Classical Music News of the Week, March 4, 2012

Legacy of Renowned Conductor Gerard Schwarz Captured in More Than 50 Seattle Symphony Recording Releases Through 2012

Release schedule includes more than fifty-four composers ranging from the Baroque to contemporary perdiods on Naxos, Artek, Delos, and Brilliance Audio labels.

More than 50 discs featuring Gerard Schwarz and the Seattle Symphony will be released in 2012 on Naxos, Delos, Artek and Brilliance Audio--offering a broad view of the extraordinary recording legacy of one of America's most prolific conductors.

Naxos kicked off the release cycle in September, 2011, with the Grammy-nominated Howard Hanson Symphony Cycle (originally released on the Delos label) with forty-six additional discs planned for release in 2012. The 2012 releases include recordings that will be added to the popular Naxos American Classics Series, and also the newly-created Seattle Symphony Collection to showcase Schwarz and the Seattle players in a wide selection of repertoire.  Three new discs recorded in 2010-2011 have also been commissioned directly from Naxos including the third part of a cycle of Rimsky-Korsakov's orchestral works, Dvorák's Symphony No. 6 paired with Janacek's rarely heard Idyll, and the first complete recording of Hindemith's ballet score Nobilissima Visione.  Among the forty-nine Naxos recordings are works by fifty-four composers ranging from the Baroque to contemporary periods.  Representing the breadth and depth of the conductor's vast repertoire, the recordings vary in genre, including major twentieth-century ballets by composers Stravinsky, Richard Strauss, Bartók, Ravel and Prokofiev, as well as multi-disc cycles of works by Schumann, Richard Strauss, Wagner and Stravinsky.  Schwarz's dedication to the promotion of American music is also represented, with recordings featuring the works of twenty-six American composers.

In 2012 Delos will also reissue Hovhaness: American Mystic on its own label to commemorate the 100th birthday of the composer.  Artek will release Mahler's Symphonies 3 and 10, continuing Schwarz's acclaimed Mahler Symphony Cycle.  Brilliance Audio will release Ballet for Martha, an audiobook featuring Sarah Jessica Parker telling the story of the creation of Copland's Appalachian Spring combined with a performance of the ballet's original version for 13 instruments.  This audiobook follows the successful release of Prokofiev's Peter and the Wolf (narrated by Jim Dale) for Brilliance Audio in 2011.

A prolific recording artist, Schwarz's total discography numbers more than 329 recordings on more than eleven labels.  His pioneering cycles of American symphonists have received high critical praise, as have his acclaimed series of Stravinsky ballets, symphony cycles of Robert Schumann, Gustav Mahler and Dmitri Shostakovich, and orchestral works of Richard Wagner, Richard Strauss and Rimsky-Korsakov.  In addition to his numerous recordings with the Seattle Symphony, he has also recorded with the Berlin Radio Symphony, Czech Philharmonic, English Chamber Orchestra, Juilliard Orchestra, London Symphony, Los Angeles Chamber Symphony, New York Chamber Orchestra, Orchestra National de France, Philadelphia Orchestra, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic and the Tokyo Philharmonic.

--Karen Ames, Seattle Symphony

Music Institute of Chicago Academy Holds Auditions April 20, 22
Gifted Pre-Collegiate Musicians Train for Professional Careers
The Music Institute of Chicago announces auditions for the Academy, an elite training program for gifted pre-collegiate string players and pianists seeking professional careers, for the 2012–13 academic year. Auditions take place Friday, April 20, 4-8 p.m. and Sunday, April 22, noon-4 p.m. at the Music Institute's Winnetka Campus, Thoresen Performance Center, 300 Green Bay Road.

Those auditioning will perform before a panel of adjudicators including MIC President and CEO Mark George, Academy Director James Setapen, and members of the Academy Artist Advisory. Additional auditions will take place in late August.

Guidelines for auditions are available here. For more information or to schedule an audition, contact Vice President of Administration Sue Polutnik at 847.905.1500, ext. 122.

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 fifty 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, skills, and improvisation in an intimate group setting. A hallmark of the Academy is the Enrichment program offering regular master classes, discussion panels, lectures, and workshops with internationally recognized visiting artists, masterful pedagogues, and professional experts in the field. 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.

--Jill Chukerman, JAC Communications

Peter Poston Announced as Winner of David Lang's YouTube Piano Competition; Pianist Andrew Zolinsky, Poston and Others to Perform at (le) poisson rouge, May 6 at 6 p.m.
In October 2011, composer David Lang called on music lovers around the world to upload their interpretations of his piece "wed" onto YouTube. Judges Vicky Chow, Jeremy Denk, Lisa Moore, and Andrew Zolinsky have reviewed the performance videos and are thrilled to announce winner Peter Poston, hailing from Melbourne, Australia.

The idea behind the contest was to create a larger sense of inclusion throughout the classical music world. As Lang has written, "Of course I hope that some people will submit their videos, but what makes me most excited is the hope that many more people will download the free sheet music and play the piece themselves. That makes me really happy." In a recent piece in the New York Times about the contest, Lang noted, "I'm not looking for something in particular in this. Sometimes if the point of a piece of music is to open a conversation with other people, it's really hard to open that conversation if you're telling people exactly what to do or feel or think." Read the entire article here. The competition's spirit of radical inclusion is a continual of Lang's long career: from starting the new music festival Bang on a Can with Michael Gordon and Julia Wolfe, to collaborating with noted choreographers such as Benjamin Millepied, Pontus Lidberg, Susan Marshall and others, to reaching out to the indie rock world with his recent "death speaks", to teaching the next generation of composers at Yale.

Peter Poston was judged to be the winner of the contest, and Katherine Dowling (Canada), Catarina Domenici (Brazil) and Denise Fillion (Queens, NY) were selected as the runners-up. Born in Houston, Texas, Poston has received a bachelor's degree in composition from the University of Houston and has studied composition with Patrice Mestral at the Ecole Normale de Musique in Paris. After living in Barcelona, Poston now makes his home in Melbourne, Australia with his wife. Poston will be flown to New York City to appear at (le) poisson rouge on May 6. The evening will include selections from Lang's most recent album on Cantaloupe Records, this was written by hand, performed by Andrew Zolinsky. Zolinsky will also play a new work for 4 hands written by Lang with Poston. Domenici, Dowling and Fillion will perform a new piece by Lang for six hands. Guitarist Derek Johnson will play his rendition of "wed", and special guests will complete the evening.

David Lang's latest CD, this was written by hand, was released by Cantaloupe Music on November 15, 2011. Earlier this week, Pitchfork wrote of the album, "To immerse yourself in this music is to hear a mind's churn. It can be perversely soothing." The disc is made up of two compositions, the title work "this was written by hand" and "memory pieces", both performed by Andrew Zolinsky. Zolinsky and Lang have a history of collaboration, as Zolinsky gave the first performances of both the works on this disc, as well as the premiere of 'fur,' commissioned by the BBC, and the ensemble works 'how to pray' and 'forced march.'

"this was written by hand" is a 10-minute piece for solo piano. The inspiration came from the physical process of writing music. "Writing music [used to be] an intensely physical activity," Lang muses in the album's liner notes. "I got my first computer in 1993, and I have not written music with a pencil ever since, but I wonder how - or if - the means of my writing had any effect on the writing itself. I wrote this piano piece to find out." The second part of the release is the eight-sectioned "memory pieces." Each was written to honor a friend of the composer who has passed away. They serve, however, less as monument than as an attempt to enclose a specific memory about the loved one. Lang explains, "Each of these little pieces highlights some aspect of my relationship with each friend. I hope this will help me hold on to these memories just a little while longer."

David Lang is one of the most highly esteemed American composers writing today. His works have been performed around the world and in many of the great concert halls. The recipient of a wide array of awards, Lang received the 2008 Pulitzer Prize in music for the "the little match girl passion", based on a fable by Hans Christian Andersen and Lang's own rewriting of the libretto to Bach's St. Matthew's Passion. The recording of the piece on Harmonia Mundi was awarded a 2010 Grammy Award for Best Small Ensemble Performance. His music is used regularly in ballet and dance productions around the world, by such choreographers as Benjamin Millepied, Twyla Tharp, Susan Marshall and Edouard Lock. Lang's film work includes the score for Jonathan Parker's recent (Untitled), the award-winning documentary The Woodmans, and the string arrangements for the soundtrack to Requiem for a Dream, performed by the Kronos Quartet. In addition to his work as a composer, Lang co-founded Bang on a Can, a prominent new music festival in New York. He is Professor of Composition at the Yale School of Music.

--Amanda Ameer, First Chair Promotion

Award-Winning Quintets Perform at Nichols Concert Hall April 15
Music Institute of Chicago Presents Quintet Attacca and Axiom Brass
Showcasing two of its accomplished ensembles-in-residence, the Music Institute of Chicago presents Quintet Attacca and Axiom Brass in a joint concert April 15 at Nichols Concert Hall, 1490 Chicago Avenue, Evanston.

Quintet Attacca will perform George Gershwin's Three Preludes, Irving Fine's Partita for Wind Quintet, and R. Murray Schafer's Minnelieder--Love Songs from the Medieval German for Mezzo-Soprano and Wind Quintet, featuring Music Institute faculty member and mezzo-soprano Julia Bentley.

Axiom Brass will perform David Sampson's Morning Music, James M. Stephenson's Celestial Suite, and Astor Piazzolla's Ave Maria, arranged by Axiom founding member Dorival Puccini, Jr.

About Quintet Attacca:
Quintet Attacca is an ensemble dedicated to bringing the unique sound of the wind quintet to all types of audiences; to this end, the quintet has played in venues across the Midwest, with extensive programming in Chicago. Quintet Attacca was the Grand Prize Winner of the 2002 Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition, one of only two wind quintets in the competition's 35-year history to receive the Grand Prize. The quintet has spent the past three years in residence with the Chicago Chamber Musicians' Professional Development Program, as well as being in residence at the Music Institute of Chicago and Lake Forest College.

About Axiom Brass:
Winner of the 2008 International Chamber Brass Competition and prize winner of the 2010 Fischoff Chamber Music Competition, the Preis der Europa-Stadt Passau, the Plowman Chamber Music Competition, and the Jeju City International Brass Quintet Competition in South Korea, Axiom Brass is dedicated to enhancing the musical life of communities across the globe. Axiom's commitment to education and its blend of virtuosic performances and dynamic teaching have inspired young audiences, earning the ensemble the 2011 Fischoff Educator Award. Axiom's repertoire ranges from jazz and Latin music to string quartet transcriptions, as well as original compositions for brass quintet. In addition to being an ensemble-in-residence at the Music Institute of Chicago, Axiom Brass has been appointed to the faculty of Boston University Tanglewood Institute for summer 2012.

--Jill Chukerman, JAC Communications

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John J. Puccio

John J. Puccio

About the Author

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.

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.

Contact Information

Readers with polite, courteous, helpful letters may send them to pucciojj@gmail.com.

Readers with impolite, discourteous, bitchy, whining, complaining, nasty, mean-spirited, unhelpful letters may send them to pucciojj@recycle.bin.

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa