Classical Music News of the Week, April 22, 2012

Pianist Brian Ganz & Clarinetist Richard Stoltzman Kick Off the National Philharmonic's Debussy 150th Anniversary Festival at Strathmore

Award-winning pianist Brian Ganz and renowned clarinetist Richard Stoltzman perform an All Debussy concert with the National Philharmonic, under the direction of Music Director and Conductor Piotr Gajewski, on Saturday, May 5 at 8 pm at the Music Center at Strathmore. This concert kicks off the May National Philharmonic celebration of the music of Claude Debussy, which includes companion Strathmore-presented events in the Mansion, to mark the 150th anniversary of the birth of one of the most important French composers. The festival includes performances of Debussy's most popular orchestral, chamber and keyboard works as well as a Washington-area premiere of his magnificent large choral work, The Martyrdom of St. Sebastian.

The evening begins with Debussy's 1892 L'Après-midi d'un Faune ("The Afternoon of a Faun"), which was inspired by the pastoral poem of the same name, published 16 years earlier by the great Symbolist poet Stéphane Mallarmé. The famous opening flute solo "brought new breath to the art of music," said composer and conductor Pierre Boulez.

Next Mr. Ganz performs the vibrant Fantaisie  for Piano and Orchestra (1890).  Following, Mr. Stoltzman, a two-time Grammy Award winner, plays Debussy's dreamy and melodic Rhapsody for Clarinet and Orchestra.  Debussy, who loved the sea, never traveled farther on it than across the English Channel. However, in La Mer, the last piece of the evening, his passion for the ocean is paramount, as his orchestral music gives forth its aura with subtle impressions and exquisite details.

About the Soloists:
Mr. Ganz is widely regarded as one of the leading pianists of his generation. A laureate of the Marguerite Long Jacques Thibaud and the Queen Elisabeth of Belgium International Piano Competitions, Mr. Ganz has appeared as soloist with such orchestras as the St. Louis Symphony, the St. Petersburg Philharmonic, the National Philharmonic, the Baltimore Symphony, the National Symphony and the City of London Sinfonia, and has performed with such conductors as Leonard Slatkin, Piotr Gajewski, Marin Alsop and Mstislav Rostropovich.  Mr. Ganz is Artist-in-Residence at St. Mary's College of Maryland and is on the piano faculty of the Peabody Conservatory of Music. He lives in Annapolis.

Clarinetist Richard Stoltzman's virtuosity, musicianship and sheer personal magnetism have made him one of today's most sought-after concert artists. As a soloist with more than a hundred orchestras, a captivating recitalist and chamber music performer, an innovative jazz artist, and as a prolific recording artist, the two-time Grammy Award winner has defied categorization, dazzling critics and audiences alike throughout many musical genres. In 1986, he became the first wind player to be awarded the Avery Fisher Prize. In 2006, he was awarded the prestigious Sanford Medal by the Yale School of Music.

His talents as a jazz performer as well as a classical artist have been heard far beyond his annual tours. He has performed or recorded with such jazz and pop greats as Gary Burton, the Canadian Brass, Chick Corea, Judy Collins, Eddie Gomez, Keith Jarrett, the King's Singers, George Shearing, Wayne Shorter, Mel Tormé, and Spyro Gyra founder Jeremy Wall.

About the Conductor:
National Philharmonic Music Director & Conductor Piotr Gajewski is widely credited with building the Philharmonic to its present status as one of the most respected ensembles of its kind in the region. 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, the Okanagan Symphony in Canada and numerous orchestras in the United States.

About the National Philharmonic:
Led by dynamic Music Director and Conductor Piotr Gajewski, 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 and Philharmonic Associate Conductor Victoria Gau.
A free pre-concert lecture will be offered at 6:45 pm on Saturday, May 5 in the Concert Hall at the Music Center at Strathmore. To purchase tickets to the May 5 All Debussy concert, please visit or call the Strathmore box office at (301) 581-5100. Tickets to the National Philharmonic concerts 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. For more information, visit

--Deborah Birnbaum, National Philharmonic

The Bach Sinfonia Presents the Bohemian Baroque: Zelenka
Cultural Arts Center at Silver Spring
Montgomery College
7995 Georgia Ave.
Silver Spring, MD 20910

$30 adult
$27 seniors (60 and up)
$15 (ages 15 – University)
FREE (ages 14 and under)
Order Online at or call (301) 362-6525

The Bach Sinfonia presents The Bohemian Baroque: Zelenka on Saturday, May 5th at 8 p.m. featuring the first performance since the 18th century of the complete cycle of the orchestral suites known as Capriccios by the Bohemian born composer Jan Dismas Zelenka (1679-1745). Played on period instruments by the Bach Sinfonia, joined by two of the most in demand soloists on natural horn, R.J. Kelley and Alexandra Cook, these works are colorful and virtuosic. While similar to the Brandenburg Concertos, the soloistic demands of these concerti surpass the better-known works by Bach.

A free pre-concert discussion precedes this and all Bach Sinfonia performances at 7:15 PM led by Daniel Abraham.

About the Music:
Little is know about Zelenka's life as a composer working in the Catholic Court of Dresden. No memoirs or letters from Zelenka survive and only a few documents regarding his personal life have been recovered. Only recently have scholars begun to examine Zelenka's rich output and his place within the extremely colorful and imaginative school of Dresden's musical Baroque. Zelenka's music is representative of the pinnacle of high Baroque art—it demonstrates exceptional compositional technique, brilliant melodic inventiveness, and a shear uniqueness of style. His instrumental works, in particular, comfortably sit alongside those of his better-known European contemporaries: Telemann, Rameau, Handel, and J. S. Bach. The five Capriccios are Zelenka's most important cycle of orchestral compositions. As extended suites, they were likely composed as entertainments to follow par force hunting fêtes organized for the Electoral Prince Friedrich August I of Saxony. Allegorical features associated with the hunt became strong symbols within the Hapsburg court. Each Capriccio includes a pair of cornida caccia (hunting horns) as emblematic of the hunt and as an acknowledgment of the strong Viennese tradition of horn use. The passagework for the horns, particularly for the principal player, is remarkable and stalwartly virtuosic. There are few examples in the literature (Baroque or beyond) that impose the same demands on the horn players. Even Bach's well-known "Brandenburg" Concerto No. 1, while undeniably demanding, does not call for the dexterity, stamina, and extreme clarino (high register) playing that Capriccios require from the horns.

About the Solo Performers:
Equally at home on the concert stage as he is gigging with CeeLo Green, R.J. Kelley, a premiere natural horn specialist, was recently hailed in the Horn Call (Journal of the International Horn Society) as performing "with virtuosity, precision, and a stylistic mastery that could be matched by few, surpassed by none." A member of Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra since 1982, Kelley is a horn player of unusually broad musical scope, equally at home as soloist (Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra, American Classical Orchestra, Santa Fe Pro Musica), chamber musician (Manhattan Brass, Smithsonian Chamber Players, Aspen Wind Quintet, Universal Piston), orchestral performer (New York Philharmonic, Orpheus, American Ballet Theater, Gotham Opera, Mostly Mozart), recording artist (Mozart Concerti on natural horn, Grammy-nominated Das Lied von der Erde – Mahler/Schoenberg reduction), and educator (artist faculty, Julliard School of Music; guest teacher/lecturer: Yale University; Hartt School of Music; SUNY Stony Brook; Washington University; San Jose State University). He has participated in music festivals worldwide (Edinburgh, Berkeley, Boston, and Bloomington Early Music festivals; Montreux-Detroit, Sacramento, and Mammoth Lake Jazz festivals; Mostly Mozart, Lincoln Center, Washington Square Park), has made appearances on "Saturday Night Live," the "Today Show," "Late Night with David Letterman," and has recorded over 70 CDs (Philharmonia Baroque, New York Philharmonic, Manhattan Brass) and films (Casanova, Snake Eyes). His commercial credits include artists ranging from Jimmy Page and Puff Daddy, to Johnny Mathis, Little Anthony and the Imperials, the Killers, Chuck Mangione, and CeeLo Green. A Detroit native and founding member/past president of the Detroit Waldhorn Society, he has resided in the New York City area since 1989.

Alexandra Cook has been playing horn in the New York metropolitan area for the past twenty-five years. She started her career as a chamber musician playing with the award winning woodwind quintet Vox Nova. Cook has performed with Orchestra of St. Lukes, Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, New York City Opera, Brooklyn Philharmonic, American Composers Orchestra and Riverside Symphony, and has held positions with the Northeastern Pennsylvania Philharmonic, New Haven Symphony, and Orchestra of New England. Cook has also played numerous Broadway shows including Gypsy, Secret Garden, The Who's Tommy, The King and I, Titanic and is currently a member of the Lion King Orchestra. As a student studying horn and performance practice at SUNY Purchase, Cook pursued her interest in original instruments and has been an active member of the period instrument movement from the beginning of her career. On period instruments, Cook has performed and recorded with many early music ensembles; American Classical Orchestra, Philharmonia Baroque, Smithsonian Chamber Music Society, Amor Artis, Apollo Ensemble, Concert Royal, REBEL Baroque Orchestra, Trinity Baroque Orchestra, New York Collegium and American Bach Soloists. Her recording with the American Classical Orchestra Recording of the Beethoven Sextet and Septet, were called "wonderful buoyant performances" and "the best performance now available" by American Record Guide.

About the Bach Sinfonia:
The Bach Sinfonia is a Maryland-based organization dedicated to excellence in performance and public education of Baroque and Classical music. Lead by Conductor and Artistic Director Daniel Abraham, the ensemble is now in its 17th season of presenting an annual series of unique concerts, open dress rehearsals, and listening lectures of music from the seventeenth and eighteenth century. Sinfonia strives to create programs that differ from the standard classical music concert with performances that aren't just listening entertainments but are also learning experiences.

Jan Dismas Zelenka: Capriccios
(first complete hearing as a cycle)
Capriccio in D Major, ZWV 182 [c.1717]
Capriccio in G Major, ZWV 183 [c.1718]
Capriccio in F Major, ZWV 184 [c.1718]
Capriccio in A Major, ZWV 185 [c.1718]
Capriccio in G Major, ZWV 190 [c.1729]

--Jennifer Buzzell, Bach Sinfonia

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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