Classical Music News of the Week, May 27, 2012

Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg and the New Century Chamber Orchestra Announce 2012-2013 Season

Season includes Lera Auerbach as featured composer, eight-state national tour, tour tour kick-off concerts, Benjamin Britten Centennial concerts, and return appearances by soprano Melody Moor and pianist Anne-Marie McDermott.

Music Director Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg and the New Century Chamber Orchestra announce the 2012-2013 Season including four subscription weeks and two special tour kick-off concerts. The ensemble’s 21st Season, Nadja’s fifth as music director, includes composer and pianist Lera Auerbach as Featured Composer, New Century’s most extensive national tour to-date, a concert series celebrating the centennial of composer Benjamin Britten, Vivaldi’s beloved work The Four Seasons, and the return of New Century favorites Anne-Marie McDermott and Melody Moore. The 2012-13 Season will also include an Open Rehearsal Series, featuring five Rehearsals in San Francisco, which will allow audiences to experience the Orchestra’s dynamic and collaborative rehearsal style. On May 8, in conjunction with the announcement of the 2012-13 Season and in celebration of the exciting artistic partnership established between Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg and the ensemble, NSS Music releases On Our Way: The Journey of Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg and the New Century Chamber Orchestra. The DVD candidly reveals how one of the most electrifying soloists and daring recording artists in the classical music world came to partner with New Century Chamber Orchestra and includes a live tour concert and behind-the-scenes footage of rehearsals and candid comments from orchestra members revealing their personal journey with music.

The 2012-13 Season opens with a celebration of Britten’s centennial featuring the composer’s Simple Symphony and Les Illuminations, performed by soprano Melody Moore. Writing of the 2007 performances in San Francisco Classical Voice, which also featured Ms. Moore, Lisa Hirsch said…  “Les Illuminations is most commonly performed with a full-size string orchestra….NCCO's nineteen players might as well have been fifty, so overwhelming was the performance. The piece soars, glitters, buzzes, thrums like a guitar, and over it all, the soloist must also soar. She (Moore) matched Britten and NCCO's wizardry note for note, phrase for phrase, executing every detail in the score with complete command and captivating the audience in the process.” Bartok’s Divertimento is also featured in the program.

Pianist-composer Lera Auerbach joins New Century for the 2012-13 Season as Featured Composer, a program begun by Salerno-Sonnenberg in her first season as music director. The composer’s Sogno di Stabat Mater for Solo Violin, Viola, Vibraphone and String Orchestra,a reworking of the 18th-century Italian sacred work by Giovanni Pergolesi’s famous Stabat Mater in which Auerbach filters the old baroque style through a contemporary lens, will be featured on concerts in December. To showcase the ensemble’s virtuosic musicians as soloists, the December concerts also feature Vivaldi’s beloved The Four Seasons, Handel’s Solomon, Entrance of the Queen Sheba and Clarice Assad’s Suite for Lower Strings, based on themes of Bach.

Following the success of their November 2011 East Coast Tour, New Century Chamber Orchestra will embark on the most extensive tour in their history and their third under the leadership of Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg. Bay Area audiences will get a chance to hear tour repertoire including works by Mendelssohn, Bolcom, Hector Villa-Lobos and Richard Strauss at tour kick-off concerts January 13 and 15 in Herbst Theater and the Center for the Performing Arts at Menlo-Atherton High. The January 13 concert will be immediately followed by An Evening Serenade Gala Fundraiser in the Green Room, with proceeds benefitting the Orchestra’s education and artistic programs. The Gala is being sponsored for the second year in a row by City National Bank. From January 18 through February 2, New Century will perform nine tour concerts in Kentucky, Tennessee, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, Illinois and Michigan. National releases of the DVD, On Our Way, and two recent acclaimed CDs – in addition to fifteen national radio broadcasts on NPR’s Performance Today – have contributed to the national awareness of what Sir Simon Rattle called “the best kept secret in San Francisco.”

Frequent NCCO collaborator and acclaimed pianist Anne-Marie McDermott returns to perform Mozart’s Piano Concerto in A Major, K.414and Chausson’s Concert for Piano, Violin and String Quartet, a major work of chamber music which will feature Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg on the violin. New Century begins the program with Osvaldo Golijov’s Last Round, a work for double string quartet and double bass, written in memory of his fellow countryman, the great Argentinean tango master, Astor Piazzolla. Writing in the Atlanta Journal Constitution, Susan Elliot said, “The work's first movement had the intensity and velocity of a white-hot meteorite speeding toward Earth. The second movement, ethereal and melancholy, benefited from a warm, rich and cohesive string sound.”

A world premiere from Lera Auerbach will close the season in May. Written expressly for New Century, the work is entitled Sinfonia for Strings (Primera Luz). Joseph Haydn’s Symphony No. 45: “Farewell” and Richard Wagner’s Siegfried Idyll, commemorating the bicentennial of Wagner’s birth, complete the final subscription concert program.

“In our fifth season together, the members of the orchestra and I are more deeply connected to one another – and to San Francisco – than ever,” says Music Director Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg. “We welcome back old friends and look forward to making new ones. We all deeply respect Melody Moore’s artistry and are in awe of her exquisite voice. She last performed orchestrations of Schubert lieder with New Century, and next season she’ll reprise her extraordinary Les Illuminations. And Anne Marie McDermott will perform both a Mozart Piano Concerto and Chausson’s extraordinary Concert for Piano, Violin and String Quartet – a piece I have been wanting to do with New Century since I came here five years ago!”

Subscriptions to the New Century Chamber Orchestra are on sale now. Regular Subscription packages range from $104 to $224; subscription packages including a Tour Kick-Off concert range from $130 to $280. Create-Your-Own Subscriptions are also available. Call (415) 357-1111 ext. 4 or email to request a season brochure. Single tickets range in price from $29 to $59 and go on sale August 1 through City Box Office: or at (415) 392-4400. Discounted $15 single tickets are available for patrons under 35.

For further information on New Century, please visit

--Karen Ames Communications

The National Philharmonic Receives Chester Petranek Award for Outstanding Community Service
The National Philharmonic has been selected by the Maryland Classic Youth Orchestra Board of Directors  to receive the 2012 MCYO Chester J. Petranek Community Award for outstanding community service in enriching the musical life of the Washington Metropolitan Area.

This award was established in 1986 as a tribute to Chester J. Petranek, the distinguished educator and conductor who founded MCYO, now a top youth orchestra program, in 1946. The award is presented each year to an individual or group for “outstanding community service in enriching the musical life of the Washington Metropolitan Area.”  Past winners have included the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, David Lashof of Lashof Violins, Dale Music Company, the Friday Morning Music Club and Chuck Levin of Chuck Levin’s Washington Music Center.

With this award, the MCYO is expressing its appreciation and gratitude for the many exemplary contributions the National Philharmonic makes in support of young musicians. The award will be presented at the forthcoming MCYO concert on May 20th at 3 p.m. in the Music Center at Strathmore concert hall. For tickets, please visit

--Deborah Birnbaum, National Philharmonic

Fischoff Victories Showcase Strength of Chamber Music Program
Music Institute Academy ensembles take first and third in Junior Division

The Music Institute of Chicago confirmed its status as one of the best schools in the nation for chamber music study with students from its prestigious Academy for gifted pre-college musicians earning first and third place wins in the Junior Division of the 2012 Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition. The Music Institute offers one of the largest and most accomplished chamber music programs in the U.S. and presents some of the finest chamber music ensembles at Nichols Concert Hall.

Founded in 1973 in South Bend, Indiana, the Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition, presented by the Fischoff National Chamber Music Association, has become the largest chamber music competition in the world and one of the most illustrious classical music prizes attainable today. Since its founding, more than 5,000 musicians have participated, many of whom have gone on to distinguished careers in music performance and education.

Quartet Stracciatella, coached by Academy faculty member Marko Dreher and featuring Erika Gray, violin (16, Wilmette); Hyun Jae Lim, violin (14, Wilmette); Stephanie Block, viola (17, Barrington); and Johannes Gray, cello (15, Wilmette), earned the First Place Medal and Scholarship of $2,000.

The Third Place Medal and Scholarship ($1,000) went to the Quartet Ardella, coached by Academy faculty members Hans Jorgen Jensen and Desiree Ruhstrat and featuring Laura Park, violin (18, Des Plaines); Jennifer Cha, violin (16, Naperville); Devon Naftzger, viola (18, Lincolnshire); and Ben Solomonow, cello (16, Evanston).

In addition, the judges made an unprecedented move to award two honorable mention designations, one of which went to the Academy’s Pallas Trio featuring Kelly Talim, violin (16, Buffalo Grove); Mariel Werner, cello (20, Belgrade, Montana); and Kate Liu, piano (17, Winnetka).

“The quality of contestants at this weekend’s Fischoff competition was very high,” commented Academy Director Jim Setapen. “From an initial field of 70 junior applicant groups nationwide, 10 of the 24 quarterfinalists were from the Music Institute and six of the 12 semi-finalist groups advancing were from the Music Institute’s Academy. This is a tribute to the extremely high level of chamber music instruction at the Academy and the Music Institute, as well as to the students’ dedication to excelling in this area of their music studies.”

Students in the Music Institute’s Academy have taken first place in the Junior Division in four of the past five years, as well as earning five additional top medals:

    2012 – 1st, Quartet Stracciatella; 3rd, Quartet Ardella
    2010 – 1st, Quartet Danae; 2nd, Emerald String Quartet
    2009 – 1st, Aurelia String Quartet; 3rd, Quartet Danae
    2008 – 1st, Quartet Polaris; 2nd, Ridere Quartet; 3rd, Aurelia String Quartet

In addition to wins at Fischoff, two Academy chamber groups made it to the final round in this year’s St. Paul String Quartet Competition, showcasing the nation’s finest pre-college string players. Academy groups took first and second place in both 2009 and 2010. This year, Quartet Ventoso, coached by Academy faculty member Desiree Ruhstrat and featuring Jennifer Cha and Erika Gray, violins; Caitlin Adamson, viola (17, Evanston); and Johannes Gray, cello, received the Haydn Prize for best interpretation of the master’s work and Audience Prize.

Another competition in which the Academy has dominated is the Jules M. Laser Chamber Music Competition, which offers chamber ensembles with members ages 10–18 the chance to win a $1,200 award, live broadcast on WFMT 98.7 and performance opportunities at the Music in the Loft and 2012 Society of American Musicians’ Winner's Concert. This year, Quartet Ventoso took first place, the fourth consecutive year of first place wins for Music Institute ensembles.

Broadcast on more than 200 stations nationwide to an audience of more than 700,000 listeners each week, From the Top is one of the most popular classical music programs on radio. Many Music Institute students and alumni have performed on the program, most recently the Academy’s Al Dente String Quartet featuring Ade Williams, violin (14, Chicago); Claire Bourg, violin (17, Aurora); Caitlin Adamson, viola (17, Evanston); and Tara Safavi, cello (16, Naperville).

The Music Institute of Chicago offers one of the largest chamber music programs in the U.S. with nearly 200 Community Music School chamber music participants each year and more than 30 dedicated coaches. Ensembles in residence—Lincoln Trio, WarnerNuvoza, Quintet Attacca (2002 Fischoff Grand Prize Winner) and Axiom Brass (2010 Fischoff winner and 2011 Fischoff Educator Award)—enhance faculty instruction as well as expose Chicago-area students to chamber music through the Music Institute’s ArtsLink outreach program. The fall application deadline is July 15; late deadline is September 1. For more information visit

In addition to its robust program of chamber music instruction, the Music Institute of Chicago presents some of the best professional chamber groups working today in the historic Nichols Concert Hall. Celebrating its 10th anniversary during the 2012–13 season, Nichols will host the Lincoln Trio (September 23), winners from the 2012 Fischoff Competition (October 21), WarnerNuzova (November 17), Pacifica Quartet (February 16), the Lincoln String Quartet, and more. For more information visit

--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 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 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