Classical Music News of the Week, February 26, 2012

Music Institute Announces Winners of 2012 Generation Next Young Composer's Competition

The Music Institute of Chicago has announced the winners of its Generation Next Young Composer's Competition, which encourages and promotes the development of young composers:

First place: Jonas Tarm, 18, Highland Park, Ill. for Las Ruinas Circulares for flute, violin, cello, and piano. Tarm is a student in the Music Institute's prestigious Academy for gifted pre-college musicians.
Second place: Robert Didier, 17, St. Charles, Ill. for Beatitudes–6 Preludes for piano
Third place: Chason Goldfinger, 16, Malvern, Penn., for Mediterrarabian Pastiche, Op. 10 for Solo Clarinet in B-flat
Honorable Mention: Joseph Jordan, 12, New York, for Impromptu on a CD Going Haywire for solo piano

Students from the Academy will perform the three winning compositions at its free Young Composer's Concert March 9 at 7:30 p.m. at Nichols Concert Hall, 1490 Chicago Ave., Evanston, Il. The program also will feature works from the Music Institute's Composer's Lab Program, created by Composer-in-Residence Mischa Zupko, and performances by young composers from the studio of Chicago-based composer Dr. Stacy Garrop. The Music Institute again has partnered with 98.7 WFMT to record the performance for future broadcast on the popular radio program Introductions, which celebrates talented pre-college classical musicians.

The concert is part of the Music Institute's annual Four Score Festival, which celebrates contemporary music--this year highlighting Charles Ives March 4 and Aaron Copland March 11.

--Jill Chukerman, JAC Communications

EMI Classics in Partnership with the Juilliard School Announce Global Release of  "The Juilliard Sessions," Available Exclusively on the iTunes Store
February 21, 2012 marked the global release of the Juilliard Sessions, a partnership between EMI Classics and the Juilliard School that aims to present to the world some of classical music's most promising young stars in a series of digital EP albums. The three inaugural recordings are by recent Juilliard alumni Paul Appleby (tenor) and Sean Lee (violin), as well as pianist Conrad Tao, who is a Pre-College alumnus currently at Columbia University studying in the combined bachelor-master degree program with Juilliard. They will be released by EMI Classics, available now exclusively on iTunes (

This unprecedented joint initiative offers a way to help these students gain exposure and experience in the fast-moving digital world of today's classical music, teaching them the process of recording and releasing an album online.

Each student was selected by a panel of judges first at Juilliard, then at EMI Classics, and was given the opportunity to record an EP-length album consisting of repertoire they themselves selected.  The EPs are mastered specifically with iTunes in mind, using high-resolution sourced audio to deliver the music to listeners exactly the way the artists and recording engineers intended. The end result provides fans with an incredibly rich and detailed listening experience.

Juilliard will celebrate the release with a free public concert featuring all three students in performance on Monday, March 12th at 8:00 p.m. in the School's Paul Recital Hall (155 W. 65th St., New York, 10023; Messrs. Appleby, Lee, and Tao will perform selections from the tracks recorded for The Juilliard Sessions.  Free tickets are available starting February 27 at the Janet and Leonard Kramer Box Office at Juilliard, 155 West 65th Street, Monday – Friday, 11 a.m. - 6 p.m. Phone 212 769-7406; information at

The three EP releases feature a broad variety of repertoire, reflecting the diverse musical tastes of the three winners.  Pianist Conrad Tao chose a pair of Debussy preludes, followed by Stravinsky's Three Movements from 'Petrushka' (a piano arrangement of music from the ballet of the same name), and closing with a work composed by Conrad himself, entitled Three Songs.  Tenor Paul Appleby recorded a trio of Schubert songs and Britten's Seven Sonnets of Michelangelo.  Twenty-four year old violinist Sean Lee recorded Richard Strauss's Sonata for Violin & Piano in Eb major, a work written when the composer was the same age as Lee is now.

The Digital Debut Series--which launches with The Juilliard Sessions recordings and a similar series of releases from students at The Royal College of Music, London--is an initiative by EMI Classics to present to international audiences the work of some of classical music's most promising young stars.  Beginning with two the world's most prestigious music schools, Digital Debut plans to expand each year to include new conservatories from around the world.

--Andrew Ousley, EMI Classics

Emerson String Quartet Announces Departure of Cellist David Finckel. Paul Watkins to join quartet in Fall 2013
The Emerson Quartet announced what will be its first member change in 34 years when cellist Paul Watkins replaces David Finckel at the end of the 2012-2013 concert season. Mr. Finckel, who joined the Emerson Quartet in 1979, will leave the group to devote more time to his personal artistic endeavors.

Eugene Drucker, Philip Setzer and Lawrence Dutton jointly stated: "For more than thirty years we have worked intensively with David Finckel, sharing countless personal and musical experiences. Our collegial feelings toward this marvelous cellist are mingled with awe and admiration for his manifold talents as a chamber music player, soloist and artistic director of two major presenting organizations and a recording company. Anyone who comes into contact with David must be struck by his unflagging energy, insatiable appetite for work and astonishing ability to manage his time (without which his three parallel careers would be impossible). His passionate, uncompromising commitment to our art could serve as a beacon to those who have lost their way in these economically and culturally disorienting times.

The impending departure of such an extraordinary colleague has given us a chance to reassess our goals and articulate a new vision for the future of the Emerson String Quartet.

It is only fitting that David's successor be a multi-talented musician, an accomplished conductor as well as an outstanding soloist and experienced chamber music player. In Paul Watkins, we three upper string players of the ESQ will continue to find a source of inspiration. Since Paul is almost two decades younger than the rest of us, we see his coming both as an opportunity to reaffirm and renew our commitment to the musical values we have long held dear, and as a chance to ensure the continuation of the Emerson String Quartet beyond the participation of any individual member."

The Emerson String Quartet has an unparalleled list of achievements: nine Grammy Awards (including two for Best Classical Album, an unprecedented honor for a chamber music group), three Gramophone Awards, the coveted Avery Fisher Prize and an international reputation for groundbreaking chamber music projects and correlated recordings. In addition to a career which has been unrivaled by any string quartet, Philip Setzer, Eugene Drucker, Lawrence Dutton and David Finckel are respected for their integrity, the tireless effort with which they reach out to others on behalf of the music they serve, and a unique generosity of spirit and enthusiasm which has remained untarnished for thirty-three years.

--Kirshbaum Demler & Associates

William VerMeulen to Perform Mozart's Horn Concerto No. 3 with National Philharmonic at Strathmore
Horn player William VerMeulen will perform  Mozart's charming Horn Concerto No. 3 in E-flat Major with the National Philharmonic, under the direction of  Associate Conductor Victoria Gau, on Saturday, March 24, 2012 at 8 pm at the Music Center at Strathmore. The All Mozart concert will also feature the composer's moving Requiem in D minor, with soprano Esther Heideman, mezzo-soprano Linda Maguire, tenor John Aler, bass Kevin Deas and the National Philharmonic Chorale. The program also includes Mozart's Serenade in G Major, K. 525 (Eine Kleine Nachtmusik).

Assistant Conductor Victoria Gau makes her National Philharmonic debut in this all-Mozart concert, which opens with the composer's joyful and beloved Eine Kleine Nachtmusik ("A Little Night Music"). The Horn Concerto No. 3 was written for the outstanding horn player Joseph Leutgeb, a lifetime friend of Mozart's.  Mozart's Requiem, his final and arguably greatest work that was left unfinished at his death, has generated speculation, rumor and mystery, beginning with melancholy fantasies of the composer himself. It is considered one of Mozart's most profound and moving works.

Principal Horn of the Houston Symphony, a position he has held since 1990, William VerMeulen, leads his generation of American horn soloists. He is hailed as "an impeccable solo horn" by the Berlin Neue Zeit; In Tune magazine comments, "the horn playing of William VerMeulen is miraculous!...clearly one of today's superstars of the international brass scene;" and Fanfare magazine observes, "Horn virtuoso William VerMeulen may be the best of the lot, commanding his difficult instrument with suavity and grace."

Lauded by critics for her "strong sense of style and drama" and her "enthusiastic and perceptive conducting,"  National Philharmonic Associate Conductor Victoria Gau is Artistic Director and Conductor of the Capital City Symphony and former Conductor and Music Director of the Richmond Philharmonic Orchestra.

A free pre-concert lecture by National Philharmonic Music Director & Conductor Piotr Gajewski will be offered at 6:45 pm on Saturday, March 24 in the Concert Hall at the Music Center at Strathmore. To purchase tickets to the All Mozart concert, please visit or call the Strathmore box office at (301) 581-5100. Tickets are $28-$81; 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. Photo of horn player William VerMeulen was taken by Eric Arbiter.

--Deborah Birnbaum, National Philharmonic

Music Institute of Chicago Honors Pulitzer Prize Winner Stephen Sondheim at 82nd Anniversary Gala, May 1
The Music Institute of Chicago, now in its 82nd year, hosts its annual gala Tuesday, May 1 at the Four Seasons Hotel Chicago, 120 East Delaware Place. The oldest community music school in Illinois and one of the three largest community music schools in the nation, MIC is planning a celebratory evening highlighted by the presentation of the Dushkin Award to internationally acclaimed stage and film composer/lyricist Stephen Sondheim.

Chaired by Alexandra C. and John D. Nichols, the evening begins at 5:30 p.m. with cocktails and hors d'oeuvres, followed by an elegant dinner and awards presentation.

The prestigious Dushkin Award, established 26 years ago and named for MIC's visionary founders Dorothy and David Dushkin, recognizes international luminaries in the world of music for their contributions to the art form, as well as to the education of youth. Past recipients include Riccardo Muti, Yo-Yo Ma, Leon Fleisher, Renée Fleming, Placido Domingo, William Warfield, Isaac Stern, Sir Georg Solti, Pierre Boulez, Samuel Ramey, and Bruno Bartoletti, among others. This year's recipient, Stephen Sondheim, has been honored with multiple Tony Awards, as well as Grammy and Academy Awards, and the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1985.

The Music Institute of Chicago will confer its third annual "Cultural Visionary Award for Chicago," which recognizes individuals who have provided visionary philanthropic and civic leadership for the broad spectrum of arts in Chicago and Illinois, on Marilynn Alsdorf, an unparalleled leader in supporting Chicago's visual arts institutions.

Musical performances throughout the evening will include young musicians from both the Music Institute's Community School, including the Musical Theater program, and the prestigious Academy for gifted pre-college musicians, many of whom receive financial aid or scholarship support. Ensemble in residence Axiom Brass also will perform.

Honorary Chairs for MIC's 82nd Anniversary Gala include John H. Bryan, Joan W. Harris and Cindy Pritzker, all of whom received the inaugural "Cultural Visionary Award for Chicago" at the 2010 80th Anniversary Gala.

The generosity of individuals and companies who support the annual gala provide the primary source of scholarship and financial aid programs that benefit more than 5,000 students annually at the Music Institute's eight primary campuses, as well as through its extensive outreach programs in Chicago Public Schools and with community-based nonprofit organizations.

Tickets to the Music Institute of Chicago's 82nd Anniversary Gala are $550. For information, please call 847.448.8327.

--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 John 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 ofThe $ensible Soundmagazine 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 simple-minded, 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 Onkyo C-7030 CD player, Legacy Audio StreamLine preamplifier, Legacy Audio PowerBloc2 amplifier, and a pair of Legacy Audio Focus SE speakers augmented by a Legacy Point One subwoofer. 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 LG G7 ThinQ cell phone, which features surprisingly sophisticated audio circuitry. 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.

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