Classical Music News of the Week, January 22, 2012

Music Institute Presents Menahem Pressler Master Classes

February 17 and 18 Sessions Open to Public

The Music Institute of Chicago offers its students the opportunity to participate in—and the public the opportunity to observe—master classes with esteemed musician Menahem Pressler February 17 and 18 at Nichols Concert Hall, 1490 Chicago Avenue, Evanston.

The February 17 program features solo pianists and chamber musicians who are students at the Music Institute's prestigious Academy for gifted pre-college musicians:
Pianist Kate Liu, Susan and Richard Kiphart Academy Fellow: Chopin's Polonaise-Fantaisie in A-flat Major, Op. 61
Trio Fantastico—violinist Zachary Brandon, cellist Annamarie Wellems, pianist Kyle Jannak-Huang: Beethoven's Piano Trio in D Major, Op. 70, No. 1 "Ghost"
Giocoso Trio—violinist Serena Harnack, cellist Nathan Mo, pianist Andrew Guo: Beethoven's Piano Trio in E-flat Major, Op. 1, No. 1 (Presto)

The February 18 program features solo pianists and chamber musicians who study in the Music Institute's Community School; auditions will take place later in January.

About Menahem Pressler:
Menahem Pressler, founding member and pianist of the Beaux Arts Trio (described by the Washington Post as "the gold standard for trios throughout the world"), has established himself among the world's most distinguished and honored musicians, with a career that spans more than five decades. Now in his 87th year, he continues to captivate audiences throughout the world as performer and pedagogue, performing solo and chamber music recitals to great critical acclaim while maintaining a dedicated and robust teaching career. For nearly 60 years, Pressler has taught on the piano faculty at the world-renowned Indiana University Jacobs School of Music, where he currently is Distinguished Professor of Music as the Charles Webb Chair.

About the Music Institute of Chicago:
The Music Institute of Chicago believes that music has the power to sustain and nourish the human spirit; therefore, its mission is to provide the foundation for lifelong engagement with music. The Music Institute offers lessons, classes, and programs through four distinct areas: the Community School, Academy, Creative Arts Therapy (Institute for Therapy through the Arts), and Nichols Concert Hall, an education and performance center in downtown Evanston that reaches approximately 14,000 people each year.

Community Music School:
As one of the three largest and most respected community music schools in the nation, the Music Institute offers musical excellence built on the strength of its distinguished faculty, commitment to quality, and breadth of programs and services. Founded in 1931 and one of the oldest community music schools in Illinois, the Music Institute is a member of the National Guild of Community Schools of the Arts and accredited by the National Association of Schools of Music. Each year, the Music Institute's world-class music teachers and arts therapists provide the highest quality arts education to more than 5,000 students of all ability levels, from birth to 101 years of age. With nearly 50 piano faculty serving more than 750 piano students, the Music Institute's piano department is its largest. The school also has a thriving chamber music program with more than 40 chamber groups that rehearse weekly with Music Institute coaches.

The Music Institute of Chicago includes campuses in Evanston, Highland Park, Lake Forest, Lincolnshire, Winnetka, and Downers Grove. The Music Institute also offers lessons at the Steinway of Chicago store in Northbrook and early childhood Musikgarten® classes and community engagement programs throughout the Chicago area and the North Shore. The Music Institute's community engagement and partnership programs reach an additional 6,500 Chicago Public School students annually.

About the Academy:
Founded in 2006, the Music Institute of Chicago Academy has established itself as one of the most respected pre-collegiate conservatory programs in the United States. The Academy's internationally recognized faculty, rigorous curriculum, and instructional model, as well as the program's highly gifted students, have solidified its preeminent reputation. Students in this prestigious program have come from throughout the United States, as well as from Central and South America, Europe, Japan, China, and Korea. The very selective program focuses on providing an intensive and comprehensive musical education and significant performance opportunities for developing musicians. The carefully assembled faculty represents teachers and performers with a passion for developing young talent and an established reputation for student achievement.

Approximately 50 young musicians participate in all aspects of the curriculum, including private lessons with Academy artist faculty, a rigorous chamber music component, a stimulating chamber orchestra, and accelerated music theory classes. Pianists additionally study keyboard literature and skills in an intimate group setting. A hallmark of the Academy is the weekly master classes with some of the world's most celebrated artists and educators. The Academy introduces students to a vast music community of peer musicians, pedagogical styles, and the rigors of conservatory training. The nation's most elite college and university music conservatories, including The Juilliard School, the Curtis Institute of Music, the Eastman School of Music, and the New England Conservatory, actively pursue graduates of the four-year program.

The master classes with Menahem Pressler take place Friday, February 17, 7–9:30 p.m. and Saturday, February 18, 10 a.m.–12:30 p.m. at Nichols Concert Hall, 1490 Chicago Avenue, Evanston. General admission is $10 at the door. For information, visit

--Jill Chukerman, JAC Communications

Strathmore Music in the Mansion Presents Bruce Swaim Quartet, Jayme Stone, Imani Winds, and Clancy Newman
Strathmore's Music in the Mansion series will begin 2012 with four performers from different genres--jazz from the Bruce Swaim Quartet, international folk by Jayme Stone, experimental new music from Imani Winds and classical cello performance by Clancy Newman. The Bruce Swaim Quartet will perform on Thursday, January 12, 2012 at 7:30 p.m.; banjoist Jayme Stone will debut his new album, Room of Wonders, on Friday, January 13, 2012 at 8 p.m.; Imani Winds will host a residency at Strathmore culminating in a concert on Thursday, January 26, 2012 at 7:30 p.m.; and Clancy Newman can be heard on Sunday, January 29, 2012 at 7:30 p.m. For more information or to purchase tickets, call (301) 581-5100 or visit

Strathmore Music in the Mansion Presents:
Bruce Swaim Quintet
Thursday, January 12, 2012, 7:30 p.m.
Tickets $30 (Stars Price $27)

Jayme Stone
Friday, January 13, 2012, 8:00 p.m.
Tickets $15 (Stars Price $13)

Imani Winds
Thursday, January 26, 2012, 7:30 p.m.
Tickets $30 (Stars Price $27)

Clancy Newman, cello
Sunday, January 29, 2012, 7:30 p.m.
Tickets $30 (Stars Price $27)

Mansion at Strathmore
10701 Rockville Pike
North Bethesda, MD 20852

For additional information or to purchase tickets visit or call (301) 581-5100.

--Michael Fila, Strathmore

Sondra Radvanovsky to Appear as Aida at Lyric Opera of Chicago in January-February
With stage direction that calls for camels, pyramids, armies, and lavish period costumes, Giuseppe Verdi's Aida has been a hit with audiences since its premiere in Cairo in 1871. It is nothing short of an event, then, that Sondra Radvanovsky--called the greatest Verdi soprano of this generation--will bow as the title character during Lyric Opera of Chicago's production from January 21 to February 8, 2012. Radvanovsky stars alongside tenor Marcello Giordani and mezzo-soprano Jill Grove.  

The opera centers around a tragic relationship between the captive Ethiopian princess Aida (Radvanovsky) and Radames (Giordani), captain of the Pharaoh's army. The war between their respective nations is made even more complicated by the jealous princess Amneris (Grove), who loves Radames. Before the curtain falls, high priests, Ethiopian kings, Egyptian society, and the Pharaoh will be embroiled in the complicated love affair. Renato Palumbo conducts, and the original production by Nicolas Joel is being remounted by stage director Matthew Lata. The sets and costumes are designed by Pet Halmen. Radvanovsky appears in the production January 21, 25, 28, 31, and February 3 and 8, 2012.

On January 17, the three lead singers will join Lyric's dramaturg Roger Pines for an informal conversation as part of Lyric Opera of Chicago's Discovery Series. The Discovery Series allows fans to hear what the performers' thoughts and opinions on the composer's work are in a relaxed setting. Radvanovsky, Giordani, and Grove will all discuss Verdi's great work. Tickets are $16.

Radvanovsky is excited to continue her 2011-12 season after a particularly successful role debut as the title character in Norma. Her appearance at Teatro Campoamor de Oviedo was met with rave reviews: Seen and Heard noted that Radvanovsky possesses "a rare mastery over her instrument which allows her to offer beautiful piano in her singing. Her 'Casta Diva' was one of many highlights"; the Spanish newspaper La Voz de Asturias wrote that Radvanovsky received the longest ovation of the season; and El Comcercio called her performance "exquisite."

Although Radvanovsky tours the world performing in major opera houses including Royal Opera House-Covent Garden, Paris Opera, Teatro alla Scala, Vienna State Opera, San Francisco Opera, and numerous others, she was born just outside of Chicago. She is thrilled whenever she has a chance to perform in her home city. That the role of Aida demands a tremendous vocal range, power, and tenderness that few living sopranos possess makes this production all the more special. Radvanovsky's last appearance at Lyric was in Verdi's Un ballo in maschera. Of her performance, Chicago Classical Review raved, "Her gleaming top notes were thrilling in the ensuing love duet, and Radvanovsky's searing rendition of the showpiece, 'Morro, ma prima in grazia' was the highlight of the evening, beautiful sung and emotionally riveting." This fall, Radvanovsky had the honor of singing during the award ceremony in Stockholm, Sweden for the Birgit Nilsson Prize, at which Chicago Symphony music director Riccardo Muti was awarded a prize of one million dollars.

After a successful 2010-11 season, which included her Metropolitan Opera debut as Tosca, her hosting of a Metropolitan Opera HD broadcast, and the release of a duets CD with Dmitri Hvorostovsky, Radvanovsky begins 2011-2012 by performing Verdi with the San Francisco Symphony (Requiem, met with a glowing review) and with the Prague Opera for their gala. She will also make her Toronto Symphony Orchestra debut and finishes her season in Cyrano de Bergerac at Teatro Real Madrid with Placido Domingo in the title role.

Sondra Radvanovsky is a globally celebrated artist. The sincerity and intensity that she brings to the stage as one of the most prominent Verdian sopranos of her generation have won her accolades from critics and loyalty from passionate fans. When the Washington Post praised her singing as "outright gorgeous, poignant and silvery," it confirmed what Radvanovsky followers had known for years. On the concert platform, Radvanovsky has performed with the Boston Symphony Orchestra and the Verbier Festival Orchestra, both with James Levine, and with the Chicago Symphony with David Zinman. Last season saw a duet recital with Dmitri Hvorostovsky at Carnegie Hall and the Kennedy Center.

--Amanda Ameer, First Chair Promotion

Seattle Symphony Names Stilian Kirov Assistant Conductor
Music Director Ludovic Morlot and Executive Director Simon Woods announce the appointment of Stilian Kirov as Seattle Symphony's Douglas F. King Assistant Conductor. In September, Kirov, who currently serves as a Conducting Fellow, will begin his new role as Assistant Conductor for the Orchestra's 2012–2013 season. He succeeds Eric Garcia, whose appointment as Assistant Conductor ends this June.

"I had the chance to observe Stilian's work during his audition with the Seattle Symphony last season," Morlot commented. "I was quite impressed with his skills and abilities, and we were inspired to create a new position, Conducting Fellow, for him. This position provides great opportunities to work with my colleagues and me during his residency this year. Having seen him interact with Symphony musicians, I decided to appoint him to a full-time position as my Assistant Conductor next season. I am very excited to share his talent with our Orchestra and community."

Kirov will conduct the Seattle Symphony for the first time in an open reading session on Tuesday, January 31, 2012, at Benaroya Hall when the Orchestra will read works by University of Washington student composers Abby Aresty, Yigit Kolat and Josh Archibald-Seiffer.

As Assistant Conductor, Kirov's duties will include leading concerts — especially neighborhood, family and education concerts; covering rehearsals and performances; editing concert recordings for radio broadcast and grant support; and working with the artistic staff on programming ideas. Serving as assistant or associate conductor at a major orchestra is a key professional development opportunity for young conductors.

Kirov's current Seattle Symphony conducting fellowship includes four weeks of cumulative mentorship by Morlot and guest conductors Andrew Manze and Jesús López-Cobos. Serving as cover conductor for performances on the Wyckoff Masterworks, Baroque & Wine, Gilman Discover Music and Beyond the Score series, he has had the opportunity to explore a wide variety of repertoire.

Stilian Kirov's currently serves as Associate Conductor of the Memphis Symphony Orchestra and Music Director of the Memphis Youth Symphony Program. He previously served as Music Director and founder of the Art Symphony Orchestra in New York and has conducted major orchestras in France, Germany, Italy, Greece, the United States, and his native country, Bulgaria. He has been awarded numerous prizes and merits, including Third Prize and the Orchestra Preference Award at the 2010 Mitropoulos Conducting Competition, the Charles Schiff Conducting Award for outstanding achievement at The Juilliard School, 1st Distinction at the V Witold Lutoslawski International Contest for Young Conductors, and the Bruno Walter Memorial Scholarship. Kirov has been awarded France's 2010 Young Conducting Talent Prize by the ADAMI Association, culminating in a showcase concert at the Salle Gaveau (Paris) with the Orchestre Colonne in 2010. In 2011, he conducted the Orchestre Colonne's season-opening concert and made his debut at the Musical Olympus International Festival in St. Petersburg, Russia.

He served as Assistant Conductor at the National Repertory Orchestra in 2009 and l'Orchestre de l'Opéra de Massy in France for the 2005-2006 season. He also worked as a cover conductor for Princeton Symphony in 2009-2010 and for a co-production between Opéra de Massy and Opéra National de Montpellier in 2005. Kirov has conducted major orchestras including the Memphis Symphony, Orchestre Colonne (France), Orchestra of Colors (Greece), State Hermitage Orchestra (Russia), New World Symphony, The Thüringen Philharmonic Orchestra (Germany), National Repertory Orchestra, Sofia Festival Orchestra, Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra "Leopolis" (Ukraine), The Juilliard Orchestra, The Lansing Symphony and others.

Kirov graduated from the Orchestral Conducting Program of The Juilliard School, where he studied with Maestro James DePreist. He also holds a master's degree from Ecole Normale de Musique de Paris, where his teacher was Dominique Rouits. Additionally, he has attended masterclasses with such distinguished conductors as Michael Tilson Thomas, Gianluigi Gelmetti, George Manahan and Asher Fisch.

As a pianist, Kirov is a gold medalist of the "Claude Kahn" International Piano Competition in Paris (2001) and has worked with eminent conductors such as Maestro James Conlon, Roberto Abbado and James Levine.

--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