Classical Music News of the Week, January 1, 2012

USC's Visions and Voices Series to Underwrite Opening Concert of Piatigorsky International Cello Festival

Piatigorsky International Cello Festival
Friday, March 9 - Sunday, March 18, 2012
Ralph Kirshbaum, Artistic Director

Underlining the University of Southern California's commitment to the inaugural Piatigorsky International Cello Festival, the university's "Visions and Voices" series has generously underwritten the Festival's opening concert as part of a comprehensive support for the goals and ideals of this celebratory event. The opening concert introduces the Festival Orchestra, led by conductor Hugh Wolff, and comprised of members of the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra (LACO)--led by Margaret Batjer, concertmaster--together with some of the finest students from the USC Thornton School of Music and The Colburn School. Featured in the concert are seven distinguished international artists supported by some of the most esteemed talent in the Los Angeles metropolitan area. Visions and Voices aims to educate and inspire through interdisciplinary activities which cut across the breadth of study areas found at USC including theatrical productions, music and dance performances, film screenings, lectures and workshops. In anticipation of the Piatigorsky International Cello Festival, Ralph Kirshbaum, USC's Piatigorsky Endowed Chair in Cello, will present "Performance and the Art of Piatigorsky" as part of USC's "Visions and Voices" series on Wednesday, February 15 at Newman Hall on the USC campus. The presentation will feature a historical video, a talk on the life and career of Gregor Piatigorsky and the performance of an eclectic variety of musical selections by USC Thornton School of Music students.

Reaffirming USC and Greater Los Angeles as a hub for artistic edification, the scheduled master classes and workshops of the Festival will bring forty-five cellists (several being international prizewinners) from the most prominent conservatories and music schools in the world to work with some of today's most illustrious performers and pedagogues. Representing virtually every continent, fifteen students from across Europe, Japan, China, Australia, Africa and South America; sixteen students from US universities and conservatories including Juilliard, Curtis, Eastman, Yale, Indiana, Peabody and Cleveland ; and 14 students from Los Angeles institutions will come together to participate in the wealth of initiatives on offer at the Piatigorsky Festival. As a recent addition to the schedule, Sunday, March 18 brings internationally recognized artist Antonio Lysy to lead a free workshop for young, emerging, LA-based cellists between the ages of twelve and eighteen. Lysy will work with students to prepare for a morning concert at Colburn's Thayer Hall. Echoing the fusion of art and technology, auditions for this workshop will be submitted exclusively on YouTube. A select number of participants will be chosen to perform as part of the Festival's closing concert, joining over 100 cellists on stage at Walt Disney Concert Hall.

This coming February, Artistic Director Ralph Kirshbaum, and USC Thornton School students will engage with the community through an outreach program designed to raise awareness of the Festival and its namesake, Gregor Piatigorsky. Incorporating musical presentations and talks, Kirshbaum will appear at local schools, educating students about the cello and highlighting the Festival's mission.

Bringing together four prestigious Los Angeles organizations, the Piatigorsky International Cello Festival aims to highlight and bring awareness to the cello against the backdrop of one of the most culturally vibrant metropolitan areas in the United States. Combining the forces of the USC Thornton School of Music, the LA Philharmonic, The Colburn School, and the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, current and past members from all these organizations, together with colleagues from around the world, will participate in concerts, master classes and workshops in a ten-day celebration of the cello, its music, and its musicians.

Patrick Demenga, Thomas Demenga, Evan Drachman, Narek Hakhnazaryan, Frans Helmerson, Gary Hoffman, Steven Isserlis, Terry King, Ralph Kirshbaum, Ronald Leonard, Laurence Lesser, Antonio Lysy, Mischa Maisky, Miklós Perényi, Jean-Guihen Queyras, Nathaniel Rosen, Andrew Shulman, Jeffrey Solow, Peter Stumpf, Raphael Wallfisch, Jian Wang, Alisa Weilerstein, and Members of the L.A. Cello Society.

Ayke Agus, Bernadene Blaha, Rina Dokshitsky, Kevin Fitz-Gerald, Jeffrey Kahane, Antoinette Perry, Connie Shih, and Robert Thies.

John Rubinstein.

Neeme Järvi, Courtney Lewis, and Hugh Wolff.

--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