Classical Music News of the Week, September 16, 2012

Listen Magazine’s Fall Issue Ranges from Great Instrumentalists to Fine Instrument Makers, from First Loves to Last Rites – with a Cover Interview of Early-Music Virtuoso Jordi Savall

The new issue of Listen also features an appreciation of late vocal master Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, a Bach masterclass with pianist András Schiff, a guide to more than 20 of the best new classical recordings and more

The Fall 2012 issue of Listen magazine ranges far and wide across the landscape of classical music today. There are stories from great instrumentalists and a photo essay on makers of fine instruments. Readers from across the globe tell about the first time they fell in love with classical music, and a reverend discusses the solace that laments in music can offer us. Few classical musicians have bridged divides in the world of music quite like Catalan early-music maestro Jordi Savall, who is a scholar, a conductor and the impresario of an art-house independent record label – along with being the world’s most beloved virtuoso of the viola da gamba. In this issue’s cover interview, Savall tells editor-in-chief Ben Finane about the philosophy behind his polymath multicultural explorations – and how he has been as moved by a simple Sephardic song as he has a big Mahler symphony.

Other highlights in the fall Listen are a virtual masterclass in Bach by pianist András Schiff, plus a look back on the career of the late and very great German baritone Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau. We see violinist Jennifer Koh dressed up like Albert Einstein for Philip Glass, and there are reports on the opera scene in English country houses and on the new Frank Gehry concert hall in Miami. Former Major League Baseball commissioner Fay Vincent has the last word, reflecting on the art of his piano tuner.

In his interview, Savall reflects on the connection he had with his late wife and longtime musical partner, soprano Montserrat Figueras (who died last November). “She is still with me,” he says, adding that the two learned a key lesson together: “All the most important and beautiful moments in life are intimate. In the life I shared with Montserrat, we saw this. We saw that life is too short. . . so you look in music for good friends. As one philosopher says: `If you want happiness, find a friend and stay close to him.’”

Elsewhere in this issue of Listen, Bradley Bambarger covers an in-depth talk András Schiff gave on the interpretation of Bach – on the occasion of the pianist’s new ECM recording of The Well-Tempered Clavier, the latest of Bach’s major works he has revisited on disc. Schiff discusses his reverence for the golden-age Swiss pianist Edwin Fischer as a Bach interpreter over Glenn Gould, and he points out how age can be an aid to an artist – helping him, for instance, to expunge elements of “sentimentality” that he hears in his early recordings.

Very entertaining are the stories sent in by Listen readers – from Massachusetts to California, Italy to Australia, England to Israel, Canada to Oklahoma and beyond – about how they first fell in love with classical music. Several recalled fondly the scores they heard in The Lone Ranger radio series that ran from 1933 to 1956. Julia Strozyk of Oregon told a touching story from when she was a pre-teen learning the clarinet and taken by the classical records she heard in school: “My home life at this time was difficult. My parents were alcoholics, and I tried very hard to be a good student and well behaved, hoping I could make things better. But as so many kids in my situation find, it’s impossible to fix other people. I was frustrated but afraid to express that frustration. So Beethoven expressed it for me. Listening to that powerful music inspired me to have the courage to hold up my head, no matter what. I still feel a glorious feeling whenever I listen to the Fifth Symphony.”

Photographer Sarah Shatz’s engaging profiles of instrument makers, repairers and tuners honor such artisans as a “bellyman” restorer at the Steinway factory in Queens, N.Y., a violin maker on the Lower East Side and a brass repairer in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Bow maker William Salchow also has a line in self-deprecation: “Bows are made by fools like me, but only God can make a tree.”

Brian Wise reports on Opera America’s ambitious new National Opera Center, a 25,000-square-foot performance, rehearsal and meeting complex in Manhattan. Thomas May offers an appreciation of an unsung masterpiece: Brahms’ choral-orchestral work Nänie, a song of mourning that isn’t a requiem but rather a creation in a category of its own. Daniel Felsenfeld reviews A Clockwork Counterpoint, a study of the composer Anthony Burgess – better known as the novelist who wrote A Clockwork Orange. As always, Listen offers recommendations on the best new recordings, including a “completion” of Bruckner’s Ninth Symphony performed by Simon Rattle and the Berlin Philharmonic; rarely heard works by Hans Rott, Reinhard Schwarz-Schilling, August de Bouck, Volkmar Andrae and Scott Joplin; a Salzburg Festival DVD of Janácek’s Makropulos Case led by Esa-Pekka Salonen; Debussy’s Préludes by Alexei Lubimov on period pianos; and much more.

--Amanda Sweet, Bucklesweet Media

The National Philharmonic’s 2012-2013 Season at Strathmore Features Fantastic Vocalists
Celebrating great vocalists, the National Philharmonic’s 2012-2013 concert season will feature superstar mezzo-soprano Denyce Graves, who sings Brahms’s Alto Rhapsody; Magdalena Wór in Prokofiev’s Alexander Nevsky Suite; and Danielle Talamantes in Poulenc’s Gloria on the 50th anniversary of the composer’s passing. Led by Music Director and Conductor Piotr Gajewski, the season opens with an all-Beethoven program showcasing two of the composer’s most popular works--the sublime Piano Concerto No. 3 and the heroic Symphony No. 3 (“Eroica”)--and throughout the year includes music by Bach, Handel, Mozart, Chopin, Brahms, Prokofiev, Tchaikovsky, Ravel, Poulenc, Bernstein and more. Many renowned soloists will take the stage, including pianist Brian Ganz, playing his third all Chopin recital; violinist Stefan Jackiw and violist Victoria Chiang in Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante; prizewinning cellist Dariusz Skoraczewski playing Luosawski’s Cello Concerto; and violinist Elena Urioste performing Andrea Makris’s compelling Violin Concerto in a concert celebrating American violin music. The season concludes with a tribute to Richard Wagner on the 200th anniversary of his birth featuring famous excerpts from the composer’s operas, including the Overture to the Flying Dutchman and the stirring curtain-raiser Prelude to Die Meistersinger.

In its seventh year of residency at the Music Center at Strathmore, the National Philharmonic is performing to nearly 50,000 people each year. The Philharmonic will continue its commitment to education and outreach by offering free concerts to every second and fifth grade student in Montgomery County Public Schools, free pre-concert lectures, master classes with renowned guest soloists and high quality summer string and choral programs.

The success of the Philharmonic over the past 30 years is largely credited to its critically acclaimed performances that are filled with great, time-tested music and its family friendly approach. All young people age 7 to 17 attend National Philharmonic concerts free of charge through its unique ALL KIDS, ALL FREE, ALL THE TIME program.

Repeat Sunday matinee performances of the Philharmonic’s most popular programs (six concerts in total) will also be offered again this year. In addition, concertgoers can attend National Philharmonic’s pre-concert lectures on featured composers and music 75 minutes before performances.

Highlights of the 2012-2013 season include:
Season kickoff concert featuring Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3 (“Eroica”) and Piano Concerto No. 3 with pianist Orli Shaham.

Award-winning pianist Brian Ganz in his third all-Chopin recital at Strathmore and performing Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 3.

An All-Brahms concert with superstar mezzo-soprano Denyce Graves singing the Alto Rhapsody and the National Philharmonic performing the composer’s Symphony No. 4.

An evening celebrating the viola, with violist Victoria Chiang playing the Telemann Concerto for
Viola and Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante with violinist Stefan Jackiw.

Cellist Dariusz Skoraczewski performing Witold Lulosawki’s Cello Concerto.

Violinist Elena Urioste playing the late-Washington, DC composer Andreas Makris’s compelling Violin Concerto.

National Philharmonic’s annual “impressive” and “splendidly rich-toned” (The Washington Post) holiday performances of Handel’s Messiah.

An All-Bach concert featuring the Brandenbrug Concertos No. 1 and 5 and his Cantata No. 140, Wachet Auf (“Sleepers Awake”).

For more information and to purchase tickets, please visit www.nationalphilharmonic.org or call 301-581-5100.

--Deborah Birnbaum, National Philharmonic

Music Institute Showcases 2012 Fischoff Grand Prize Winners
Barkada Quartet Performs October 21 at Nichols Concert Hall

The Music Institute of Chicago presents the Barkada Quartet, winner of the coveted 2012 Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition Grand Prize and the Senior Wind Division Gold Medal. Only the fourth non-string ensemble to take top honors at Fischoff, the Barkada Quartet performs Sunday, October 21 at 3 p.m. at Nichols Concert Hall, 1490 Chicago Avenue, Evanston. As a Fischoff Winner’s Tour presenting partner, Nichols is a key stop on the Barkada Quartet’s Midwestern tour, which spans the month of October.

Barkada’s program includes “Arrival of the Queen of Sheba” by George Frideric Handel; Introduction et variations sur une ronde populaire by Gabriel Peirné; Six Bagatelles by Gyorgy Ligeti; Quartets per a saxos, volum 1 by David Salleras Quintana; Italian Concerto, BWV 971 by Johann Sebastian Bach; String Quartet No. 3 “Mishima” by Philip Glass; “They Might Be Gods” by John Leszczynski; and Recitation Book by David Maslanka.

Barkada Quartet:
Comprising current and former students at the renowned Indiana University Jacobs School of Music, the Barkada Quartet blends the colors and subtlety of traditional chamber ensembles with the flexibility and power of the saxophone. The ensemble, which formed in the fall of 2011, took the 2012 Fischoff Competition by storm. Only the fourth time in 39 years that a non-string ensemble earned top honors, the quartet was selected from a field of 48 top competing ensembles from around the world. Indiana University Associate Professor of Music Dr. Otis Murphy commented, “The Barkada Quartet exhibits a unique sense of respect, trust and camaraderie that defines its sense of oneness as a chamber ensemble. Its success at the Fischoff Competition is a major feat.”

The quartet’s soprano saxophonist Christopher Elchico suggested the name “barkada,” which signifies “a group of friends” or “a form of family” in the Filipino language Tagalog, as a reminder to listeners of all ages that chamber playing began to give friends and family a chance to share the beauty of music with one another. See below for individuals musician bios.

In addition to the Fischoff Winner’s Tour of the Midwest, the Barkada Quartet will perform several concerts in the Emilia Romagna Festival in Italy in 2013.

Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition:
Founded in 1973 in South Bend, Indiana, the Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition has become the largest chamber music competition in the world and one of the most prestigious classical music prizes attainable today. Since its founding, more than 5,000 musicians have participated, many continuing to establish distinguished careers in music performance and education.
The Music Institute of Chicago has had a strong presence at Fischoff throughout the years. Students from the Music Institute’s prestigious Academy for gifted pre-college musicians earned first and third place in the Junior Division of the 2012 Fischoff competition, and Academy students have taken first place in the Junior Division in four of the past five years, as well as earning five additional top medals:

2012 – 1st, Quartet Stracciatella; 3rd, Quartet Ardella
2010 – 1st, Quartet Danae; 2nd, Emerald String Quartet
2009 – 1st, Aurelia String Quartet; 3rd, Quartet Danae
2008 – 1st, Quartet Polaris; 2nd, Ridere Quartet; 3rd, Aurelia String Quartet

In addition, Music Institute ensembles in residence Quintet Attacca and Axiom Brass have received awards at the competition.

Nichols Concert Hall
The 2012–13 season marks the 10th anniversary of Nichols Concert Hall, originally designed by noted architect Solon S. Beman as the architecturally and acoustically magnificent First Church of Christ, Scientist, located at 1490 Chicago Avenue in Evanston, in 1912 (celebrating its centennial). Restored in 2003, the building has become Nichols Concert Hall, a state-of-the-art, 550-seat performance space and music education destination, which annually reaches approximately 15,000 people and hosts a world-class chamber music series, workshops and master classes, student recitals, and special events.

Other highlights of the Music Institute’s 10th anniversary season at Nichols include a Billy Strayhorn festival featuring jazz great Terell Stafford in late October, the internationally acclaimed Pacifica Quartet in February, and pianist Sergei Babayan in April. Noteworthy annual events include Family Concerts in December and March; the Martin Luther King, Jr. concert with the Brotherhood Chorale in January; the Four Score Festival of contemporary music in March; and the third annual Emilio del Rosario Distinguished Alumni Concert, this year featuring violinist Rachel Barton Pine and pianist Matthew Hagle in May.

The 2012 Fischoff Grand Prize winning Barkada Quartet performs Sunday, October 21 at 3 p.m. at Nichols Concert Hall, 1490 Chicago Avenue, Evanston. Tickets are $30 for adults, $20 for seniors and $10 for students, available online or 847.905.1500 ext. 108.

--Jill Chukerman, JAC Communications

Anne Akiko Meyers Announces Contest Winners
Arcus Gold Bow valued at $5k goes to Armenian-born violinist Hrachya Avanesyan while scholarship and string sets go to violinists from Greece and Uzbekistan.

Violinist Anne Akiko Meyers today announces the winners of her worldwide contest to identify some of the most promising aspiring violinists playing today. The prize, an Arcus Cadenza Gold carbon fiber violin bow (valued at over $5,000) is being awarded to the Armenian-born violinist Hrachya Avanesyan for his performance of Mozart’s Violin Concert No. 3 in G Major.

The contest was held on Facebook and was open to anyone. Musicians entered to win by uploading a video that showed how they would be the best fit for this bow. Between the launch of the contest on July 15th and the closing on September 2nd, nearly 1000 violinists submitted entries for the prized bow.

“I was overwhelmed by the incredible quality of musicians and the great responsibility of choosing the winners,” remarked Anne Akiko Meyers. “It was a labor of love and reminded me how powerfully music can bring people from all over the world together."

 As a result of this tremendous response, Meyers made the decision to add two more prizes to the contest whose winners are also announced today. The second prize, a $1000 scholarship is being awarded to the 19 year old Greek violinist Jonian Ilias Kadesha for his interpretation of Bach’s Violin Sonata No. 2. Third prize, five sets of Titanium Vision violin strings (valued at close to $500) will go to Adelya Nartadjieva of Uzbekistan for a movement of Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto.

For more information about Anne Akiko Meyers and the recent contest, visit www.anneakikomeyers.com.  Follow Anne on Twitter at @anneakikomeyers and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/anneakikomeyers.

--Rebecca Davis PR

The Pianist Daniel Levy Celebrates His Silver Jubilee as a Recording Artist and his 20th Anniversary as a Steinway Artist with a Limited Edition of CDs “The Voice of the Piano.”
As part of the celebration of Daniel Levy’s 25th anniversary as a recording artist, the label Edelweiss Emission will be releasing a Limited Edition of 64 CDs throughout 2012-2013 named “The Voice of the Piano.” 

The first 9 CDs of the series will be presented on Tuesday 9th October 2012, from 17.30 until 19.00, at Steinway & Sons, 44 Marylebone Lane, London, W1U 2DB. Daniel Levy will be interviewed by the music critic Bernard Jacobson.

For this celebration, the legendary piano makers Steinway & Sons have conferred a special acknowledgment to Daniel Levy as a "Steinway Artist" for his significant contribution to music. In 2012, Daniel Levy celebrates two anniversaries: his silver jubilee as a recording artist and his 20th Anniversary as a Steinway Artist. Steinway & Sons would like to express our cordial congratulations, and look forward to being a part of Daniel Levy’s wonderful musicianship in the future.”

Gerrit Glaner, Steinway & Sons

The series gathers together a wide variety of recordings by Daniel Levy that have been recorded over a successful 25 year period of intensive artistic activity and instrumental virtuosity, with a repertoire that includes music for solo piano, for piano with orchestra, chamber music and lieder. The series is made up of new releases and a number of carefully selected re-editions of Daniel Levy’s earlier recordings.

Critics and audiences across the world consider Daniel Levy to be one of today’s most inspiring musicians, with a unique approach to music and its meanings that he conveys with refined artistry.
This outstanding series of 64 CDs will feature the following works:

The two books of the Well-Tempered Clavier and The Art of the Fugue by J.S. Bach

Sonatas by Mozart, Beethoven and Schubert
Works by Chopin and Liszt
A captivating fresco of 15 CDs with works by Schumann, including Kreisleriana, Davidsbündlertänze, Kinderszenen, Waldszenen, Sonatas n. 1 and n. 2, Fantasia Op. 17 and Phantasiestücke, Carnaval and Vienna Carnaval, Papillons, Gesänge der Frühe, Album for the Young, chamber music with violin, viola, clarinet and oboe, Piano Concerto in A Minor, Lieder and Quintet, among others
Grieg’s 66 Lyric Pieces and his Sonata, completed with the three sonatas for violin and piano
Works by Brahms for piano, along with the Concerto No. 1 with the Philharmonia Orchestra
Piano Recitals with works by Mendelssohn, Debussy and Ravel
Studies and preludes by Scriabin
Spanish pieces by Albéniz, Granados and De Falla
Argentinian pieces by Guastavino, Ginastera and Piazzolla
A series of compositions by Levy

The acclaimed journalist and Classical Music critic Bernard Jacobson had this to say about Levy’s playing and The Voice of the Piano: “I have loved Daniel Levy’s playing since the first moment I encountered it. But it has taken this superb collection to remind me that he is an artist worthy to stand alongside, not just the Brendels and Lupus, but any of the most celebrated figures in the ranks of musical interpretation. However well listeners to these performances may already know the works presented here, they will assuredly learn many things about them that they have not thought of before–and that, along with the blessed willingness to take risks, is what distinguishes great artistry from mere craftsmanship.”


--Dhyana McAlister, PR Edelweiss Emission

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John J. Puccio

John J. Puccio

About the Author

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.

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.

Contact Information

Readers with polite, courteous, helpful letters may send them to pucciojj@gmail.com.

Readers with impolite, discourteous, bitchy, whining, complaining, nasty, mean-spirited, unhelpful letters may send them to pucciojj@recycle.bin.

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa