Classical Music News of the Week, July 22, 2012

Ryan Brown Awarded Medaille d'or du rayonnement

Having proven himself a beacon of light in preserving and renewing French music, conductor Ryan Brown has been honored with the Medaille d'or du rayonnement from La Renaissance Française. For more than a decade, Brown has delighted international audiences with his re-discovery and inspired performances of masterful French operas of the 17th and 18th centuries.

Brown is the founder, artistic director, and conductor of the Washington, D.C., based Opera Lafayette which, in addition to sold out seasons at the Kennedy Center and in New York City, has been engaged in an ambitious recording agreement with Naxos since 2005. Recent releases in their quickly growing discography include Monsigny's Le Deserteur and Rebel and Françoeur’s Zélindor, roi des Sylphes.

Continuing his mission of casting light on ignored French masterpieces, Brown recently led Opera Lafayette in their debut performance of Monsigny's compelling Le Roi et le fermier at the Opera Royal in Versailles. This autumn Opera Lafayette fans can expect Naxos to release Grétry's Le Magnifique, followed by Le Roi et le fermier in 2013.

The non-profit French organization La Renaissance Français was founded in 1916. Brown was presented with his award by French Ambassador François Delattre on May 31st in Washington, D.C.

--Schwalbe and Partners, Inc.

Merola Opera Program Presents Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s La Finta Giardiniera August 2 and 4
Program presents Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s La finta giardiniera on Thursday, August 2 at 8 PM and Saturday, August 4 at 2 PM at the Cowell Theatre at Fort Mason Center, San Francisco, CA. The cast features bass-baritone Gordon Bintner, tenor Casey Candebat, soprano Jennifer Cherest, tenor Theo Lebow, mezzo-soprano Sarah Mesko, soprano Jacqueline Piccolino and soprano Rose Sawvel. The production will be directed by Nicholas Muni and Gary Thor Wedow will conduct.

“La finta giardiniera is an opera that explores post-traumatic stress syndrome and identity crisis, within the language and traditions of commedia dell'arte,” says director Nic Muni. “It is a piece rife with stock characters, outlandish turns of plot and, at the same time, it is a piece of striking originality in its exploration of human behavior in extremis, leaving us with this question: Is it actually meant to be humorous or is the subject matter too complex and profound to be a comedy?”

Conductor Gary Thor Wedow has been hailed for “hot music making” by the Baltimore Sun and “convincingly elegant period style” in Opera News. His most recent successes include Orphée and Die Zauberflöte for the Seattle Opera, Le donne curiose for Wolf Trap Opera and Agrippina for Boston Lyric Opera. Mr. Wedow has been a member of the Juilliard School faculty since 1994. He has established an enviable reputation for dramatically exciting and historically informed performances with opera companies, festivals and choral organizations throughout North America.

Director Nicholas Muni returns to Merola having most recently directed the popular 2009 production of L’amico Fritz. He currently serves as an Associate Professor of Opera and Distinguished Artist in Residence at Cincinnati Conservatory of Music. Mr. Muni has served as Artistic Director for Tulsa Opera and Cincinnati Opera as well as director of drama for the Metropolitan Opera Young Artist Development Program. As a freelance stage director, he has directed over 200 productions with companies in North America, Europe and Australia. Recent directing credits include the US premiere of Wagner’s Das Liebesverbot at Glimmerglass Opera, Carmen at Boston Lyric Opera and Postcard from Morocco and Of Mice and Men at Cincinnati Conservatory of Music.

Set in Italy in the early 1900’s, Merola’s production of La finta giardiniera follows the story of the Marchioness Violante Onesti, who flees her home and disguises herself as a gardener after her lover, Belfiore, attacks her and leaves her for dead. In her quest to confront Belfiore, Violante, who now goes by the name “Sandrina” encounters a cast of colorful characters and finds herself caught between people who would do anything to get what they want. Dealing with heavy issues such as attempted murder and madness as well as lighthearted themes of love and mistaken identity, La finta giardiniera is both comedic and serious, combining elements of both to arrive at a happy ending.

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.

--Karen Ames for Merola Opera

MasterCard and Sonoma State University Unveil Long-Term Relationship in Support of the Performing Arts
Effort to Support Priceless Cultural and Music Experiences in Northern California

MasterCard and Sonoma State University today announced details of a long-term relationship in support of the performing arts. Under this relationship, MasterCard will become the title sponsor of the annual MasterCard Performance Series.  The company will also support the building of an outdoor pavilion for music and dance at the Green Music Center, adjoining the Joan and Sanford I. Weill Hall.

On Tuesday evening, the Board of Trustees of the California State University approved naming rights for the outdoor venue, to be called the MasterCard Performing Arts Pavilion.  This is the first corporate partnership of its kind for the campus.

“We continually look for ways to create stronger connections with consumers by understanding their passions and interest to provide them with priceless experiences and memories,” said Alfredo Gangotena, chief marketing officer, MasterCard.  “We look forward to a relationship with Sonoma State University to deliver unique music-related access and experiences to the local community and the larger northern California region.”

MasterCard has several long-standing relationships in the world of entertainment. “We are very excited about our significant, long-term partnership with MasterCard, one of the world’s best and most admired companies,” said Sandy Weill, chairman of the Green Music Center Board of Advisors. “Having the support of MasterCard further emphasizes what we at Sonoma State continue to believe – this is a transformative project that will create an innovative learning environment for students and will provide an economic boost to the area and help diversify its tourist base.”

As part of the relationship, Sonoma State University and MasterCard will work together to offer a student internship program in the field of entertainment and sponsorship management.  Additionally, MasterCard will work with Sonoma State University to provide financial literacy programs or tools for the university’s students. “Our vision is to aim high, reach wide, and educate all,” said Sonoma State University president Ruben Armiñana. “We look forward to sharing this extraordinary complex with music and art enthusiasts around the globe.”

Exclusive Pre-Sale Kicks Off Countdown to Grand Opening:
Located on the picturesque Sonoma State University campus in the heart of California’s Sonoma wine region, Weill Hall officially opens Saturday, September 29 with an Opening Night concert featuring Chinese piano sensation Lang Lang.

Beginning Wednesday, July 18, MasterCard cardholders will enjoy presale access to the twenty Priceless performances that comprise the 2012-13 MasterCard Performance Series (Sept. 29, 2012 through April 27, 2013). Tickets go on-sale to the general public on Sunday, July 29.

A focal point for music in the region, the inaugural season in Weill Hall features an array of internationally acclaimed performers including vocalists Stephanie Blythe, Eli-na Garanc(a, Joyce DiDonato and Barbara Cook; celebrated classical soloists Yo-Yo Ma, Vadim Repin, Wynton Marsalis and Anne-Sophie Mutter; acclaimed early music ensembles Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra and Chorale, Tallis Scholars and Il Complesso Barocco; and Latin jazz greats Chucho Valdés and Buika. The Santa Rosa Symphony, Resident Orchestra, offers a full season of programming at the Green Music Center and the San Francisco Symphony will perform four concerts.

The Green Music Center complex allows for the integration of performing arts, particularly in the fields of music and dance. The MasterCard Performing Arts Pavilion will be located on the northeast side of the complex, and will add to the versatile venue arrangement by offering an ideal location for larger outdoor performances. Currently in the planning stages, the Pavilion will provide the ability to book an expanded range of performers including more contemporary music and dance.

--Karen Ames for Sonoma State

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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