Classical Music News of the Week, July 8, 2012

Orion Ensemble Celebrates 20 Years of Chamber Music Gems

The 2012–13 season features Miguel de la Cerna world-premiere commission and soprano Patrice Michaels.

Celebrating 20 years of chamber music gems, The Orion Ensemble, Chicago’s nationally recognized and critically acclaimed chamber music ensemble, presents a season of concerts that traces its history, welcomes respected guest musicians and concludes with a world premiere commission by Chicago jazz musician Miguel de la Cerna.

Orion will perform each of its four concert programs at venues spanning the Chicagoland area: Ganz Memorial Hall at Roosevelt University and the PianoForte Salon (Chicago); the Music Institute of Chicago’s Nichols Concert Hall (Evanston); and Fox Valley Presbyterian Church (Geneva).

The season opens with “Orion Beginnings,” featuring a trio and a quartet Orion performed during its early seasons, along with a quintet commissioned for the Ensemble’s 10th anniversary: Bela Bartók’s Contrasts for Clarinet, Violin and Piano (1938); Sebastian Huydts’ Quintet for Clarinet, Violin, Viola, Cello and Piano, a 2002 Orion commission; and Robert Schumann’s Quartet in E-flat Major for Violin, Viola, Cello and Piano, Op. 47. Stephen Boe joins Orion as violist for this program. Performances take place October 10 (Ganz Hall/Chicago), 14 (Geneva) and 21 (Evanston).

Guest violist Roger Chase and Boe, this time on violin, perform with Orion on its second concert program, “A Night at the Opera.” The program includes Carl Maria von Weber’s Quintet for Clarinet and String Quartet, Op. 34; Franz Liszt’s “Am Stillen Herd,” S. 448, for solo piano, from Wagner’s Die Meistersinger; and Giuseppi Verdi’s String Quartet in E Minor (1873). Performances are November 25 (Geneva), December 2 (Evanston) and December 5 (PianoForte Salon/Chicago).

For Women’s History Month, the women of Orion welcome guest soprano Patrice Michaels for “A Voice from Heaven,” performing Franz Schubert’s Der Hirt auf dem Felsen for Soprano, Clarinet and Piano, D. 965; Ralph Vaughan Williams’ Three Vocalises for Soprano and Clarinet (1958); three arias—by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Vincenzo Righini and Vincente Martin y Soler—from Michaels’ Cedille CD Divas of Mozart’s Day, arranged for Orion by Pete La Bella; and two works by Dmitri Shostakovich: “Music” from Seven Romances on Verses by Alexander Blok for Voice, Violin, Cello and Piano, Op. 127, No. 7 (1967), and Trio in E Minor for Violin, Cello and Piano, Op. 67, No. 2. Performances are March 10 (Geneva), 13 (PianoForte Salon/Chicago) and 17 (Evanston).

After his triumphant first work for Orion during the 2011–12 season, Miguel de la Cerna returns to contribute an as-yet untitled 20th anniversary commission to “Folk Inspirations with a Mexican Flair.” Also on the program, which welcomes back violist Stephen Boe, are Arturo Márquez’s Zarabandeo for Clarinet and Piano; Manuel Ponce’s Piano Trio (Romantico); and Johannes Brahms’ Quartet in G Minor for Violin, Viola, Cello and Piano, Op. 25. Performances are May 5 (Geneva), May 8 (Ganz Hall/Chicago) and May 12 (Evanston).

Also during the season, Orion will appear on the broadcast series “Live from WFMT” November 26 and May 6 and in the Chicago Cultural Center’s Lunchbreak Series “Classical Mondays” October 15 and November 19. Orion also tours, performing in chamber music series across the country. Its most recent CD is Twilight of the Romantics.

Founded in 1992, the Orion Ensemble boasts a roster of five superb musicians—Kathryne Pirtle (clarinet), Florentina Ramniceanu (violin), Diana Schmück (piano), Judy Stone (cello) and Jennifer Marlas (viola)—who have performed with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, National Symphony, Moscow Philharmonic, San Francisco Symphony, Chicago Lyric Opera Orchestra and Chicago’s Music of the Baroque orchestra, and at music festivals including Ravinia, Aspen, Mostly Mozart, Hollywood Bowl, Taos Chamber Music, Salzburg and Banff. The Chicago Tribune called Orion “one of Chicago’s most vibrant, versatile and distinctive ensembles,” and the Chicago Sun-Times said Orion is “what chamber music should be all about: Individual virtuosity melded into a group personality.” The Orion Ensemble received a Chamber Music America/ASCAP Award for Adventurous Programming for its critically acclaimed millennium celebration, “An Inside Look at Contemporary Music.” The Orion Ensemble is supported in part by grants from the MacArthur Fund for Arts and Culture, the Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation and the Illinois Arts Council.

The Orion Ensemble performs each concert program during the 2012–13 season at four Chicago-area venues: Roosevelt University’s Ganz Memorial Hall, 430 S. Michigan Avenue in Chicago on Wednesdays, October 10 and May 8 at 7:30 p.m.; the PianoForte Salon at the Fine Arts Building, 410 S. Michigan Avenue in Chicago on Wednesdays, December 5 and March 13 at 7:30 p.m.; the Music Institute of Chicago’s Nichols Concert Hall, 1490 Chicago Avenue in Evanston on Sundays, October 21 (7:30 p.m.), December 2 (3 p.m.), March 17 (3 p.m.) and May 12 (7:30 p.m.); and Fox Valley Presbyterian Church, 227 East Side Drive in Geneva on Sundays, October 14, November 25, March 10 and May 5 at 7 p.m. Single tickets are $26, $23 for seniors and $10 for students; children 12 and younger are free. A four-ticket flexible subscription provides a 10 percent savings on full-priced tickets. For tickets or more information, call 630-628-9591 or visit

--Jill Chukerman, JAC Communications

Groundbreaking Music and Health Symposium Hosted by Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival
“Music, the Brain, Medicine and Wellness: A Scientific Dialogue”: Scientists and musicians set to collaborate and explore effects of music on brain development, health, and the community.

“Music, the Brain, Medicine and Wellness: A Scientific Dialogue,” an innovative, three-day scientific symposium sponsored by the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival, the University of New Mexico Cancer Center, and Gabrielle’s Angel Foundation for Cancer Research will be held August 4-6, 2012, in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

This pioneering event will offer presentations by the world's leading figures in music therapy, psychological science, neuroscience and cognitive science. As part of the Festival’s 40th Anniversary season, the Symposium will include public events involving musicians and scientists as well as private sessions for the scientific and medical community. The Symposium will explore the effects of music on cognitive development, early childhood brain development, emotion, language and memory; the ability of music to advance the overall health and healing process of individuals facing cancer, developmental and cognitive disorders, or chronic health conditions; and the capacity of music to improve the general well-being of individuals and communities. Physicians attending the Symposium can also earn Continuing Medical Education credit.

The Symposium features an intensive cross-disciplinary exchange, defining the current state of the science and identifying the most important questions for future collaborative research and its clinical applications through presentations, demonstrations and concert performances. A number of internationally recognized artists will perform and participate in interactive panels including conductor Alan Gilbert (Music Director of the New York Philharmonic), members of the legendary former Guarneri String Quartet (who are reuniting for this Festival performance), composer Marc Neikrug (Artistic Director of the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival) and pianist Inon Barnatan. As an interactive element of the conference, these artists and others will add a performance element to the mix, giving members of the medical community an opportunity to present their research in real-time with the aid of live performance during sessions.

The Symposium begins Friday, August 3, 2012 at 6:00 PM, with a Pre-Symposium Evening Concert open to the public at St. Francis Auditorium, New Mexico Museum of Art. Kamal R. Chémali, MD and pianist Prisca Benoit will present “When Music Sings, the Brain Listens and the Heart Modulates.”

Learn more at and

--Patrick Gullo, Kirshbaum Demler & Associates

National Philharmonic Fosters Musicians Through Summer Programs
This summer, the National Philharmonic will engage some of the area’s most promising young musicians through its String and Choral Institutes. The institutes, for middle/high school string players and high school/college vocalists, nurture young talent and teach musical skills and techniques while preparing the participants for a performance. In addition, the National Philharmonic offers the Adult Summer Chorale Institute, whose participants work with National Philharmonic Chorale Artistic Director Stan Engebretson. “Nurturing the next generation of audiences and performers is at the heart of our mission in the community,” said National Philharmonic’s Music Director and Conductor Piotr Gajewski.

The High School/College Summer Choral Institute (July 23-27, 2012, Monday-Friday from 2:30-8:30 pm, Montgomery College, Rockville Campus) offers young singers entering grade 9 through graduating grade 12 an intensive, weeklong immersion in voice building, musical interpretation and performance techniques. The institute, produced through a partnership between the National Philharmonic and Montgomery College, is led by Dr. Engebretson; Dr. Molly Donnelly, a Professor of Music at Montgomery College; Victoria Gau, Associate Conductor of the National Philharmonic; Ronald Frezzo, Vocal and International Baccalaureate Music Instructor at Richard Montgomery High School; and Theodore Guerrant, Accompanying Program Specialist at the University of Maryland School of Music. The High School and College Choral Institute Chorus will sing works including Pachelbel’ s Nun Danket Alle Gott; Eric Whitacre’s Five Hebrew Love Songs; Jacques Offenbach’s Neighbors' Chorus; Lars Jansson’s To the Mothers in Brazil and Leonard Bernstein’s choruses from Candide. The week culminates in a free public concert at Montgomery College Cultural Arts Center in Silver Spring, MD on Friday, July 27, 2012 at 7:30 pm.

The Adult Summer Choral Institute (July 17, 19, 24 and 26, 2012, on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 7-9:30 pm, Music Building of Montgomery College’s Rockville Campus) offers adult singers (college age and over) from around the area an opportunity to sing with members of the National Philharmonic Chorale under Dr. Engebretson in four intensive rehearsals over two weeks. The Adult Choral Institute will sing movements from Schubert’s Magnificat; Fauré’s Cantique de Jean Racine; Mendelssohn’s Verleih’ uns Frieden; and Bernstein’s Make Our Garden Grow. The week culminates in a free public concert with the High School/College Choral Institute at Montgomery College Cultural Arts Center in Silver Spring, MD on Friday, July 27, 2012 at 7:30 pm.

The Summer String Institutes (High School String Institute July 30-August 3, 2012; Middle School String Institute August 6-10, 2012, Trinity Lutheran Church, 11200 Old Georgetown Road, North Bethesda, MD, 20852) immerse talented and aspiring middle school and high school string musicians in an intensive week of mentoring, chamber music coaching, individual lessons and rehearsals led by National Philharmonic Music Director & Conductor Piotr Gajewski; Philharmonic Associate Conductor and String Institutes Director Victoria Gau; musicians of the Philharmonic and other well-known music pedagogues.  The High School String Institute will study and perform Mozart’s Divertimento in B-flat Major, K. 137; Georg Philipp Telemann’s Concerto in G Major for Viola; Edward Elgar’s Serenade for Strings, and Arthur Foote’s Suite in E Major; the Junior High School will study and perform Percy Grainger’s Molly on the Shore; George Frideric Handel’s Concerto Grosso, Op. 6, No. 1; Krzysztof  Penderecki’s Three Pieces in Baroque Style; and Michael McLean’s Fandango.

This year marks the 15th anniversary of the High School String Institute and the 14th year of the Middle School String Institute. The High School String Institute will culminate in a free public performance at the Trinity Lutheran Church, 11200 Old Georgetown Road, North Bethesda, MD, 20852 on Friday, August 3 at 7:30 pm and on Friday, August 10 at 7:30 pm for the middle school session. For more information on the Summer String and Choral Institutes, please visit

--Deborah Birnbaum, National Philharmonic

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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