Classical Music News of the Week, July 1, 2012

Paul Jacobs to Perform at Westminster Cathedral in London as part of the 2012 Grand Organ Festival on July 25

ELGAR: Sonata in G Major, Op. 28              
OQUIN: Reverie                                        
BACH: Prelude and Fugue in A minor, BWV 543
BOULANGER: Trois Pieces                           
DEMESSIEUX: Transcendental Etudes, Op. 5  

After a successful season filled with American recital dates, a tour with Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony, and world premieres of works by Michael Daugherty and Mason Bates, organist Paul Jacobs performs in London for the first time on July 25, at Westminster Cathedral as part of the Grand Organ Festival 2012. For the concert, Jacobs is delighted to play works by Elgar, Bach, Boulanger, Demessieux, and Wayne Oquin.

The evening begins with Edward Elgar's Sonata in G Major, Op. 28. Written in a frenzy of inspiration in 1895, this substantial but little-known large-scale work requires the organist to function almost as the conductor of a large orchestra, commanding a vast tonal palette and wide range of expression from the instrument's thousands of pipes. Jacobs will continue with Reverie by composer Wayne Oquin (b. 1977). Reverie was commissioned by Jacobs in 2008 and has received several performances across the United States. He will also play Nadia Boulanger's Trois Pieces (1911). An extremely self-critical composer, Trois Pieces provide a rare glimpse into her creative output. The night will conclude with several of the legendary organ virtuoso Jeanne Demessieux's Transcendental Etudes, Op. 5 (1944). Demessieux herself performed in Westminster Cathedral.

In addition to his work as an in-demand performer, Jacobs is an advocate for the organ. As the head of Juilliard's Organ Department, Jacobs is active in the training of the next generation's organ superstars, and he has commissioned or given world premieres of works by Michael Daugherty, Mason Bates, and Wayne Oquin. Next summer, Jacobs is proud to be a part of Longwood Gardens' inaugural International Organ Competition as a judge. Along with Thomas Murray, Professor of Music at Yale University; Oliver Condy, Editor of BBC Music Magazine; Sophie-Veronique Cauchefer-Choplin, Titular of the Grand Orgue of Saint Jean-Baptiste de la Salle in Paris; and Peter Richard Conte, Grand Court Organist at Longwood Gardens, Jacobs will award the largest cash prize of any organ competition in the world: a $40,000 first prize. The winner will additionally receive a contract with Phillip Truckenbrod Concert Artists, and a 2013-14 performance at Longwood Gardens. Second place receives the Firmin Swinnen $15,000 prize and third place receives the Clarence Snyder $5,000 prize. Swinnen and Snyder were past resident organists at Longwood. The competition hopes to inspire, recognize, and nurture young brilliant organists, and will be held June 18-23, 2013.

The Grand Organ of Westminster Cathedral is considered by many to be the greatest achievement and crowning glory of Henry Willis III, one of England's finest organ builders. The first state of the organ was dedicated by Marcel Dupré in 1922. In 1932, the organ was completed with specification now 11 stops larger than had originally been intended. Since its inauguration, the instrument has been heard in concerts played by many celebrated organists from around the world including Louis Vierne, Fernando Germani, Jeanne Demessieux, Pierre Cochereau, Jean Langlais, George Thalben-Ball, Ralph Downes, Jean Guillou and others.

From April to December 2012, Westminster Cathedral presents a series of eight concerts under the name Grand Organ Festival. The unique and inspiring atmosphere of this sacred space creates a magnificent setting for organ music, and the position of the great four manual instrument high above the West Door provides the listener without he most direct and comprehensive range of sound and color of any cathedral organ in the country.

An extraordinarily expressive performer and an intensely intelligent musician, Grammy Award-winning organist Paul Jacobs is helping the King of Instruments retake its rightful place in classical music. He is known for his marathon performances, which sometimes last up to 18 hours, of the complete works of Bach, Messiaen, and other composers, as well as his presentations of new works and core repertoire. Jacobs was invited to join the faculty of the Juilliard School in 2003, and was named chairman of the organ department in 2004, one of the youngest faculty appointees in the school’s history. He received Juilliard’s prestigious William Schuman Scholar’s Chair in 2007. More information on Paul Jacobs can be found on his Web site:

--Amanda Ameer, First Chair Promotion

Merola Opera Program Presents Dominick Argento’s Postcard from Morocco July 19 and 21
The Merola Opera Program presents Dominick Argento’s rarely performed Postcard from Morocco on Thursday, July 19 at 8 PM and Saturday, July 21 at 2 PM at the Cowell Theatre at Fort Mason Center. The cast features Canadian soprano Aviva Fortunata, tenor AJ Glueckert, baritone Joseph Lattanzi, Canadian soprano Suzanne Ridgen, who will be returning to Merola this summer having participated in the program in 2011, bass-baritone Matthew Scollin, Canadian mezzo-soprano Carolyn Sproule and tenor Andrew Stenson. Merola alumnus Mark Morash will conduct the production and renowned stage director Peter Kazaras will direct.

Focusing on a group of passengers and their luggage in a train station, the production is dreamlike and surreal and unfolding a bit like a mystery. “The opera is really about bullying,” says Director Peter Kazaras. “As the story unfolds we see characters who are jealous and insecure, bullying someone who is steadfast in pursuit of his dream. Although he is beaten at first, he [the Man with a Paint Box] eventually ‘triumphs’ by virtue of having the most gloriously beautiful and lyrical music in the score. The opera asks us to examine how much we can ever really hope to know about other people's hopes and aspirations.”

Mark Morash currently serves as the Director of Musical Studies for San Francisco Opera Center and Merola audiences saw him most recently conducting the 2011 production of Il barbiere di Siviglia. Peter Kazaras staged the 2011 Schwabacher Summer Concert as well as Merola’s popular production of Albert Herring in 2008. He has received worldwide acclaim as an operatic tenor and currently serves as Seattle Opera’s Artistic Advisor and Principal Artistic Instructor of the Young Artist Development Program. Kazaras was recently appointed Director of Opera and Music Theater at UCLA.

The Merola Opera Program is dedicated to the continuing education and training of the finest young operatic talent and the development of this talent into professional opera singers, coaches and stage directors of the highest artistic caliber. Merola operates in close artistic collaboration with San Francisco Opera but is an independent nonprofit organization. Governed by a separate board of directors, Merola is responsible for its own long-term financial stability and fundraising, and is grateful to the hundreds of loyal members, donors and foundations who support the Program.

Led artistically by San Francisco Opera Center Director and internationally acclaimed soprano Sheri Greenawald, the Merola Opera Program is an independent nonprofit organization which operates in collaboration with the San Francisco Opera. Founded in 1957 and named for San Francisco Opera’s founder, Gaetano Merola, the Program is recognized as one of the most prestigious operatic training programs in the world. The Merola Opera Program typically receives more than 800 applications for approximately 30 positions. Throughout the summer, the Merola artists participate in master classes and private coachings with opera luminaries. Participants – who include singers, apprentice coaches and an apprentice stage director – also receive training in operatic repertory, foreign languages, diction, acting and stage movement.

About Postcard from Morocco
Postcard from Morocco is a contemporary opera in one act featuring an eclectic mix of ragtime, cabaret and operetta. Dominick Argento’s opera is recognized as a musical masterpiece and considered by many to be one of the most important operas of the 20th century. The opera follows characters at a train station – and their luggage. Although there is not a clearly discernible plot, the Man with a Coronet Case, who appears to live in the train station, tries to manipulate the passengers. The passengers rebel against the Man and cause him to lose control over the other characters, except for the Lady with the Hat Box whom he eerily controls at the close of the opera. Running time is about 90 minutes with no intermission.

Tickets for Postcard from Morocco are $40 and $60, in addition to a student price of $25.* Call San Francisco Opera Box Office at (415) 864-3330 to purchase tickets Monday 10 AM – 5 PM or Tuesday – Friday 10 AM – 6 PM. The Cowell Theater is located in the Fort Mason Center on Marina Boulevard at Buchanan Street, along the northern waterfront between Aquatic Park and the Marina Green.

*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.

2012 Season Sponsors include the Bernard Osher Foundation, the Frances K. and Charles D. Field Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts and Rusty Rolland & the Schick Foundation.

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

--Karen Ames Communications

Ukrainian pianist Valentina Lisitsa Makes Royal Albert Hall Debut Following Impressive YouTube Presence
The live Royal Albert Hall concert will be her first release for Decca, available digitally June 26 and everywhere July 24.

With more than 44 million views and over 53,000 subscribers on her YouTube channel, Ukrainian pianist Valentina Lisitsa is breaking viral records in the classical music genre, and becoming a fast rising star on the international concert scene.  Lisitsa has successfully used social media to kick-start an entirely self-made career, posting electrifying video performances and communicating directly with her fans. She will be making her buzzed about London debut at the Royal Albert Hall on June 19th, and releasing the audio of the performance as her first recording for the Decca label.  The music will be available digitally on June 26th, followed by a wide physical release on July 24th.

Where many classical artists merely use social media to help promote their existing touring and recording schedules, Valentina Lisitsa has turned the traditional business model upside-down by using the platform to help launch her career all on her own, without first aligning herself with a tour promoter or record company.

Valentina Lisitsa has already performed at such prestigious venues as Carnegie Hall and Avery Fisher Hall in New York and the Vienna Musikverein, and in countries as far apart as the Netherlands and Brazil, while this season includes her orchestral debuts with the Helsinki Philharmonic and the Colorado Symphony and recital appearances at Ravinia, the Festival of the Arts BOCA, the Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires and the Casals Festival in Puerto Rico, as well as further collaborations with the violinist Hilary Hahn (with whom she has recorded the four violin and piano sonatas by Charles Ives).

Yet, when Valentina Lisitsa played her only previous solo concert in the UK, it wasn’t in a proper concert hall, but in a small church outside London. To her surprise, it was overflowing with eager fans she had made through her performances online. So she took the next brave step and approached the UK’s largest and most famous concert hall to see if it would agree to host her London debut. Suitably impressed by her YouTube success, the Royal Albert Hall duly agreed – in an unprecedented step – to open its doors for the young musician’s London debut on June 19th.

Jasper Hope, Chief Operating Officer of the Royal Albert Hall, says: “Valentina is a force of nature and an extraordinary talent. I don’t know anybody else who has done this before and we simply had to open our doors to her.”

As the first classical artist ever to make their London debut in a solo recital at the 5,000-seat Royal Albert Hall, Valentina Lisitsa has decided to turn the concert into a massive thank-you to her many loyal fans and regular YouTube viewers by inviting them to vote online and choose for themselves the exact pieces that she will perform. By visiting her website at, fans chose from a range of repertoire including works by Beethoven, Chopin, Liszt and Rachmaninoff.

Valentina Lisitsa says: “I could not have done this without all my fans online around the world. Their reactions tell me every day that I am doing the right thing and that’s the best reward for my hard work. Now I want to say thank you and give them a great concert live and online. Basically it’s a gathering for friends old and new. It’s a concert, but it’s also a celebration. There’s a lady from Barbados coming, people from New Zealand

Valentina Lisitsa will also be streaming her June 19th concert live on the internet, so becoming the first classical solo artist ever to do that from the Royal Albert Hall.

Born in Kiev, Ukraine, but now resident in the USA, Valentina Lisitsa began playing the piano at the age of three and performed her first solo recital just one year later. She has won several awards for her playing internationally, has recorded three independently-released DVDs (including a best-selling set of Chopin’s 24 Études), and has recently recorded all of Rachmaninoff’s piano concerti, plus his Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, with the London Symphony Orchestra under conductor Michael Francis.

 --Olga Makrias, Decca & Deutsche Grammophon U.S.

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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