian Bostridge, David Krakauer, Jaime Laredo, Edgar Meyer, Mayumi Miyata, Cristina Pato, Sharon Robinson, David Schifrin, and the Calder and Jupiter Quartets. She is frequently featured with the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, and is the founding harpist of the International Contemporary Ensemble and Metropolis Ensemble.

Metropolis Ensemble  is a professional chamber orchestra and ensemble dedicated to making classical music in its most contemporary forms.  Led by Grammy-nominated conductor Andrew Cyr, Metropolis Ensemble gathers today's most outstanding emerging composers and young artists to produce unique, innovative concert experiences.  Founded in 2006, Metropolis has commissioned over 70 works of music from a dynamic mix of composers and has been presented by The Wordless Music Series, Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall's Weill Music Institute, (Le) Poisson Rouge, and Celebrate Brooklyn.  Metropolis Ensemble has quickly established a reputation of presenting "new music played with the same kind of panache and bravura we usually experience only in performances of standard repertoire" (Esa-Pekka Salonen).

--Nate Bachhuber, PR Director, Metropolis Ensemble

Israel Philharmonic Orchestra 75th Anniversary Festival Concerts, December 17-27, to be Streamed Live
The American Friends of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra is proud to announce the live streaming of its 75th anniversary celebration. From December 17 to 31, the Orchestra is presenting their Festival of Celebration Concerts with a remarkable lineup of artists with whom it has a close relationship. Selected concerts, as listed below, are to be streamed live and will be available for 10 days after each performance.

The concerts will take place at Hangar 11 in the Tel Aviv port--the Orchestra's home in its early days--and will be streamed at the AFIPO's website,, at, and on the Orchestra's official Facebook page,

December 17, 1:30 pm EST
Valery Gergiev, conductor
Yefim Bronfman, pianist
Gil Shaham, violinist
Beethoven: Piano Concerto No.3
Bruch: Violin Concerto
Beethoven: Symphony  No. 3

December 22, 1:30 pm EST
Christoph von Dohnanyi, conductor
Yefim Bronfman, pianist
Beethoven: Symphony No. 6
Brahms: Piano Concerto No. 2

December 24, 1:30 pm EST
Zubin Mehta, conductor
Vadim Repin, violinist
Julian Rachlin, violist
Beethoven: Symphony No. 8
Waxman: Carmen Fantasy
Saint Saens: Rondo Capriccioso

December 26, 12:30 pm EST
Zubin Mehta, conductor
Pinchas Zukerman, violinist
Daniil Trifonov, pianist
Pigovat: New Israeli piece
Beethoven: Violin Concerto
Rachmaninov: Rhapsody on a Theme by Paganini
Beethoven: Symphony No. 3

December 27, 1:30 pm EST
Gianandrea Noseda, conductor
Haochen Zhang, pianist
Beethoven: Piano Concerto No. 5
Beethoven: Symphony No. 7

--Patrick Gullo, 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