Classical Music News of the Week, April 2, 2012

Director Nicholas McGegan and Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra and Chorale Announce 2012-1013 Season

Nicholas McGegan and the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra, dedicated to historically informed performance of Baroque, Classical and Early Romantic music on original instruments, announce their 32nd season.

Music Director Nicholas McGegan leads the ensemble in four concerts as well as a California tour in January.  Maestro McGegan opens the season with a unique all-Purcell program in October, showcasing the phenomenal Philharmonia Chorale. Led for the past fifteen years by Director Bruce Lamott, the Chorale has been praised for recent performances with San Francisco Classical Voice writing, "the Philharmonia Chorale was the star from beginning to end… superbly sung" of the December 2011 performances of Bach's Mass in B Minor.  With countertenor Clifton Massey and individual soloists from the Chorale, Philharmonia Baroque brings to life Purcell's magnificent birthday ode to Queen Mary--Come Ye Sons of Art--in addition to the rollicking drinking songs in the rarely performed "semi-opera" Dioclesian. Over the course of its history, Philharmonia Baroque has performed large-scale Purcell works such as Fairy Queen, Dido and Aeneas, Indian Queen, and King Arthur; these October performances of Dioclesian conclude the cycle.

Led by Maestro McGegan, the November concert programs feature Beethoven's Symphony No. 4 performed using instruments from the period when Beethoven premiered the symphony in 1807.  Internationally renowned pianist Emanuel Ax makes his Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra debut in these concerts with Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 4. Emanuel Ax will perform on fortepiano, the instrument for which Beethoven composed, using an instrument constructed during Beethoven's lifetime. The program also includes Beethoven's Twelve Contredanses for Orchestra.  In addition to the four regular subscription performances, this concert will also be presented at the Mondavi Center at the University of California, Davis.

Bach specialist Masaaki Suzuki, Music Director of the Bach Collegium Japan since its founding in 1990, makes his Philharmonia Baroque debut in two sets of special concerts with the Orchestra and Chorale, joined by soloists from Yale University's Institute of Sacred Music.

Soprano Sherezade Panthaki, mezzo-soprano Fabiana González, tenor Dann Coakwell and bass-baritone Dashon Burton join Suzuki, the Orchestra and Chorale for performances of Handel's Messiah with a concert at UC Berkeley presented by Cal Performances, and at Sonoma State University in the inaugural season of the Green Music Center. Following their performances of Messiah, Maestro Suzuki leads the Orchestra, Chorale and Yale University soloists in music of Johann Sebastian Bach.  The concerts include Orchestral Suite No. 3, Cantata No. 63 Christen, äzet diesen Tag and the special Christmas version of Magnificat.

In January, Music Director Nicholas McGegan leads the Orchestra on tour to Carmel, La Jolla and Stanford in performances showcasing concertmaster Elizabeth Blumenstock in Vivaldi's Le quattro stagioni, recently recorded and released on the ensemble's own label and described by San Francisco Classical Voice as  "….brimming with color, vitality and imaginative interpretation of the programmatic cues in the music." Maestro McGegan returns in February for concerts featuring two beloved Philharmonia Baroque wind players – Marc Schachman and Danny Bond – performing Johann Christian Bach's Sinfonia Concertante for Oboe and Bassoon. Haydn's Symphony No. 44, "Trauer," J.C. Bach's Symphony Op. 6 No. 6 and Mozart's Symphony No. 29 round out the program.

English violinist Rachel Podger, one of the most creative talents to emerge recently in the field of period performance, joins Philharmonia Baroque in March. Over the last two decades she has established herself as a leading interpreter of the music of the Baroque and Classical periods – she led The English Concert from 1997 to 2002 and is a guest director of the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment – and holds numerous recordings to her name ranging from the early 17th century to Mozart. These concerts feature Baroque concerti for one, two and four violins by Vivaldi, Corelli, Pergolesi, Locatelli and Mossi.

Philharmonia Baroque's 32nd season comes to a close in April with opera-in-concert performances of Handel's rarely performed opera seria, Teseo, featuring many of the same cast members who worked with McGegan in the final performances of his 20-year tenure as music director of the Göttingen International Handel Festival in summer 2011. Maestro McGegan and the Orchestra are joined by sopranos Amanda Forsythe, Dominique Labelle, Amy Freston and Céline Ricci, as well as countertenors Robin Blaze and Drew Minter. Amanda Forsythe will be making her Philharmonia Baroque debut; she has earned accolades for several roles at the Boston Early Music Festival.  Though the opera received approximately a dozen performances in the months after its January 1713 premiere, it received only two revivals between 1713 and 1984. Musical America, in reviewing the Göttingen  performances, said "Demonstrating a keen instinct for shaping Handel's phrases, McGegan made an inspired case for the little-known score."

During Philharmonia Baroque's regular season, the Orchestra will perform in Herbst Theatre in San Francisco, First Congregational Church in Berkeley, and at two venues on the Peninsula: The Center for Performing Arts in Atherton and Stanford University's new Bing Concert Hall in Stanford.

Philharmonia Baroque will continue to release recordings on its Philharmonia Baroque Productions label; its second release, Haydn: Symphonies Nos. 104 "London," 88, and 101 "The Clock" was nominated for a GRAMMY Award for Best Orchestral Performance in 2011. The Orchestra plans a number of releases in the next year, details of which will be announced at a later date.

Music Director Nicholas McGegan stated, "This season is book-ended by spectacular vocal events, Purcell's rollicking Dioclesian and Handel's virtuosic Teseo, and brings to our concert halls three major international music stars in Emanuel Ax, Masaaki Suzuki and Rachel Podger. Our field of historically-informed performance offers a never-ending wealth of discovery both to the musicians and the audiences, and I'm thrilled to be part of it. It's especially gratifying that we have now received GRAMMY nominations for both our recently released Haydn CD and our 1990 recording of Handel's Susanna."

--Karen Ames Communications

Violinist Chad Hoopes Wins Prestigious Meck-Pomm Award
The prestigious Festspiele Mecklenburg-Vorpommern awards 17-year old violinist Chad Hoopes the Audience Award. Chad joins the ranks of other known artists to win Meck-Pomm awards including Daniel Müller-Schott, Julia Fischer, Nikolaj Znaider and Daniel Hope.

Chad Hoopes One of the most important cornerstones of the Festspiele MV is the long-term promotion of outstanding young musicians from around the world. In the 2011, thirty-four young soloists and ten ensembles applied to the 35 "Junge Elite" concerts to win one of these elite junior-prizes.    

Playing at the recommendation of Daniel Hope at Festspiele MV, Chad won the hearts of concert-goers in August 2011, and subsequently received the Reederei F. Laeisz sponsored award for his performance with pianist Mara Mednick in Nossentin, Germany. He will return in subsequent seasons to perform at the festival.

American violinist Chad Hoopes has been appearing with numerous ensembles throughout the world since he won the first prize at the Young Artists Division of the Yehudi Menuhin International Violin Competition. He is a violinist possessing vibrant virtuosity "with an inspiring blend of emotional expression and technical ease" (Press Democrat), and his mastery is described as "way beyond his years" (Press Democrat).

This season, Chad is the third Artist-in-Residence in the history of the Classical Minnesota Public Radio. As part of MPR's Artist-In-Residence program Chad plays concerts throughout the greater Minneapolis/St. Paul area and participates and leads educational activities at local schools, talking about the importance of music and the arts. He is often joined by Classical MPR host Steve Staruch, and blogs about his experiences at classicalmpr.org.

His recent debuts include such orchestras as the Vancouver Symphony, San Francisco Symphony, Utah Symphony, Pittsburgh Symphony, Houston Symphony, San Diego Symphony, Cleveland Orchestra, Minnesota Orchestra, Brussels Chamber Orchestra, Orchestra of the Welsh National Opera, Colorado Music Festival Orchestra, and Trondheim Symphony. He has recently collaborated with the National Arts Centre Orchestra in Ottawa, Canada.

Chad was born in Naples, Florida, in 1994 and at the age of four began his violin studies in Minneapolis. He later studied at the Cleveland Institute of Music under David Cerone and Joel Smirnoff and has additionally studied at Ottawa's NAC Young Artists Program. Chad is living in Cleveland where he is in his final year of high school.

Chad plays the 1713 Antonio Stradivari Cooper; Hakkert; ex Ceci violin, courtesy of Jonathan Moulds and is represented worldwide by Tanja Dorn at IMG Artists.

--Amanda Sweet, Bucklesweet Media

Twenty-nine Artists from Eight Countries to Participate in Twelve-Week Intensive Merola 
Opera Program
Conductors Nicholas McGegan, Guiseppe Finzi, Mark Morash, and Gary Wedow lead performances this summer including Merola Grand Finale, Schwabacher Summer Concert, Mozart's La Finta Giardiniera and Dominick Argento's Postcard from Morocco.

Twenty-three singers, five apprentice coaches, and one apprentice stage director, representing eight different countries, will participate in the 55th season of the Merola Opera Program from May 28 to August 18, 2012. Almost 900 artists—a record number of applicants—vied for the 29 coveted spots in the 2012 summer program, which is offered free of charge for all participants. Selected through an extensive audition and application process, this season's artists come from eight countries: United States, Bulgaria, Canada, China, Italy, New Zealand, South Korea, and Russia.

The 2012 summer marks the Merola Opera Program's return to a full 12-week training program for the apprentice coaches and apprentice stage director (11 weeks for the singers) and a return to 29 artists. It will also be the first time in several years that the program will present two staged operas rather than one opera with two casts.  Dominick Argento's Postcard from Morocco, directed by Peter Kazaras and conducted by Mark Morash, will be presented Thursday, July 19 at 8:00 p.m. and Saturday, July 21 at 2:00 p.m. at the Cowell Theatre at Fort Mason Center.  W.A. Mozart's La finta giardiniera, directed by Nic Muni and conducted by Gary Wedow, will be presented Thursday, August 2 at 8:00 p.m. and Saturday, August 4 at 2:00 p.m. at the Cowell Theatre at Fort Mason Center.

Performance is a key element of the program throughout the summer. Conducted by San Francisco Opera Resident Conductor Giuseppe Finzi and directed by Roy Rallo, the Schwabacher Summer Concert will feature extended scenes from diverse repertoire that spans classic Italian bel canto, French romanticism and a 20th century masterwork. The concert will be presented on Thursday, July 5 at 7:30 p.m. at the Herbst Theatre and on Saturday, July 7 at 2:00 p.m. in a free outdoor concert at Yerba Buena Gardens.  The season concludes with the annual Merola Grand Finale, conducted by Nicholas McGegan, on the main stage in the magnificent War Memorial Opera House on Saturday, August 18 at 7:30 p.m.

Merola artists participate in master classes with opera luminaries such as Stephen Blier, Warren Jones, Martin Katz and Carol Vaness (Merola '76) along with SF Opera Center Director of Musical Studies Mark Morash ('87).  Guest teachers such as Alessandra Cattani, John Churchwell ('96), Susanne Mentzer, Robin Guarino, Peter Grunberg,  and Patricia Kristof-Moy provide training in voice, foreign languages, operatic repertory, diction, acting and stage movement.

One of the world's most prestigious young artist training programs, the Merola Opera Program was founded in 1957 and has since served as a proving ground for thousands of artists, including six internationally acclaimed singers appearing with the San Francisco Opera this summer: Quinn Kelsey ('02), Hye Jung Lee ('10), Simon O'Neill ('02), Nathaniel Peake ('08, '09), Alek Shrader ('07) and Chen-Ye Yuan ('98).

"It should be a very exciting summer," said Opera Center General Director Sheri Greenawald. "We have an extremely talented and versatile group of artists this summer and we are thrilled to be able to showcase them in two really special operas and our very popular Schwabacher Summer Concert. We have some incoming tenors who specialize in high Cs and some possible Helden singers, both of which should be exciting for Merola audiences."

"We are thrilled that Merola continues to be such an international program, and that we consistently attract artists from all around the world," said Merola Opera Program Executive Director Jean Kellogg. "It is a testament to the quality of the program that each year even more artists, from the United States and beyond, want to be a part of the Merola Opera Program, and for the second year in a row we are very pleased to have received a record number of applications."

For more information about Merola, please visit www.merola.org or phone (415) 551-6299.

--Karen Ames Communications

Orion Ensemble Offers World Premiere Jazz Piece to Conclude Season
As the concluding concert of its 2011-12 season--"Chamber Treasures Meet Chicago Jazz"--The Orion Ensemble presents "All That Jazz!" featuring a world premiere by guest pianist Miguel de la Cerna, a Fauré quartet and Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue. Performances are May 6 at Music Institute of Chicago's Nichols Concert Hall in Evanston, May 9 at Roosevelt University's Ganz Memorial Hall in Chicago and May 13 at Fox Valley Presbyterian Church in Geneva.

The Program:
This concert exemplifies the season's theme, beginning with the "chamber treasure," Gabriel Fauré's Quartet in C Minor, Op. 15, which demonstrates the charm and reason, the serene grandeur and the sincere humanity of Fauré's music. The first movement Allegro is full of lush modulations and a wealth of textures and colors. The second movement is playful and imaginative, the third is a harmonically rich binary song, and the finale is a fast but substantial classical sonata form.

The program's world premiere commission by Chicago jazz musician Miguel de la Cerna, who also will perform with Orion, represents "Chicago jazz" by covering various eras of the genre. Describing the four-movement piece, entitled Livingston 8 – A Fantasy, de la Cerna said, "I decided to use the music of my life, growing up and living on the South Side of Chicago from 1960 until today. The piece is a jazz, blues, gospel, funk improvisation fantasy written for a traditional chamber ensemble."

Bridging these two pieces, chronologically and aesthetically, is George Gershwin's American classic Rhapsody in Blue, here arranged for clarinet and piano by Timofei Dokshitser.

Miguel de la Cerna:
Miguel de la Cerna, a Hyde Park native, is a multifaceted pianist, conductor and music director. He is most known for his jazz arrangements for singers but is also accomplished in classical music and musical theatre. Miguel has performed at the Chicago Jazz Festival, and he received critical acclaim for his arrangements and direction of Dee Alexander's Tribute to Nina Simone and Dinah Washington at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park. Miguel was featured pianist and arranger for the Eldee Young Quartet, which made extensive tours of Europe, Southeast Asia and the Middle East.

The Orion Ensemble:
Founded in 1992, the Orion Ensemble boasts a roster of five superb musicians—Kathryne Pirtle (clarinet), Florentina Ramniceanu (violin), Diana Schmück (piano), Judy Stone (cello) and Jennifer Marlas (viola)—who have performed with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, National Symphony, Moscow Philharmonic, San Francisco Symphony, Chicago Lyric Opera Orchestra and Chicago's Music of the Baroque orchestra, and at music festivals including Ravinia, Aspen, Mostly Mozart, Hollywood Bowl, Taos Chamber Music, Salzburg and Banff. The Chicago Tribune called Orion "one of Chicago's most vibrant, versatile and distinctive ensembles," and the Chicago Sun-Times said Orion is "what chamber music should be all about: Individual virtuosity melded into a group personality." The Orion Ensemble received a Chamber Music America/ASCAP Award for Adventurous Programming for its critically acclaimed millennium celebration, "An Inside Look at Contemporary Music." The group is the Ensemble-in-Residence at Roosevelt University's Chicago College of Performing Arts. Orion also tours, performing in chamber music series across the country. Its most recent CD is Twilight of the Romantics. The Orion Ensemble is supported in part by grants from the Illinois Arts Council, a state agency; the MacArthur Fund for Arts and Culture; the Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation; and the Arts Work Fund for Organizational Development.

Performance and Ticket Information:
The Orion Ensemble's "All That Jazz!" concert program takes place Sunday, May 6 at 7:30 p.m. at Music Institute of Chicago's Nichols Concert Hall, 1490 Chicago Avenue in Evanston; Wednesday, May 9 at 7:30 p.m. at Roosevelt University's Ganz Memorial Hall, 430 S. Michigan Avenue in Chicago; and Sunday, May 13 at 7 p.m. at Fox Valley Presbyterian Church, 227 East Side Drive in Geneva. Single tickets are $26, $23 for seniors and $10 for students; children 12 and younger are free. A four-ticket flexible subscription provides a 10 percent savings on full-priced tickets. For tickets or more information, call 630-628-9591 or visit orionensemble.org.

--Jill Chukerman, JAC Communications

The Baton May Have Switched, But the Orchestra Plays On
The City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra has just completed its longest European tour in fourteen years and, whilst the standing ovations and rave reviews continued throughout, there was an unexpected change towards the end. The final three concerts were conducted by Associate Conductor Michael Seal, who took over at very short notice from Andris Nelsons, the CBSO's internationally respected Music Director.

The thirteen-date tour took in some of the most prestigious venues in Europe and featured two of the world's most celebrated performers – tenor Jonas Kaufmann and pianist Rudolf Buchbinder. It was due to be conducted in full by Andris, but after ten performances, he was forced to withdraw when his baby daughter was rushed to hospital. With just one hour to go before the Orchestra stepped on stage in Dortmund, Mike stepped in.

"This was such a last minute decision but we had a show to do. We'd performed the concerts a number of times before on the tour but obviously I'd played as a musician. Standing in front of capacity crowds guiding the Orchestra through the works required a very different mindset but it was a challenge I was more than willing to take on," said Mike.

"The Orchestra, as ever, played brilliantly. I'm proud to have been able to step in and also proud to be part of an Orchestra that can pull together so well as a team to deliver great performances for ecstatic audiences."

Mike continued at the helm in Heidelberg (for a concert broadcast on German radio) and Baden-Baden, and drew a great response from audiences and critics as well as the two star soloists. Stephen Maddock CBSO Chief Executive said: "As Associate Conductor, Mike regularly conducts the CBSO in a wide range of concerts in Birmingham. However, in his other capacity as a violinist with the Orchestra, he had already performed thirteen concerts in March, and it was a tremendous achievement to take on these concerts at such short notice. It is testament to the nature of the CBSO and to Mike's fantastic professionalism and skill in these difficult circumstances. The Orchestra continued to play to their world-class standard and ensure that CBSO is both respected for its talent and also its commitment to great music-making.

"Andris is currently in Riga with his family where his daughter is hospital. Our thoughts are with him and his family, and we fully respect their privacy during this difficult time."

Mike Seal will also replace Andris for the CBSO's next two concerts at Bridgewater Hall in Manchester on 29 March and at Symphony Hall on 30 March 2012.

--Ruth Green, CBSO

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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