Classical Music News of the Week, December 23, 2011

David Lang's "death speaks" for Bryce Dessner, Nico Muhly, Owen Pallett and Shara Worden to Be Performed Alongside His Pulitzer Prize-Winning "the little match girl passion"

From his close friendship with Michael Gordon and Julia Wolfe, to his contribution with the Kronos Quartet to the "Requiem for a Dream" score, to his relationships with choreographers Shen Wei and Benjamin Millepied, composer David Lang has always found ways to unlock his artistic potential through working with like-minded artists. Most recently, Lang has written "death speaks" for Bryce Dessner, Nico Muhly, Owen Pallett and Shara Worden. The piece is, in part, a companion for his Pulitzer Prize-winning composition "the little match girl passion." Both works will be performed at Stanford Lively Arts on January 25, 2012 and at Carnegie Hall on January 27, 2012.

Given nearly free reign to create something to be performed with "the little match girl passion" by commissioners Carnegie Hall and Stanford Lively Arts, Lang found inspiration in Schubert lieder, particularly in the texts for such songs as "Death and the Maiden." He writes, "What makes these Schubert texts so interesting is that Death is personified.  It isn't a state of being or a place or a metaphor, but a person, a character in a drama who can tell us in our own language what to expect in the World to Come." Just as the text for "the little match girl passion" is made up of Lang's paraphrases of texts from Bach's St Matthew Passion, the libretto for "death speaks" quotes every instance in Schubert of Death speaking directly to us, taken from 32 different songs.

While mostly seen outside of the classical sphere, all of the "death speaks" performers have a background in classical music. Shara Worden was trained as an opera singer; Owen Pallett is a violinist; Bryce has a degree in classical guitar; Nico Muhly graduated from Juilliard and is the youngest composer in history to be commissioned by the Metropolitan Opera. The idea to team up with this set of artists was a natural choice for Lang. As he relates, "Art songs have been moving out of classical music in the last many years - indie rock seems to be the place where Schubert's sensibilities now lie, a better match for direct story telling and intimate emotionality.  I started thinking that many of the most interesting musicians in that scene made the same journey themselves, beginning as classical musicians and drifting over to indie rock when they bumped up against the limits of where classical music was most comfortable. What would it be like to put together an ensemble of successful indie rockers and invite them back into classical music, the world from which they sprang? All of these musicians are composers, all of them can write all the music they need themselves, and it is a tremendous honor for me to ask them to spend some of their musicality on my music."

Stanford Lively Arts
January 25, 2012
8 p.m.
Ticket information:

Carnegie Hall
January 27, 2012
6 p.m.
Ticket information:

--Amanda Ameer, First Chair Promotion

Zuill Bailey to Perform Bach's Unaccompanied Cello Suites and Haydn's Cello Concerto with the National Philharmonic at Strathmore
Leading cellist Zuill Bailey will perform Bach's Unaccompanied Cello Suites on January 7, 2012 at 3:30 pm at the Music Center at Strathmore. Later that day at 8 p.m., Bailey will perform Haydn's beloved Cello Concerto with the National Philharmonic, conducted by Music Director and Conductor Piotr Gajewski, at Strathmore. The 8 p.m. program will also include Beethoven's Grosse Fuge, Op. 133 and Mozart's Symphony No. 41 in C Major ("Jupiter").

Zuill Bailey has performed with the symphony orchestras of Dallas, Ft. Worth, Louisville, Milwaukee, Minnesota, San Francisco, Toronto, Utah and has appeared at the Kennedy Center, Alice Tully Hall and Carnegie Hall. A member of the Perlman-Schmidt-Bailey Trio, he performs regularly with duo partner, pianist Awadagin Pratt, as well as with pianist Simone Dinnerstein. Telarc released their recording of the complete Beethoven Sonatas for Piano and Cello in August 2009. Bailey's debut release on the label, "Russian Masterpieces," has received widespread popular and critical acclaim. He performs on a 1693 Matteo Gofriller cello. Bailey is the Artistic Director of El Paso Pro Musica, Artistic Director Designate of the Sitka Summer Music Festival in Alaska and Professor of Cello at the University of Texas, El Paso. For more information, visit

A free lecture will be offered at 6:45 pm on Jan. 7 in the Concert Hall at the Music Center at Strathmore. To purchase tickets to the Philharmonic's concert on January 7, 2012 at 3:30 pm and at 8 pm, both 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. Parking is free.

--Deborah Birnbaum, National Philharmonic

Music Institute of Chicago Launches Piano Concerto Competition for Young Artists
The Music Institute of Chicago has established a Young Artist Division of the Emilio del Rosario Piano Concerto Competition. Pre-college pianists, younger than 20, will compete for the opportunity to perform a complete concerto with Ars Viva Symphony Orchestra, a professional orchestra directed by Alan Heatherington, Sunday, March 11, 2012 at the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts in Skokie. Additional cash and scholarship prizes also will be available.

The Young Artist Division competition is open to pre-college pianists from Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, and Wisconsin. A preliminary round will take place Sunday, February 12 at the Evanston East campus of the Music Institute of Chicago. Three finalists will compete Sunday, February 19 at Nichols Concert Hall in Evanston. Information regarding applications and repertoire requirements is available at The application deadline is January 14, 2012.

The new Young Artist Division is part of the larger Emilio del Rosario Piano Concerto Competition, which takes place in the spring of 2012 at Harper College. Competition Director and Music Institute faculty member Brenda Huang said, "The Young Artist Division is an important addition to our competition. Emilio del Rosario dedicated his life to the art of teaching and nurturing pianists to the highest of standards. We hope to continue his legacy of excellence by providing the next generation of pianists an opportunity to perform with a professional orchestra and help them realize their musical potential."

--Jill Chukerman, JAC Communications

Denis Matsuev U.S. Recital Appearances January 2012
World Acclaimed Pianist Visits Seattle, Los Angeles and New York City to Perform Repertoire of Schubert, Beethoven, Grieg, and Stravinsky.

In January, 2012, Denis Matsuev returns to the United States as part of a massive world-wide tour reaching Europe, Asia, Israel and beyond. The pianist received critical acclaim for his sold-out Carnegie Hall recital in February of 2010 – an evening about which the New York Times noted, "he superbly offered a primal performance….atmosphere was electric." In May 2011, Matsuev enjoyed another string of successful American solo appearances in Washington DC, San Francisco and Boston.

Matsuev begins the next leg of his U.S. recital tour on January 22ndat Benaroya Hall in Seattle.  From there he goes on to Los Angeles to appear at UCLA's Royce Hall on January 24thand finishes the tour at New York City's Carnegie Hall on January 27th. For these engagements, Matsuev's program will include works by Schubert, Beethoven, Grieg and Stravinsky (complete program below).

About Denis Matsuev:
Known for his breathtaking virtuosity and clear artistic identity, prize-winning Russian pianist Denis Matsuev is one of the most sought after pianists on the international concert stage. Since his triumphant victory at the International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow in 1998, Matsuev has appeared in hundreds of recitals at the most prestigious and legendary concert halls throughout the world including recent performances with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, the Berliner Philharmoniker with Valery Gergiev, The London Symphony Orchestra with Semyon Bychkov and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra with Leonard Slatkin.  Mr. Matsuev has continually reengaged with such legendary orchestras as Chicago Symphony Orchestra, National Symphony Orchestra, National Philharmonic Orchestra of Russia, Mariinsky Theatre Orchestra, appearing with the most prominent conductors on the stage today including Lorin Maazel, Vladimir Spivakov, Yuri Temirkanov, and  Mariss Jansons.

The U.S. tour of Denis Matsuev is presented by Maestro Artist Management (MAM), a full-service production, touring and promotion company that focuses on presenting international artists in a variety of genres, from classical music and dance to theatre and world music, to audiences in the U.S. For more information about this tour and upcoming performances, visit

Denis Matsuev January 2012 Recital Tour:
January 22   Seattle, WA Benaroya Hall
January 24   Los Angeles, CA  Royce Hall
January 27   New York, NY Carnegie Hall (Stern Auditorium)

Recital Program:
Schubert: Piano Sonata No. 14 in A Minor, Op. 143
Beethoven: Sonata in F Minor No. 23, op. 57 ('Appassionata')
Grieg: Piano Sonata in E Minor, Op. 7
Stravinsky: Three movements from the ballet Petrushka (arranged for piano)

--Rebecca Davis Public Relations

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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