Classical Music News of the Week, September 2, 2012

Orion Returns To Its Roots To Open 20th Anniversary Season

To open its 20th Anniversary Season, The Orion Ensemble, Chicago’s nationally recognized and critically acclaimed chamber music ensemble, presents “Orion Beginnings,” featuring a trio and a quartet the ensemble performed during its early seasons, along with a quintet commissioned for its 10th anniversary. Performances take place October 10 at Roosevelt University’s Ganz Memorial Hall in Chicago, October 14 at Fox Valley Presbyterian Church in Geneva and October 21 at Music Institute of Chicago’s Nichols Concert Hall in Evanston. Stephen Boe joins Orion as violist for this program.

The Program:
After Orion’s original members first performed Contrasts for Clarinet, Violin and Piano (1938) by Bela Bartók, they formed what is now the Orion Ensemble. Contrasts is Bartók’s only chamber music that includes a wind instrument; it was commissioned by America’s “King of Swing,” Benny Goodman. The title of the work refers to many of its elements: tempos, textures, dynamics, keys and instruments. Not only do the clarinet, violin and piano belong to different families of instruments, the clarinetist and violinist each use two different instruments in the final movement. The work uses folk themes from Hungary and Romania along with compositional devices such as polyphony, imitation and motivic manipulation.

Orion commissioned Chicago composer Sebastian Huydts’ Quintet for Clarinet, Piano, Violin, Viola and Cello, Op. 30 (2002) for its 10th anniversary. According to Huydts, the first movement of the Quintet evokes one of those summer nights in which a serene calm prevails, and life seems to offer nothing but good. The second movement opens with a playful statement by the cello, picked up by the other instruments. The third movement offers bluesy harmonies in tribute to the composer’s father, a jazz musician, and the fourth movement returns to a lively atmosphere, influenced by song and dance from Andalusia, notably Flamenco.

Schumann’s Quartet in E-Flat Major for Violin, Viola, Cello and Piano, Op. 47, a masterpiece of that genre,  has hints of the genres of the composer’s earlier works, including songs, solo piano works, string quartets and symphonies. Orion programmed this chamber music favorite for its opening Gala (June 21, 1993) and often thereafter in its touring concerts as well as subscription concerts in Chicagoland.

Orion’s 20th Anniversary Season:
Orion’s 2012–13 season continues in November and December with “A Night at the Opera,” featuring guest violist Roger Chase and violinist Stephen Boe and including works by Weber, Liszt and Verdi; in March with “A Voice from Heaven,” featuring guest soprano Patrice Michaels and works by Schubert, Ralph Vaughan Williams and Shostakovich; and, in May with “Folk Inspirations with a Mexican Flair,” featuring special guest pianist Miguel de la Cerna contributing his second work commissioned for Orion on a program also including Márquez, Ponce and Brahms and welcomes back Stephen Boe on viola.

In addition to its annual four-concert series in three areas, the Orion Ensemble will appear on the broadcast series “Live from WFMT” November 26, 2012 and May 6, 2013 and in the Chicago Cultural Center’s Lunchbreak Series “Classical Mondays” October 15 and November 19, 2012. Orion also tours, performing in chamber music series across the country. Its most recent CD is Twilight of the Romantics.

The Orion Ensemble:
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. For a brief history, click here.

Performance and Ticket Information:
The Orion Ensemble’s “Orion Beginnings” concert program takes place Wednesday, October 10 at 7:30 p.m. at Roosevelt University’s Ganz Memorial Hall, 430 S. Michigan Avenue in Chicago; Sunday, October 14 at 7 p.m. at Fox Valley Presbyterian Church, 227 East Side Drive in Geneva; and Sunday, October 21 at 7:30 p.m. at Music Institute of Chicago’s Nichols Concert Hall, 1490 Chicago Avenue in Evanston. Single tickets are $26, $23 for seniors and $10 for students; admission is free for children 12 and younger. 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

92nd Street Y and WWFM Announce Collaboration in Broadcast Initiative Logos
92nd Street Y is proud to announce 92nd Street Y Presents, a collaboration with WWFM The Classical Network to broadcast multiple performances, live and archived, starting Saturday, August 25, 2012. Extending the reach of the world’s greatest musicians beyond the walls of 92Y’s Kaufmann Concert Hall, Israel “Buzz” Herman hosts the Saturday evening program from 7:30PM – 9:00PM which will also include interviews with 92Y artists throughout the season.

Of the new initiative, Hanna Arie-Gaifman, Director of 92nd Street Y's Tisch Center for the Arts, says, "I’m delighted that 92nd Street Y and WWFM are joining forces in this wonderful collaboration, just as 92Y is opening its new concert season. Together, we can share with millions the thrills that come from 92Y’s singular programming of the highest caliber."

The Saturday, August 25 broadcast begins at 7:30PM and will feature pianist Peter Serkin’s April 2008 piano recital with works by des Prez, Messiaen and Brahms along with the world premiere of Charles Wuorinen's Scherzo for piano. Future Saturday evening programs include archival recordings of Steven Isserlis, the Orion String Quartet, the Zukerman ChamberPlayers, Eliot Fisk, Gil Shaham and Miklós Perényi. As the relationship progresses, 92Y and WWFM will continue to work their way backwards through the archival recordings, unearthing programmatic jewels from seasons past. Check out the 92Y and WWFM websites for additional programming information as it becomes available.

92nd Street Y is a world-class nonprofit community and cultural center that connects people at every stage of life to the worlds of education, the arts, health and wellness, and Jewish life. Through the Milstein/Rosenthal Center for Media & Technology and other 92Y programs, 92Y disseminates programs to reach audiences well beyond New York City. For over ten years, the satellite-broadcast program Live from New York's 92nd Street Y™ has simulcast 92Y events to locations across North America. Selections from 92Y concerts have been included in American Public Media's renowned Performance Today program, which has more than 1.3 million weekly listeners on more than 260 stations across the U.S. and Canada. Recordings of 92Y talks are also available through media partners Amazon,, and NYC Media. Additional material can be found on the 92Y iTunesU and YouTube channels and on Shalom TV, a Jewish television cable network available throughout North America. 92Y’s Online Audio & Video Archive features archival recordings of full programs and excerpts from over 350 events.

--Patrick Gullo, Kirshbaum Demler & Associates

Operation Brooklyn” Brings Opera to the Beat Beat Festival - Brooklyn Style
The AOP and Opera on Tap Series presents opera scenes and world-premiere song cycle based on texts by Brooklyn authors.

This September, AOP (American Opera Projects) and Opera on Tap will present a new installment of their acclaimed series, "OPERAtion Brooklyn," at the newly launched BEAT Festival. The festival, which aims to showcase Brooklyn's most innovative and forward-thinking emerging artists in theater, dance and voice, will be held from September 12-23 with performances in venues throughout the borough. AOP and Opera on Tap will present progressive new works of opera in a casual setting on September 13th (Flatbush Reformed Church), 19th (Brooklyn Conservatory of Music), and 22nd (Irondale Center) at 7:30pm. "OPERAtion Brooklyn" will include the world premiere of Daniel Felsenfeld's song cycle A Genuine Willingness to Help (Book 1), songs from One Ring Zero, and scenes from AOP's series, Composers & the Voice. More information and tickets can be found at The concerts will also be featured as part of the Brooklyn Book Festival Bookend Events. (

Opera on Tap will present works for voice and chamber ensemble by resident Brooklyn composers Daniel Felsenfeld and the Brooklyn indie outfit One Ring Zero ( The works will be conducted by Yoon Jae Lee, with Mila Henry on piano, and performances by sopranos Marcy Richardson, Delea Shand, and mezzo-soprano Kayleigh Butcher. The program will include a world premiere of Felsenfeld's song cycle A Genuine Willingness to Help (Book I).  Part of the composer's "Author Project," the work is comprised of songs set to varied and expressive texts by some of New York's best young writers, including Jonathan Lethem, Fiona Maazel, and Rick Moody. Felsenfeld's song cycle Raw Footage: Composer's Cut (text from Robert Coover's novel Lucky Pierre) will also be performed.

In addition, the program will include four songs drawn from One Ring Zero's album As Smart As We Are (The Author Project). These "mysterious pop songs," arranged for piano and chamber ensemble by Michael Hearst and Joshua Camp, have been called "both haunting and entertaining" by The New Yorker and feature texts by Margaret Atwood, Neil Gaiman, Isa Chandra Moskowitz, and David Wondrich.

AOP will present two scenes rooted in contemporary conflicts - "Stop and Frisk" by composer Sidney Marquez Boquiren and librettist Daniel Neer and "Male Identity" by composer Zach Redler and librettist Sara Cooper - featuring performances by tenor Brandon Snook (Cincinnati Opera, Michigan Opera Theatre, Sarasota Opera) and baritone Jorell Williams (New York City Center Encores!, Caramoor International Music Festival, Ravinia Festival). Supporting on piano will be music directors Jeanne-Minette Cilliers and Mila Henry, with stage direction by Noah Himmelstein.

With their 30th birthdays on the horizon, three friends worry what kind of men they are becoming after three decades of pop culture consumption and father figure issues in the humorous "Male Identity." In "Stop and Frisk," Joe and Sean, best friends and successful urban professionals, meet  for an awkward lunch in the park and discuss the racial aftermath of Sean's recent brush with police in a 'Stop and Frisk' search and investigation. "Stop and Frisk" is part of the opera-in-development Triptych in Grant Park.

The scenes were written as part of AOP's free fellowship program Composers & the Voice (C&V) that provides composers and librettists experience working collaboratively with a group of singers on writing for the voice and the opera stage. In addition to the AOP training, distinguished composers Stephen Schwartz and Kaija Saariaho served as mentors to Zach & Sara and Sidney, respectively, in their official capacity as AOP Composer Chairs providing opportunities for discussion and one-on-one feedback.

Hailed as "a vital series" by TimeOut NY, "OPERAtion Brooklyn" is the partnership between Opera on Tap and American Opera Projects, two of Brooklyn's most acclaimed producers of indie opera. The series aims to present the most daring of contemporary opera and song in a relaxed setting that encourages drinks and discussion as part of the new classical experience. Previously presented under the title Opera Grows in Brooklyn, the series premi-ered in March 2009 at Galapagos Art Space. The most recent collaboration, "Curioser & Curioser: An Opera-Burlesque Circus in Wonderland," brought together the worlds of classical music and burlesque for a night of music and entertainment inspired by the tales of Alice in Wonderland. (

The Beat Festival aims to fill a void in Brooklyn's performing arts community with a yearly fall festival showcasing the greatest works of Brooklyn's finest performing artists. For its inaugural year, the BEAT festival has hand-picked the most innovative, forward-thinking of Brooklyn's emerging artists including Lemon Andersen, Elevator Repair Service, Theater Group Dzieci, Creative Outlet Dance Theatre, Marshall Davis Jr., Ishmael "Ish" Islam, and many more all-star artists. "BEAT creates a platform to celebrate what is already here: extraordinary world-class performers who stand as the greatest innovators of the performing arts," says festival artistic director Stephen Shelley. From September 12-23, artists will perform in venues throughout the borough. For all BEAT performances, there will be general admission tickets available for $20, as well as tickets at the door that will be sold for a suggested donation of $20. For complete information and tickets visit

--AOP News

Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg Leads the New Century Chamber Orchestra in Performances with Soprano Melody Moore September 18-23
Music Director Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg and the New Century Chamber Orchestra open their 2012-2013 season September 18-23 with concerts celebrating the centennial of British composer Benjamin Britten. Soprano Melody Moore joins the ensemble for performances of Les Illuminations, a prominent work in the composer’s distinguished and varied repertoire. Acclaimed for her “remarkably controlled voice that goes from meltingly soft to the height of emotion and projection without strain” by San Francisco Classical Voice, Ms. Moore returns for her fourth appearances with the ensemble. The program also features Britten’s Simple Symphony and Bartók’s Divertimento.

A work more frequently performed with large string orchestra, Les Illuminations was last performed by New Century in 2007, also featuring Melody Moore as soloist. Writing of these performances in San Francisco Classical Voice, Lisa Hirsh said “…NCCO's 19 players might as well have been 50, so overwhelming was the performance. The piece soars, glitters, buzzes, thrums like a guitar…Ms. 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.”

Deeply affected by the emotional intensity of French poet Arthur Rimbaud’s Les Illuminations, Britten immediately set excerpts of these to music. Its main themes are the theatricality of life, the chaos of the big cities, and the tragic, painful aspect of beauty. Britten chose a sentence from one of the poems as the motto for his cycle: “J'ai seul la clef de cette parade sauvage” (“I alone have the key to this savage parade”). This sentence also provides the “key” to Britten's view of Rimbaud's poetry: only the artist, observing the world from the outside can hope to make sense of the “savage parade” that is life.

Britten’s exceptional talents were noticed at a young age but it was the Simple Symphony, written in 1934, which established him as one of the most promising young composers of the day. The themes of the Simple Symphony are derived from Britten’s childhood compositions – songs and piano pieces written between the ages of nine and twelve. However, their arrangement in symphonic forms and his skillful scoring for string orchestra show the consummate artist that the 20-year-old Britten already was.

Bartók’s Divertimento was composed in 1939 at a fragile historic point in Europe, when peace was still intact but was increasingly threatened by the spectre of war. Paul Sacher, conductor of the Basel Chamber Orchestra, commissioned Bartók to write his third Basel work for string orchestra after the success of Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta and the Sonata for Two Pianos and Percussion. The title, which translates as “entertainment” in Italian, denotes the 18th-century musical genre which was prominent in the works of Mozart and his contemporaries.

The program will be given on four different evenings in different locations around the Bay Area:  Tuesday, September 18 at 8 PM, Center for Performing Arts at Menlo-Atherton High, Atherton, Thursday, September 20 at 8 PM, First Congregational Church, Berkeley, Saturday, September 22 at 8 PM, Herbst Theatre, San Francisco, and Sunday, September 23 at 5 PM, Osher Marin Jewish Community Center, San Rafael. New Century offers an Open Rehearsal at 10 AM on Monday, September 17 at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music for a price of only $8. The concerts are underwritten through the generosity of Mark Jordan and Kendall Patton, long-time friends of the New Century Chamber Orchestra.

Ms. Moore recently created the role of Susan Rescorla in the world premiere of Christopher Theofanidis’ Heart of a Soldier at San Francisco Opera in September 2011. That same year, she debuted with New York City Opera as Rita Clayton in Stephen Schwartz’s opera, Séance on a Wet Afternoon, returning to the company in early 2012 to sing the lead role of Régine Saint Laurent in Rufus Wainwright’s opera, Prima Donna.

Her recently critically acclaimed performances include two appearances with English National Opera – as Mimi in Jonathan Miller’s new production of La bohème and as Marguerite in Des McAnuff’s new production of Faust. Of her performances with English National Opera, The Independent wrote “This young lady is special. She has a distinctive dark complexion to her voice and she sings and phrases with real fantasy. She alone really filled the house and hearing the voice open to greet the coming spring in her act one aria was for sure one of the high spots of the evening.” An acclaimed Mimi, Ms. Moore has also performed the role with San Francisco Opera and Opera Cleveland. She has also appeared with Los Angeles Opera as the Countess Almaviva in Le Nozze di Figaro, and in their productions of Der Zwerg and Der Zerbrochene Krug. Elsewhere, she has appeared with New Orleans Opera as Manon Lescaut, Orlando Opera in the title role in Suor Angelica and Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra as Donna Anna.

Most recently, she sang the role of Donna Elvira in Don Giovanni at Atlanta Opera and as one of the Three Ladies in San Francisco Opera’s production of The Magic Flute. In early 2013, Ms. Moore will sing the role of Shirley La Verne as she makes her Houston Grand Opera debut in the American classic, Show Boat. Ms. Moore is equally recognized for her outstanding work on the concert stage. Joshua Kosman of the San Francisco Chronicle praised her 2011 performance with Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg and the New Century Chamber Orchestra, saying, “Moore's four Schubert songs, arranged by Clarice Assad, were delivered with the kind of intensity and raw emotional power that are too rarely heard in this repertoire.” She is a 2007 Adler Fellow and former Merola Opera Program participant.

--Karen Ames Communications

1 comment:

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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 Jon 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 simpleminded, 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 Arcam CDS50 CSD/SACD CD player, Goldpoint SA4 Passive Preamp, Legacy Audio PowerBloc2 amplifier, and a pair of Legacy Audio Focus SE loudspeakers. 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 cell phone. 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.

William (Bill) Heck, Contributing Reviewer

Among my early childhood memories are those of listening to my mother playing records (some even 78 rpm ones!) of both classical music and jazz tunes. I suppose that her love of music was transmitted genetically, and my interest was sustained by years of playing in rock bands – until I realized that this was no way to make a living. The interest in classical music was rekindled in grad school when the university FM station serving as background music for studying happened to play the Brahms First Symphony. As the work came to an end, it struck me forcibly that this was the most beautiful thing I had ever heard, and from that point on, I never looked back. This revelation was to the detriment of my studies, as I subsequently spent way too much time simply listening, but music has remained a significant part of my life. These days, although I still can tell a trumpet from a bassoon and a quarter note from a treble clef, I have to admit that I remain a nonexpert. But I do love music in general and classical music in particular, and I enjoy sharing both information and opinions about it.

The audiophile bug bit about the same time that I returned to that classical music. I’ve gone through plenty of equipment, brands from Audio Research to Yamaha, and the best of it has opened new audio insights. Along the way, I reviewed components, and occasionally recordings, for The $ensible Sound magazine. Recently I’ve rebuilt--I prefer to say reinvigorated--my audio system, with a Sangean FM HD tuner and (for the moment) an ancient Toshiba multi-format disk player serving as a transport, both feeding a NAD C 658 streaming preamp/DAC, which in turn connects to a Legacy Powerbloc2 amplifier driving my trusty Waveform Mach Solo speakers, supplemented by a Hsu Research ULS 15 Mk II subwoofer.

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