Classical Music News of the Week, January 15, 2012

Telarc Signs Venezuelan-American Pianist Vanessa Perez - First Release Will Feature Chopin's Preludes

The Venezuelan-American pianist Vanessa Perez "returns home" with a recording of Chopin's Preludes on Telarc, due for release May 8, 2012 in the U.S. and April 10, 2012 in Europe/UK.

"The idea of recording all the Chopin Preludes came to me one night as I was playing them at home this past January," said Perez from her home in New Jersey. "Chopin brings me back to my childhood [in Venezuela]. It connects me to every possible emotion, and to so many memories. It is music I have always loved, and that reminds me how truly blessed I am to be a pianist."

Perez debuted at age eleven playing Grieg's Piano Concerto with Orquesta Sinfonica Municipal under the direction of Carlos Riazuelo in Caracas; and was later awarded the Jose Felix Ribas Prize from the President of Venezuela in 1998, the highest honor for a young performer based on their contribution to the artistic enhancement of the country.

Her studies began in Venezuela with Luminita Duca and then in the US with Claudio Arrau, Ena Bronstein, Daniel Epstein and Rosalina Sackstein. At the age of 17, she was awarded a full scholarship by the Royal Academy of Music (London) to study with Christopher Elton. Thereafter she continued her studies at the Italian Accademia Pianistica Incontri Col Maestro in Imola with pianists Lazar Berman, and Franco Scala and later completed postgraduate work at Yale University with Hungarian pianist Peter Frankl.

Perez has performed frequently across the Americas and Europe, including at Puerto Rico's Casals Festival with the Orquesta de La Juventud Simon Bolivar and Conductor Diego Matheuz,  in Germany with conductor John Axelrod and the Luzerner Sinfonie Orchester and in Caracas with the Orquesta de la Juventud Simon Bolivar and conductor Gustavo Dudamel in 2007. Recent concerto performances took place with conductor Ligia Amadio and the USP at the Sala Sao Paulo, Brazil, Carlos Riazuelo and the Sinfonica de la Juventud Simon Bolivar in Caracas, Rafael Gintoli in Buenos Aires, Enrique Batiz and the Orquesta del Estado de Mexico, and David Gimenez Carreras at the Palau de la Musica Catalana in Barcelona, Spain.

In addition to her orchestral performances, she has given solo and chamber music recitals at the Wigmore Hall, London, Schnittke Festival at the RAM and the Montpellier Festival.

Perez has recorded Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 1 in C major with the Berlin Symphoniker, and Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 20 in D minor with Venezuelan conductor Eduardo Marturet and among her chamber music recordings, she was the pianist for Jan Vogler's "Tango" CD and the Moritzburg Ensemble released by Sony Classical in August 2008, and in 2009 collaborated with Joshua Bell and Bandoneon player Carel Kraayenhoff on Bell's recording "At Home With Friends."

--Amanda Sweet, Bucklesweet Media

Pianist Brian Ganz Pursues His Chopin Project in February 2012 at the Music Center at Strathmore
Pianist Brian Ganz began his "Extreme Chopin" quest to perform all of Frédéric Chopin's works in January 2010 at the Music Center at Strathmore. The soldout recital marked the start of Ganz's ambitious endeavor to perform the approximately 250 works of Chopin over the next decade. The next concert in the series will take place at Strathmore on February 11, 2012 at 8 p.m.

An audience of almost 2,000 attended the January 2011 concert, after which The Washington Post wrote: "Brian Ganz was masterly in his first installment of the complete works."  Describing his Chopin as "often deeply beautiful," reviewer Robert Battey noted that Ganz "received several standing ovations. His strong identification with this repertoire yielded performances of warmth, affection and security."

Ganz will explore the theme of "Dances and Fantasies" in his second Chopin recital at the Music Center at Strathmore. "The program will include such beloved Chopin favorites as the Fantaisie-Impromptu and the ever popular Polonaise in A Major," Ganz said.  "The Polonaise-Fantaisie, Op. 61, one of Chopin's last large-scale masterworks for solo piano, will form the centerpiece of the program. It's one of Chopin's very personal statements, and relatively rarely heard."

The complete program will include two Polonaises, Op. 40; No. 1 in A Major; No. 2 in C minor; Fantaisie ("Fantasy") in F minor, Op. 49; Impromptu No. 2 in F-sharp Major, Op. 36; Fantaisie-Impromptu in C-sharp minor, Op. 66 (Posthumous); Waltz in A-flat Major, Op. 42; Polonaise-Fantaisie, Op. 61; four Mazurkas, Op. 6; No. 1 in F-sharp minor; No. 2 in C-sharp minor; No. 3 in E Major; No. 4 in E-flat minor; and Andante Spianato et Grande Polonaise Brillante, Op. 22.

Ganz is researching the question of whether every work has ever been performed before by a single pianist in a series. "Of course, the important thing is not whether I'm the first to do this. I'm excited to share works with Chopin lovers that they may never have heard before," Ganz said. "There are so many beloved works of great beauty and emotional power, but there are also quite a few buried treasures that deserve to be heard. It's fascinating to hear, for example, the different authentic versions that exist of some very well-known works. There are marvelous surprises in store for Chopin lovers."

Ganz will perform Chopin's orchestral works with the National Philharmonic, led by Maestro Gajewski, who has embraced the pianist's ambitious endeavor wholeheartedly. "Brian is likely the first to undertake to perform all the works of Chopin. He is the perfect pianist to play all of Chopin's works--not only because of his great love for the composer, but also because of his intense connection with his audience," Gajewski said. "Brian's playing exudes incredible warmth and openness. He demonstrates an uncommon eagerness to bridge the distance between artist and audience."

On numerous occasions, Ganz has brought his entire collection of Chopin's music to a performance so that he can accept requests from the audience. "One of my lifelong goals has been to study every single note Chopin composed," Ganz said. "This project gives me a lovely framework within which to reach that goal." In an exuberant review of a Ganz performance, The Washington Post wrote, "One comes away from a recital by pianist Brian Ganz not only exhilarated by the power of the performance but also moved by his search for artistic truth."

In conjunction with his Chopin project, Ganz will sponsor an art contest for area students to increase their interest in classical music and, in particular, in Chopin. The theme of the contest will be "Extreme Chopin," and the winning artist's poster will be published and widely distributed to promote the 2012 concert. The winner will also receive $300. Entry rules at

Ganz is a graduate of the Peabody Conservatory of Music, where he studied with Leon Fleisher. Earlier teachers include Yida Novik and Claire Deene. Gifted as a teacher himself, Ganz is a member of the piano faculty and Artist-in-Residence at St. Mary's College of Maryland. He also serves on the piano faculty of the Peabody Conservatory. He has served on the jury of the Long Thibaud Competition in Paris.

To purchase tickets to Brian Ganz's all-Chopin concert on February 11, 2012 at 8 p.m. at the Music Center at Strathmore, please visit or call the Strathmore ticket office at (301) 581-5100. Tickets are $24 - $46; 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 Offers Chamber Music Appreciation Class for Adults
Those who enjoy chamber music as well as those who want to learn more about this genre have an opportunity for in-depth understanding through the Music Institute of Chicago's "The World of Chamber Music," a music appreciation class for adults led by faculty member Stephanie Ettelson. The eight-week class runs February 9–March 29, 2012, Thursdays 2–4 p.m., at the Music Institute's Winnetka campus, 300 Green Bay Road.

This class explores the richness and vibrancy of the chamber music repertoire, an intimate microcosm of symphonic style and form, with masterworks ranging from Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, and Schubert to Mendelssohn, Brahms, Dvorak, Bartok, and Shostakovich. A discussion of recorded illustrations of various works enhances the participant's listening experience. There are no prerequisites and all are welcome to attend--novice and experienced concertgoer alike.

Stephanie Ettelson has presented pre-concert lectures, classes, and workshops on symphonic and chamber music for more than four decades. As an orchestral and chamber music violinist, as well as an arts writer and former music critic, she brings a unique approach to "The Art of Listening" for the adult concertgoer.

"The World of Chamber Music" runs February 9–March 29, 2012, Thursdays 2–4 p.m. at the Music Institute's Winnetka campus, 300 Green Bay Road. The cost is $190, $171 for seniors (60+). Students registered for classes at the Music Institute receive two free tickets to all MIC-sponsored events at Nichols Concert Hall. To register, call 847.905.1500, ext. 127 or visit "The Art of Listening" page on the Music Institute's website.

--Jill Chukerman, JAC Communications

Daniil Trifonov, Winner of the XIV International Tchaikovsky Competition, to Perform with National Philharmonic
Pianist Daniil Trifonov performs Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No. 1 in B-flat minor with the National Philharmonic, led by Music Director and Conductor Piotr Gajewski, on February 4, 2012, at 8 pm and on February 5, 2012, at 3 pm at the Music Center at Strathmore. Also on the all Tchaikovsky program are the Polonaise from Eugene Onegin, the Romeo and Juliet Overture-Fantasy and the 1812 Overture.

The Tchaikovsky Competition triumph is the crowning achievement of a series of awards garnered by Trifonov, who in May won First Prize and Gold Medal at the 13th Arthur Rubinstein International Piano Master Competition in Tel Aviv and in 2010 won third prize in the 16th International Fryderyk Chopin Piano Competition in Warsaw. Held every four years in Moscow, the Tchaikovsky Competition includes the disciplines of piano, violin, cello and voice.  In past years, the piano category has been won by such legends as Van Cliburn and Vladimir Ashkenazy. In Moscow in June, the International Tchaikovsky Competition awarded pianist Trifonov First Prize, a Gold Medal, the special prize for Best Performance of a Mozart Concerto and the Audience Choice Award. On the final day of the competition, he was selected as the Grand Prize winner.

Born on March 5, 1991 in Nizhny Novgorod, Trifonov is a graduate of the Gnesin School of Music in Moscow, where he studied with Tatiana Zelikman. Since 2009, he has been studying with Sergei Babayan at the Cleveland Institute of Music. In 2008, he won first prize in the San Marino International Piano Competition and fifth prize in the International Scriabin Competition in Moscow.

The concert begins with Tchaikovsky's Polonaise, an energetic dance from the composer's opera Eugene Onegin. Following, Trifonov will take the stage to perform Tchaikovsky's virtuosic Piano Concerto No. 1, one of the composer's most popular works. The program also includes Tchaikovsky's Romeo and Juliet Overture-Fantasy. The composer briefly considered composing an opera based on Romeo and Juliet, but instead, in 1880, completed it as an overture-fantasy, in which some of the themes represent specific character and plot developments of Shakespeare's iconic play. Last on the program is the 1812 Overture. Commissioned to compose the festive Overture to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Czar Alexander II's ascension to the throne, Tchaikovsky commemorated the clash between French and Russian military forces using folk songs, hymns and the national anthems of their countries. The overture is traditionally performed at July 4th celebrations.

Maestro Gajewski is widely credited with building the National Philharmonic to its present status as one of the most respected ensembles of its kind in the region. The Washington Post recognizes him as an "immensely talented and insightful conductor," whose "standards, taste and sensitivity are impeccable." In addition to his appearances with the National Philharmonic, Maestro Gajewski is much in demand as a guest conductor. In recent years, he has appeared with most of the major orchestras in his native Poland, as well as the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic in England, the Karlovy Vary Symphony in the Czech Republic and numerous orchestras in the United States.

Gajewski attended Carleton College and the University of Cincinnati, College-Conservatory of Music, where he earned a B.M. and M.M. in Orchestral Conducting. Upon completing his formal education, he continued refining his conducting skills at the 1983 Tanglewood Music Festival in Massachusetts, where he was awarded a Leonard Bernstein Conducting Fellowship. His teachers there included Leonard Bernstein, Seiji Ozawa, Andre Previn, Gunther Schuller, Gustav Meier and Maurice Abravanel.

Gajewski is also a winner of many prizes and awards, among them a prize at New York's prestigious Leopold Stokowski Conducting Competition and, in 2006, Montgomery County's Comcast Excellence in the Arts and Humanities Achievement Award.

The National Philharmonic is known for performances that are "powerful," impeccable" and "thrilling" (The Washington Post). The National Philharmonic boasts a long-standing tradition of reasonably priced tickets and free admission to all young people age 7-17, assuring its place as an accessible and enriching component in Montgomery County and the greater Washington, DC area. As the Music Center at Strathmore's ensemble-in-residence, the National Philharmonic showcases world-renowned guest artists in time-honored symphonic masterpieces conducted by Maestro Gajewski and monumental choral masterworks under National Philharmonic Chorale Artistic Director Stan Engebretson.

The National Philharmonic also offers exceptional and unique education programs, such as the Summer Strings and Choral Institutes. Students accepted into the Summer String Institutes study privately with National Philharmonic musicians, participate in coached chamber music and play in an orchestra conducted by Maestro Gajewski.

Tickets for the All Tchaikovsky concerts on February 4, 2012 at 8pm and on February 5, 2012 at 3 pm at the Music Center at Strathmore are now available as part of National Philharmonic's 2011-2012 subscription season. To purchase, please visit or call the Strathmore ticket office at (301) 581-5100. 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. Attached is a photo of pianist Daniil Trifonov (photo credit Vadim Shults)

--Deborah Birnbaum, National Philharmonic

Six Gifted Teen Musicians Receive Fellowships
The Music Institute of Chicago has awarded fellowships to six extraordinarily gifted pre-college musicians in its Academy. These young talents have accomplished much already in terms of their performance histories and competition achievements.

Recent developments:
Gallia Kastner won the senior division of the 2011 Walgreens National Concerto Competition.
Johannes Gray won the 2011 Crain-Maling Foundation Chicago Symphony Orchestra Youth Auditions and will perform with the CSO this spring.
Alexandra Switala won the 2011 Sphinx Competition Junior Division.
Kate Liu and Kelly Talim will perform with the Chicago Consortium of Community Music Schools in February.

And on January 26, all six Academy Fellows will participate in the master class presented by the Chamber Music Society (CMS) of Lincoln Center at the Harris Theater.

--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