Classical Music News of the Week, June 10, 2012

Merola Opera Program Season Opens with Schwabacher Summer Concert

Presented at the Herbst Theatre on Thursday, July 5 and free for the community on Saturday, July 7 at Yerba Buena Gardens.

The Merola Opera Program summer season will open with the popular Schwabacher Summer Concert, presented on Thursday, July 5, at 7:30 PM at the Herbst Theatre and offered to the community for free on Saturday, July 7, at 2 PM as part of the Yerba Buena Gardens Festival. Conducted by San Francisco Opera Resident Conductor Giuseppe Finzi and directed by Roy Rallo, the Schwabacher Summer Concert features extended scenes from four operas:  Donizetti’s Anna Bolena, Boïto’s Mefistofele, Bizet’s La jolie fille de Perth and Stravinsky’s The Rake’s Progress. Tickets for the concert at the Herbst Theatre are affordably priced and range from $25 to $40, with a special student price available.

A native of Bari, Italy, Finzi made his San Francisco Opera debut in 2008 conducting The Elixir of Love for Families and returned for performances of La Bohème (2008), The Abduction from the Seraglio (2009), Faust (2010), La Fanciulla del West (2010), Aida (2011) and Carmen (2012), as well as the San Francisco Opera’s performances at the 2009 and 2011 Stern Grove Festivals.

Stage director Roy Rallo has worked with Merola often. He has twice staged the Schwabacher Summer Concert (2009 and 2010) and his most recent stage direction included Il barbiere di Siviglia in 2011. An internationally acclaimed stage director, Rallo’s past work includes a new production of Strauss's Ariadne auf Naxos for the Opéra National de Bordeaux and a new music-theater piece, the Methusalem Projekt, for the Nationaltheater und Staatskapelle Weimar.

The Schwabacher Summer Concert is named in memory of James H. Schwabacher (1920-2006). Mr. Schwabacher, a noted singer and scholar, was not only instrumental in the establishment and development of the Merola Opera Program – he became its heart and soul, demonstrating an unwavering commitment to the next generation of vocal talent. He provided vital financial and administrative stewardship to Merola, serving as President of the Board of Directors for 29 years and subsequently as Chairman of the Board for 15 years.

The Schwabacher Summer Concerts are graciously underwritten, in part, by the Frances K. and Charles D. Field Foundation, Rusty Rolland and the Schick Foundation, the Jack H. Lund Charitable Trust and the Grace A. Diem and Alice E. Siemmons Fund. Giuseppe Finzi is sponsored by James Heagy and Roy Rallo is sponsored by Mrs. A. Barlow Ferguson.

Merola Opera Program:
Schwabacher Summer Concert
Thursday, July 5, 7:30 PM
War Memorial Veterans Building, Herbst Theatre
Tickets: $40/$25

Schwabacher Summer Concert
Saturday, July 7, 2 PM
Yerba Buena Gardens, Mission St. between 3rd and 4th Streets

Postcard from Morocco
Dominick Argento
Sung in English with English supertitles
Thursday, July 19, 8 PM
Saturday, July 21, 2 PM
Cowell Theatre at Fort Mason Center
Tickets: $60/$40

La finta giardiniera
W.A. Mozart
Sung in Italian with English supertitles
Thursday, August 2, 8 PM
Saturday, August 4, 2 PM
Cowell Theatre at Fort Mason Center
Tickets: $60/$40

Merola Grand Finale and Reception
Saturday, August 18, at 7:30 PM
War Memorial Opera House
Tickets: $45 Grand Tier & Orchestra Prime/$35 Orchestra/$25 Dress Circle
Reception begins at 10 PM in the Green Room
(Reception tickets are an additional $50 each)

Tickets for the July 5 concert are $25 and $40, in addition to a student price of $15.*

A season discount of 10% applies through June 1 if tickets for the Schwabacher Summer Concert, Postcard from Morocco, La finta giardiniera and the Merola Grand Finale are purchased together. Tickets for all performances may be purchased by calling San Francisco Opera Box Office at (415) 864-3330: Monday 10 a.m. – 5 PM and Tuesday through Friday 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. or on-line at

*Student tickets must be purchased in person at the Box Office window, located inside the War Memorial Opera House at 301 Van Ness Ave. Valid student ID is required.

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

--Karen Ames Communications

Woodstock Mozart Festival Presents 26th Season, July 28-August 12
All-Mozart opener followed by programs of Bach, Grieg, Mahler, Schubert, Mendelssohn, and more.

Grammy-winning artists and three diverse concert programs make up the Woodstock Mozart Festival’s 26th season July 28–August 12, 2012 at the Woodstock Opera House. Single tickets are on sale now.

The program lineup is as follows:
July 28 and 29: Chicago keyboard artist David Schrader, conductor—all-Mozart program:
Symphony No. 29 in A Major, K. 201 reveals traces of the 18-year-old’s Viennese experiences, both in its four-movement form and in an undercurrent of urgency; it also shows influences from one of his Salzburg neighbors, Michael Haydn, younger brother of Joseph.
Piano Concerto in C Major, K. 246 (No. 8) Lützow was written for Countess Antonia Lützow, married to the nephew of Prince-Archbishop Colloredo.
Piano Concerto in E-flat Major, K. 271 (No. 9) Jeunehomme, regarded as Mozart’s first mature piano concerto, was written for French virtuoso Mlle. Jeunehomme.
Schrader will play and conduct from his instrument, sharing information about the work in a “concert with conversation” format.

August 4 and 5: Grammy-winning violinists Igor Gruppman, conductor, and Vesna Gruppman:
Bach’s Concerto in D Minor for Two Violins and Strings, BWV 1043 was one of his most famous instrumental works, among the religious compositions so integral to his expression.
Grieg’s Holberg Suite, Opus 40 was created by one of the 19th century’s most distinguished composers of songs, rarely deviating from creating nationalistic music; Grieg composed this piece in honor of Ludvig Holberg, celebrated as the founder of Danish literature.
Mahler’s Adagietto for Strings and Harp, from Symphony No. 5 in C-sharp Minor, is a departure from the composer’s song-oriented approach, featuring a scherzo with French horn obbligato; Mahler finished the piece shortly after marrying Alma Schindler.
Mendelssohn’s Symphony No. 9 in C Major shows influences from Mozart and Beethoven, as well as folk music the 14-year-old composer heard in Switzerland the summer prior to its completion.
Arnold’s Concerto for two Violins and Strings, Opus 77, from the composer of the Academy Award-winning score for the film The Bridge on the River Kwai, was commissioned by Yehudi Menuhin for the 1962 Bach Festival and later earned the Gruppmans a Grammy.

August 11 and 12: Dutch conductor Arthur Arnold; former Chicago Symphony principal oboist Alex Klein:
Pleyel’s Symphony in D Major, Opus 3, No. 1 is one of the better-known works from a largely forgotten figure of the Classic era, who wrote hundreds of works.
Mozart’s Concerto for Oboe and Orchestra in C Major, K. 314, was composed for Salzburg’s new oboist Guiseppe Ferlendis and contains a theme Mozart used later in his Abduction from the Seraglio.
Schubert’s Symphony No. 5 in B-flat Major, D. 485 was written for spare instrumentation to reflect the conditions of its performances—by a small group of devotees playing in Viennese homes.
Choro no Capricho, Brazilian oboist Alex Klein’s choro version of Paganini’s 24th Caprice, interweaves Brazilian elements with the original work.

The 2012 Woodstock Mozart Festival takes place July 28–August 12, Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m. at the Woodstock Opera House, 121 Van Buren Street, Woodstock. Pre-concert introductions take place one hour before each of the performances August 4, 5, 11 and 12. Tickets are $30–52, $25 for students, per program, and are available through the Woodstock Opera House Box Office at 815-338-5300 or at For more information about the Festival, visit

About the Woodstock Mozart Festival:
The Woodstock Mozart Festival’s first performances took place in 1987 at the restored 1880s Woodstock Opera House in an environment reminiscent of Mozart’s day. From the beginning, the Festival showcased internationally recognized guest artists and conductors during its three weekends of concerts in late July and early August. The Festival’s goal is to inspire and educate audiences of all ages through a chamber orchestral program of an outstanding caliber, which is centered on Mozart. The Woodstock Mozart Festival is a member of the League of American Orchestras and the Illinois Arts Alliance. Funding is provided by the Illinois Arts Council, the Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation, the MacArthur Fund for Arts and Culture, the AptarGroup Charitable Foundation and private and corporate contributions.

--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